Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Sprinkle and a Strawberry Cream Cake

My next door neighbor and awesome friend K is expecting her baby girl any second now. Another friend and I put together a little baby sprinkle for her to celebrate and to make sure her little lady is fully adorned in pinky-pink goodness. She has a little boy already, so the dudes outnumber her, but not for long. Any baby shower or sprinkle is really just an excuse to sit around and gossip, but remember, a party without cake is just a meeting. This cake is a stunner if I do say so myself, and not just because it is pretty. This was the first time I actually decorated a cake with roses, and though it is a bit sloppy, I love the way it turned out! I underestimated how much frosting I would need, so you'll notice that the top layer has two shades of roses. I had to whip up a last minute extra batch and it didn't have time to set up before I needed to finish decorating! As pretty as this cake ended up looking, it is really the flavor that matters! I love strawberry cream cake, but I was worried about it becoming soggy since I had to put it together the night before. I decided to try using stabilized whipped cream as the filling and hoped for the best. It was perfect! It kept the cake moist, but prevented the fresh berries from making it wet. The combination of the light cake and the fresh berries and cream is so perfect for a shower, and the frosting is delicious (albeit a bit on the "whoa there" side for my personal taste. Those roses make for a LOT of frosting on each slice.). 
I see myself making this one again and again!

Strawberry Cream Ombre Layer Cake
3 cups Jiffy Baking mix
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
4 Tbls. vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

2 cups vegetable shortening
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk

1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. gelatin 
4 tsp. very cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8 inch cake pans (I also add a parchment paper circle to the bottoms, just in case!)

For cake: 
Sift together dry ingredients. Whisk together wet ingredients. Beat wet into dry until just combined and pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is just golden. Drape a clean kitchen towel over cakes and alow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Tip cakes out onto a rack to cool completely, then slice each into two layers. (Not feeling too confident in your cake layer cutting skills? Check out this video:

For frosting:
Beat shortening and butter until fluffy. Add vanilla and 1 cup sugar and beat until combined. Continue beating and adding 1 cup sugar, alternating with a drizzle of milk, until desired sweetness and consistency is reached. (*Note: I usually find that I don't need all of the sugar!) If you want to create an ombre cake, you'll want to divide this frosting into three equal parts. Tint each one with natural dye (like beet juice) or food coloring, making each batch just a shade darker than the one before.

For filling: 
Whisk water and gelatin in a small pan until combined and let sit until thickened. Place pan on the stove top over medium heat and stir, cooking until dissolved. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat cream until slightly thick. Continue beating and add vanilla. Gradually add sugar and then gelatin, beating until peaks form. 

To assemble/decorate:
Smear about a tsp. of frosting on your plate or cake circle and top it with a layer of cake. That's your glue:)
Cover the cake with a layer of whipped cream, then a layer of berries, and top with whipped cream.

Place a cake layer on top and repeat, ending with the last cake layer. If you'll be doing ombre rosettes or any other fancy decorating, you'll want to do a crumb coat. Just a quick skim coat around the entire cake to cover it and prevent any crumbs from getting into your final beautiful product! Pop the cake into the fridge to set for about an hour, but as long as overnight if you cover it in an airtight container. To create those lovely ombre roses, this video is a nice little tutorial!
You'll see that I used my ombre dyed frostings for my crumb coat, too. See how sloppy it really is? No big deal! Once this is chilled all of the brumbs will stay put and your little roses can stand out. It was way easier than I thought it would be, but I know my next cake will look even better!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


It snowed last night.

I know, it was only a dusting here, while some of you got actual inches of accumulation, so I shouldn't complain. But come on. I left Michigan for several reasons, one of the biggest being that I hate the winter. And here it is mid April, and there is frigging snow falling. My body is so confused by this weather that I have springtime allergy sneezes and a wintery cough at the same time. It's sprin-ter. If the weather doesn't perk up soon I'm buying a UV light.

I don't know what to cook. Monday we spent outside in tee shirts, lunching at a park picnic table with fruit, baguettes and fresh cheese. Tuesday was so dark and rainy I made a creamy risotto to warm things up. Today, I baked muffins just to have the oven on and mixed in some strawberries so I can pretend they are in season and it's actually summer. Cold makes me grumpy and lazy, so I didn't feel like pulling out my canisters to mix the usual batter. I had some pancake mix, so I figured that was worth a try. A baking mix is a baking mix is a baking mix, right?

These actually came out incredibly well. They were moist and soft in the center, with a good, lightly crusty muffin top (because there is still such a thing as a good muffin top). They are a little nutty and not too sweet, as well as being incredibly versatile. Mix in any fruit or nut you like, and they would easily be as delicious. The boy ate two for breakfast after he helped me mix them up, which took all of 5 minutes. Win win.

Strawberry Pancake Muffins
2 1/2 cups pancake mix (I love Hodgson Mills Buckwheat Mix)
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup strawberries, hulled and chopped
raw sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, mix dry ingredients. In another bowl, whisk wet ingredients together and then fold into dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in strawberries. Scoop batter into lined muffin tins leaving 1/4 inch space from the top. Top with a sprinkling of raw sugar if desired. Bake 15 minutes or until tops are golden.