Shirlee Goodness Cakery

Making the world a sweeter place one cake at a time

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling

Baby Shower Favors

Baby Shower Favors

Last week I made cupcakes for a coworker’s baby shower party favors.

Wilton Color Cups

Wilton Color Cups

I decided to make chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter filling.  I used Ina Garten’s chocolate cake recipe.  The cakes were delicious and moist. The special ingredient is a cup of coffee.  The coffee intensifies the deep chocolate flavor. The batter was very thin and the cupcake tops ended up being flat.  That would be good for making layer cakes; I would have preferred to have more rounded tops for the cupcakes.  Next time I’d try cutting down on the liquid to have a thicker batter.

Important!  Use foil-lined color cups for nice presentation!

Left - black paper liner with colored dots; Center - white foil-liner with colored spots; Right - white paper liner

Left – black paper liner with colored dots; Center – white foil-liner with colored spots; Right – white paper liner

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Foil Lined Cupcake Liner

These cups are lined with foil on the inside so the cupcake color and oil don’t show through to the outside.  I baked a few cupcakes with some regular paper liners to show you the contrast.  You can see how much brighter the colors of the foil-liner are.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Cut a circle from the top of the cupcake.

Now, the surprise inside – peanut butter filling! The filling was based on Martha Stewart’s peanut butter filling recipe.  It’s basically butter, peanut butter, and marshmallow creme. I really like the light texture of the marshmallow creme combined with the peanut butter flavor to cut down on the sweetness. I used Trader Joe’s unsalted creamy peanut butter which has a rich peanut flavor.

To fill the cupcakes: Cut out a circle from the top of the cupcake. Save the top.  Hollow out a bit more from the inside of the cupcake to make room for the filling.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Hollow out the middle of the cupcake.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Fill with peanut butter filling.

Use a piping bag or small spoon to fill the cupcake. Replace the top and you’re ready to decorate!

The frosting is swiss meringue buttercream, colored blue with a combination of royal blue, sky blue, and turquoise colorings.  I used a large round tip “6PT” to pipe a simple icing top.

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

Wilton Royal Icing Monkeys

I found these cute royal icing monkeys made by Wilton.  They were perfect for the jungle animal theme of the baby shower..

Yummy!

Yummy!

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Let It Snow!

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Snowflake Birthday Cake

Each year I make a birthday cake for my cousin’s daughter Natalie whose birthday is on Christmas Eve.  This year she turned 16 and I made a snowflake cake.

Snowflake plunger cutters

Snowflake plunger cutters

I chose to make the snowflakes out of fondant using these plunger cutters.  I really like the detailed shape and design on the plungers.  I let them dry overnight and dusted them the next morning with sparkle luster dust.  I also cut out two large snowflakes from the fondant using a regular snowflake cookie cutter. The sparkle was very subtle.  Next time, I think I would roll out the fondant and dust before it dries, and then cut the shapes.

 

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

Snowflakes dusted with sparkle dust

I baked two 8-inch round cakes, leveled them and cut each in half to have four layers.  Natalie  likes chocolate, so I filled them with chocolate buttercream.  Then I covered the cake with white buttercream tinted a light sky blue.

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

Four chocolate cake layers filled with chocolate buttercream

I used a round #5 tip to do the edging around the bottom of the cake and then placed the snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake.  I piped “Happy Birthday Natalie” using the same blue buttercream.

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

Snowflakes on the top and sides of the cake

I thought the cake looked a little plain and wanted to add some more sparkle.  I tried brushing the luster dust on the cake, but the sparkle was very subtle and didn’t brush on evenly.  Then I added some small silver dragees…and they really did the trick!

First slice! Yum!

First slice! Yum!

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Cake Decorating 101

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Last weekend, I held my first cake decorating workshop. The workshop was part of a crafts event at church which where ladies could take classes to make items such as greeting cards, fabric pumpