Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cupcake's from Scratch

This is the whole shebang set up at Hubby's work.  I cannot complain about the "back ground" as my pictures usually have worse at home.

You all know me right?  I mean those of you that have read my blog before know I am not the queen of fancy stuff.  I like simple, I love boxed cake mix, I love to make things the easy way.  So when Hubby asked me to make some cupcakes for his work I was all over it.  

See I am all ready to bake.  By the time I was done it was no longer light out.  Darn Canada!
Then I may have made the mistake of asking what he wanted.  And the mention of a box mix may have come up, then an awkward silence may have happened.  And I may have said, "fine I won't use a mix"  Then I may have bought a new cook book to try out, because none of the other ones I had in my home had a good cupcake recipe in them.  I didn't look, but I am fairly sure that out of the 50 books I have (give or take) there was nothing worth while.
See how dark it is out now?  But look at all those yummy cupcakes!

  So I decided that I would use my blog as a platform to spend money, and try out a new recipe and get a new cook book that I have been dreaming of.  It all worked out, but a box mix would have been easier, and cheaper, you know, just for your information Hubby.

So I finally got the new Sugarliscious book I have been trying to win on all the cool blogs.  Even though all the cool blogs don't do give aways in Canada, I still wanted to win. I don't hate them, it just means I need to win the lottery and buy a second home in the states.  Preferably Florida so I can go to Disney all the time. Anyway I gave up, bought the book then spent a while feeling like a dolt because there is a lot of cute in that book, and I bet I will never make any of it.  But I have it, so that counts.

 I planned to make mini cupcakes, half vanilla and half chocolate.  I planned to make an extra batch of vanilla because the people at my part time job say they like vanilla.  I sort of don't know how I can even look at them when they say things like that.  Chocolate is the clear winner people, but you know I aim to please.  So I went to work.

  When I bake in bulk I usually measure everything out for each batch and you know do that mes en plase thing.  (have everything ready before you start mixing)  I don't do that when I am doing one batch of something I have made before and know I have everything.  So I did that then got to work.  My plan was to make one batch of each for Hubby to take to work.  The recipe said it made 48 minis, which was perfect.  but then I started to scoop, and scoop and scoop.  About 50 minis in I gave up and made the rest into large cupcakes, and I got about 7.  So 50 minis and 7 large and I still had a little batter left.  But I ate it, don't judge, I wasn't about to toss it or make another cupcake.  And I had to do quality control.

And just so you know, Pork Chop heard me say "don't judge me."  And asked me what it meant.  So I told him "it means, don't think badly of me."

Now he will say it all the time.  He toots and I look at him to say "excuse me"  And he comes out with "don't judge me."  Drops a book or whatever, "don't judge me!"  I know, stupid kids, thinking they know everything.  How can you get mad at them for not saying excuse me when they say that?  You cannot, because you are trying really hard not to laugh. Darn parenting is hard!

  Anyway, back to cupcakes.

So seeing as I was stupid and did all that measuring, I was stuck having to make 3 batches.  Which, as my mom said, I could have just put the dry stuff in a bag and saved it, but you know, I was baking anyway.  So all said I had like 1 million mini cupcakes and 2 dozen large ones.  For work I just used the left over cream cheese icing I had, because I could keep them in the fridge at work.  Then for Hubby I made vanilla and chocolate butter cream.  I used a larger star tip, but not large large, just like a regular Wilton large star.  I know that made no sense, just pretend you get me.

My Cream Cheese Icing
(which may totally be a legit icing recipe somewhere, but I just put stuff in a bowl and mixed)

-1 block cream cheese
-1/2 cup butter
-1 TBSP Vanilla bean paste ( or just vanilla)
-milk and icing sugar to your liking

So just beat the cream cheese and butter with the vanilla and then add some milk and icing sugar, add icing sugar and milk, alternating between the two until you have it as thick as you like, and as much as you need.

You cannot really see the disco dust, it is night time after all.  I should have put on  a sixlet or something to make it cuter

Vanilla cupcakes
From Sugarlicious by Meaghan Mountford

-2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
-2 1/2 TSP baking powder
-1/4 TSP salt
-1 cup unsalted butter
-2 cups sugar
-4 eggs
-1 1/2 TSP vanilla
-1 cup milk

Cream the butter and sugar, add one egg at a time and mix, then add the vanilla.  Sift all the dry ingredients together and add some to mixture, then some milk, then alternate between the milk and dry ingredients until they are all mixed. Bake at 350 until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For some reason the chocolate cupcakes did not rise as much as the vanilla ones.  Maybe  I screwed up, but they were still amazing.

Chocolate cupcakes
From Sugarlicious by Meaghan Mountford

-2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 cup unsweetened cocoa
-2 TSP baking powder
-1/2 TSP salt
-1 cup butter
-2 cups sugar
-3 eggs
-1 TSP vanilla
-1 1/2 cups milk

Follow the same directions as for the vanilla cupcakes.

This is how I pack large amounts of mini cupcakes, as long as there are enough they won't slide around.  And I think this box with the cake board was $7 at the warehouse.  I am cheap and clean it and use it again.  

I don't know why I felt you needed to see this picture, but I am not used to bright in focus pictures so  I am using it.
So for work I piped on the cream cheese icing, and sprinkled on some disco dust with my super cute pixie dust shaker.  Then for the minis I did the same thing with the butter cream and packed them all up.  I even let Hubby use my cupcake stand that I made.
Not sure if you remember but I got this cake stand in a kit at the scrapbook store. It was just particle board or something.  I painted it all and then put it together, should have put it together first, it was a pain to try to put together with the blobs of paint in the seams.
 The cupcakes went over very well at my work, although they keep saying I am trying to make them all fat.  They should have figured that out months ago, I mean I could work out or something, or I could feed them and that would be way easier.

  I knew you would understand.
Can you see the cupcake wrappers?  They were not too much, I think $2.50 for 75, and they are grease proof, so they held their colour. Totally worth the splurge!
Hubby said the cupcakes went well at work, but he brought home a lot.  He said there were no where near as many people as he thought there would be.  So I ate like 100  minis over the next few days and finally had to toss out the left overs.  I felt sort of sad.  I mean I never have left overs.  I felt like a failure.
It looks like it's leaning to the right, oh well, I blame Hubby for that.
So to rate the recipe, it was really simple, and you got way more than the recipe quoted, which was great because more is always better with cupcakes.  The cake was nice and dense but not heavy, and the chocolate ones were so good, I would make them again in a heart beat.  The vanilla was really good too, if you like that sort of thing.  I mean I would not turn it down, but chocolate will always have my heart.
I love how they look!
I now want to try making cake balls with this recipe, but sort of worry I will really like it.  Then where would I be?  I mean I am sort of attached to my cake mix, so you know, don't expect me to change any time soon
Looking down, because Hubby had strict instructions to make sure he took pictures.

Oh and just so you know, I am totally going to use this trick again, because not only did I get to get a new cook book, I also got to buy fancy cupcake wrappers that did not lose their colour when baked.  It was like a total reason to splurge.  I may have to offer up my services to Hubby more often.

  My baking services that is, the other, that wouldn't get me a new cook book.  Unless.........well I may have to try that tactic.  I'll let you know how that pans out.

Ha get it?  Pan's?

I know, I'm lame.

And this is the artsy back light shot, better than anything I have done.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Toy Story Alien Cake Pops

Ohhh, it's the claw!!!

  So a friend asked me to make her cake pops, for her son's birthday.  He wanted something toy story.  So off I went to the web to google and find something.  Everything I found was super cute.  I sent her a few pictures and hoped she would like the ideas.  I did not want to do anything too crazy because I knew I would screw it up.  Thankfully she liked the green aliens and I was happy.  I figured how hard could they be?  Well they were not too hard, just time consuming.  Darn it all!

 So to start I made a chocolate cake and once cooled crumbled it and mixed it with chocolate icing.  For cake balls I use cake mix and store frosting.  I really like the taste and it is much easier for me.  Plus, it's cheaper, and keeping costs down is a must.

So once the cake was all mixed up I used my truffle size ice cream scoop and scooped out all the mix into a parchment paper lined cake pan, and put them in the fridge. I did not roll or shape them yet.  Then I let them sit for a while so I could do some dishes or watch TV, I won't tell you which one, you can guess.
Okay they sort of look like a jelly bean shape, so that is what we will call it.

After about 40 minutes I took out the balls and rolled them into a sort of oval shape, nothing perfect, but not an egg and not a ball.  Does that make sense?  No? Well I have no idea what to tell you, I just sort of rolled with it.  Ha, rolled with it.  


Anyway I rolled out as many as I needed plus like 8 more just in case, then the rest were made into regular balls for my friends at work.  

I chilled them again while I melted white candy melts.  I added paraffin crystals and green candy colouring, from americolor.  I also had my Styrofoam blocks out and some lollipop sticks.
This is after the first dip, you can see the one on the left cracking already.

To start I dipped the sticks in the candy melts, then stuck them into the cake pop.  I worked about 5 at a time, letting the first one dry as I did the rest.  Then I dipped the whole thing in the melted candy melts and tapped off the extra.  I let them dry standing up in the Styrofoam blocks until they were all dipped.  I then let them set up to get back to room temperature and to allow for cracking.

Once they were up to room temperature I dipped them again, I find I have to tap the cake pop stick on the side of the bowl to get the candy melts to settle and not clump up.  Again I hate anything other than regular chocolate candy melts.

Then once they were all dry I got ready to decorate.  I had royal icing eye balls that I bought at the bakers ware house. ( I went to get more and they were only selling like 3000 now for like$30, so I just bought a few bags of royal icing mix for $2 each and am going to spend an afternoon making my own for way less. I will post about it if it works out.)
I can see!!!

I also had green candy covered sunflower seeds.  I got them in bulk at the bulk food store, but they were multi coloured so I had to pick them out.  I set those out with the eye balls, and got my food tweezers to get started.

Firstly I took a lollipop stick and dipped it into the candy melts and blobbed a line across the face of the alien to stick the eyes into.  I put the middle eye first then one on each side.  I did all the eyes then went back and put the sunflower seeds on.  This took forever.
Sunflower ear's and antenna.  The picture I found used licorice for the top antenna but it  would not work for me so I didn't even post it.

So I found the seeds were falling over before they would set, and sitting there holding them was not going to happen.  So I set up my fan and would dip a seed into the melts, set it on the cake pop then put it in front of the fan and sort of move it around until it set up enough to stay.  This took forever and I was not thrilled with how it looked, but you know nothing else worked.
They don't look too bad right?

Then I left them to dry for a while, I dipped the plain cake pops for my friends at work and cleaned up.

Lastly I took a black americolor food writer and drew on the smile.  I was really happy with the mouths and they looked sort of cute.  I also drew some faces on the ones for work, nothing fancy, they would eat anything made of cake.
With cake balls, you must take every opportunity to write "bad" things, because no one can be insulted with it is made out of sugar.

I let the drawn on mouths dry then wrapped them up and tied them with ribbon.  I left them at room temperature until they were picked up.  And apparently the birthday boy was very happy.  Which made me happy.

So there you go, how I totally made cake pops from a picture on the Internet.

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Saturday, March 24, 2012

The time we met the Mayor and named the new Subway in Toronto

So this is totally not a baking post, but I am running a bit behind in my baking posts so I thought this is Cakeballs, Cookies and More right?  So this will be in the More category.  It also gives me an excuse to show off my hot bod.  I know that last part is totally made up, but if anyone does a google search for cakeballs and hot bod, I have them covered. 

The small picture's are off my cell phone so they are not the best.  Anyway, this is my train! And by mine, I mean I named it, but didn't pay for it, if I could I so would, how cool would  it be to own your own subway train.  I would stop at all the stops and open the window and yell, sorry this is my train, don't even think of trying to get on.  Then I would dance all over. Ya, I wouldn't have many friend probably.  But I would have a pony on my train, I mean if I had the money why not? Don't pretend like you wouldn't too. 
Anyway this all started way back in 2006, I think.  I was looking for a cheaper way to get to and from work. I work downtown and drive in every day.  In looking for another solution I checked out the website for our subway. We call it the TTC, Toronto Transit Commission.  When I looked I happened to see that they had some contest going, a name the new subway contest.  The winner would get a one year subway pass.  That was cool, but I never win anything so never really thought it would happen. The new train was going to be commissioned and they planned to put the first one into service in the next year or so.  Yeah, that was back in 2006 people.

Pork Chop in the drivers seat, I told him to try and look like he was driving.  If this is how he is going to drive, he is never touching my car. 

My paparazzi, they may have been there for the train, but I choose to believe I was the big draw. 
There were even police, I am that famous!

So I wracked my brain for oh, 10 seconds, to come up with the most amazing name ever.  I picked something that I thought the TTC would like, as I wanted to win.  Growing up the slogan for the subway was "Ride the Rocket."  I will at this time not make the obvious joke about that and move on.  I do, however, reserve the right to come back at any time and do so.

 Be warned.

But on a nice note, that slogan was something I remember from my childhood so I wanted to keep it going somehow.

I am a little mad my name is not on the front of the train, but you know,  I cannot have everything.
This is the podium, and while they were talking I was right there, feeding Pork Chop snacks, I am so the best mom ever.
So "Ride the Rocket"  that is what I worked with, and so I decided the new subway trains would need to be named something amazing, something cool, something, well, I don't know. Just something. So the first thing that popped into my head was "The Toronto Rocket"  I submitted it and forgot all about it.

Until,  I got a message at home saying I had won.  Now I never win anything, much less something that was a big contest like this.  At the time they announced that I won, I was all, yay!  Then I was all, oh no, people are going to see me, as there was supposed to be a big event when the train launched.  Remember I was at my heaviest around then.  Well, what could I do I won something.

Little did I know there was a bunch of people on line making fun of me for my lame choice in names.  I mean someone even said they were embarrassed they lived in the same city as me.  I found this out after the train went into service in 2010 and I was looking for pictures to print out for my son.  Ya, I could never be really famous, I was hurt.  No thick skin here at all. Although with lots of money I could have someone to be upset for me, that could work. Or just get them to hunt down the meanies and call them names. That will show them.

So fast forward like what, 4 years?  And I get a few emails saying there are going to be events, but they were all last minute and I could not get out of work on short notice you know.  So finally they gave me a bit of notice about the first run of the train, I did not want to miss that.  My goodness, my son could tell his grand kids he rode the maiden voyage of the subway.  And yes I doubt he will be telling the story, but you know, I am dramatic.  So I managed to get the day off and went.

The plan was to drive to work then subway it to the station to meet up and be there and I had no idea what else.  So of coarse there was a traffic accident and we were late, but we made it at least 10 minuted earlier than the mayor, so hey, I was on time.

This is one of the professional picture, I give credit at the end  for the good pictures to the nice person who took them.  As you can see I am telling Pork Chop something,  what I don't know. And that is a model of my train.
Another professional picture, I am behind them all on the train saying. "smile Pork Chop!"  He didn't smile. And that guy on the left, he cracks me up.  He is so saying "How you doin'!"  You know he totally is!
And here is Pork Chop skipping behind the media and the Mayor with his ribbon, he was mad they would not let him go first I think. 
We got to take pictures of Pork Chop sitting in the driver seat and I got one of both of us.  Keep in mind these are the last pictures of him smiling, the rest he looks so miserable, but he was just shy.  He also loves to wear a baseball hat, so he had to pick another one or no hat.  I think he was cute, and all the people kept telling him they liked his hat.
This was the last professional picture, taken just as they were getting ready to let all the people on.  My head looks like it's floating or something.

Another professional picture, the mayor was nice enough to stop to take with us.   I hate having pictures taken.
So during the press conference he was board but I was prepared!  I brought snacks so my kid ate while the people were talking.  Then they said my name, I sort of looked like a deer in head lights and waved.  Then it was onto the train.  They wanted a photo op cutting the ribbon, but would not let Pork Chop hold the scissors as they were sharp, just look at his face, he was so not liking it.  They took the picture, gave Pork Chop a piece of the ribbon then started doing a tour of the subway.  Pork Chop skipped down the train waving his ribbon and what not.  One of the nice ladies got it signed for us by the mayor and a few other high up people.  I have it in a shadow box for Pork Chop with the button they gave out.

So after that they were going to start the train, they wanted to let Pork Chop in the front but they were not allowed due to something or other.  So we stood at the front and all these people loaded in.  Man there are some die hard train fans, so cute, and at every station they would yell for the people to get on, as it was not the usual train.  So funny. Pork Chop kept looking at me like this was the craziest thing ever, usually only drunk people are screaming on the subway. Not that he has been on the train with drunks, not yet at least.
It was crowded and people were screaming like crazy.  There was this adorable kid who loved trains and he had on a  t shirt that had the map of the subway, and he knew all sorts of train things.  So cute!

So we rode it back to work, had one of the TV stations talk to us and then we grabbed lunch and went home.  But not after visiting all my "friends" at work.  Pork Chop always wants to see my friends, but then acts all shy and doesn't say anything other than "hi" and "hmm."  He is a real conversationalist in public. Oh and I bought him some lego because he had been so good. That was probably the highlight of the day for him

That night Pork Chop watched TV all night to see himself.  He was not on  TV at all, poor guy.  The big news was the heat, it was super hot and that was the top story.    There was a clip of us walking along the train, but that was it.  He was so upset, so I spent the next day googling for clips, there were a few, mostly of us walking inside the train.
Now anytime the mayor is on  the news Pork Chop asks why there is a new train, if he only knew right?
I took this picture because it was going to be in my scrapbook of "The Amazing Life of Me"  I have yet to start that book, so you know, now it's on the web,it's practically the same thing.

So there were a few professional pictures and a few I took on my phone.  It was darn hot and my feet hurt, and the dress I was wearing makes it look like I have no boobs and I felt fat, and my hair was hot and you know it was not great. ( and I totally know I am whining like a baby, but you know, I have to start my Diva attitude somewhere right?) But, I named a train, and will go down in history as the girl who gave "The Toronto Rocket" it's name.

And was one of the first to ride it.

 (that's what she said!)

All professional pictures by , Derek Stryland

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

These are the sorts of pictures you get when you bake in the evening, in Canada in the winter.  Oh and when you don't know how to take a picture either.

  So I may have mentioned that I got a part time job recently, like 3 months ago.  I am still learning and boy do I mess up a lot.  I mean A LOT!  So I have to say thanks to my co workers who are so amazing at helping me and making me feel like I am not a complete moron.  But you know, lets just call it what it is, I am not the smartest.  So I had a request for red velvet whoopie pies, with cream cheese frosting.  As I was told.  Also they are called whopie cushions by my co worker, who I cannot name because she knows the real name now.

 So I wanted to let them know I care, and I also wanted a reason to make something I had not before.  I used my amazing book, Whoopies and went to work.

I made a double batch because I wanted to have enough for everyone at both my jobs, and a few for me and even a few itty bitty baby ones for Pork Chop.  He loves oreo cakesters, which he calls cake cookies, so I told him these were even better.  I will let you guess how that turned out.

So these are the itty bitty ones, I got 12 on a cookie sheet as they spread, could have gotten more if I tried.

 So I know there is this "baking equation" or something, I know we learned about it in school, I even tried to google it to no avail.  So I just decided to throw caution to the wind and double it all up.  It worked, so I am sure I must have been hearing things at school.  Maybe it is like an urban legend of the baking world.  Figures, I have no clue. Educational dollars well spent Mom!

  So I also did not follow it exactly, I used vanilla bean paste because I think that is fancy and I used more red colouring because I wanted to get rid of the darn red food colouring so I can buy more paste instead of the watery kind.  Oh and I did not have butter milk, I just made my own with vinegar and milk.

Ohhh, Ahhhh.  

Okay so here you go, I will give you the recipe, but just know I doubled it and ended up with about 40 pies and 12 itty bitty baby ones.

Red Velvet Whoopies
Based on  Whoopies! by Susanna Tee

1/2 cup butter milk (or 1/2 TSP vinegar and fill up to 1/2 cup with regular milk, stir and let sit for 5 minutes)
1/2 TSP vanilla bean paste
1TBSP red food colouring
1 1/2 TSP white vinegar
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 extra large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa
1/2 TSP baking soda
pinch of salt

combine all the wet ingredients and set aside, cream the butter and sugar, beat in the egg.  Sift all dry ingredients together and mix into the sugar mixture.  Slowly mix in the wet ingredients to combine then scoop and bake.

Just a close up for you, those are the tiny ones on the bottom, they are about the size of a toonie.  (raise your hand if you know what that means!)

I used the two smallest scoops I have. The larger one is the size I use for a truffle sized cake ball, and they turned out to be about the size of a cakester.  Then I used the tiny one which is about a teaspoon, they turned out to be the size of a loonie or a toonie.  For you non Canadian readers it a bit bigger than a quarter.

So I baked the larger ones for about 7 minutes and the tiny ones for 5.  I bake them at 350 ( in my convection oven) until they are no longer shinny on top, and they will hold up to you sort of poking at them.  You know, poke lightly with your finger and if your finger can easily break through they are not done.

I am sort of anal retentive when it comes to things, even though they are going to be squished, I still pipe a nice swirl.  Except for the baby ones, they got a blob.

I then let them cool while I made my cream cheese filling.  Firstly, I love cream cheese icing, I hate plain cream cheese.  But I always forget that and take a nibble of the cream cheese that has crumbled off the block while putting it in the bowl.  I always gag but then I do it the next time.  It just looks like it would taste good, boy is it deceiving.

I made a huge batch, because I put way too much milk in. Then I had to add like 5 pounds of icing sugar.  But you know, now I have some left over to make something else, maybe cupcakes or oh, cake balls, or truffles or even just to eat with a spoon.  I am not against any of those ideas.

The book says to match up like sized sides.   I don't have time for that, and even if I did, I don't care, I will eat it even if it's mismatched. 

  So here is half of the recipe for what I made, which should still give you lots, I mean a whoopie should be full of icing, especially when it is cream cheese icing.

My most amazing cream cheese icing

-1 block cream cheese
-1/2 cup butter
-1 1/2 TSP vanilla bean paste
-milk and icing sugar to get it to be as much and as thick as you want

So cream the butter and cream cheese, add the vanilla bean paste.  Then, if you are smart, slowly add like 1/4 cup milk, then icing sugar until it is nice and thick.  Then decide if you have enough, if not add a TBSP of milk and then add more sugar.  I so just poured in the milk and you would not believe the amount of sugar I needed, and it was still a bit thinner than I like, but I was so not opening another bag of sugar.

Another crappy picture, but those are some cute pies.

So you can fill your pies how ever you like, but I have a method.  Don't ask me why, it just seems to make sense to me.

Line up your pies half facing up, half facing down.  Then pipe ( or spoon or smear or whatever) the icing on the inside of a cookie, then push the other side down to make them stick.  Then, because I hope to goodness you made an extra cookie half, top it off with extra icing and eat it.  Yum!

I keep mine in the fridge in boxes or containers.  Because they have cream cheese I think they need to be kept colder if they are not being eaten right away.

  I love how cute the baby ones are, like 2-3 bites, but could you imagine a table or platter of like three different kinds.  Oh and then what if you dipped them in chocolate? I don't know about you, but I am getting ideas!  My mom has her annual party coming up, I think I have a reason to go baby whoopie pie happy.  I cannot wait!

 Oh and for those of you that were hanging onto the edge of your seat, Pork Chop didn't really like it, he said it tasted amazing.  But when I asked if he wanted another, I got "no thank you."  So you know he hated it.  Which means more for me, score!



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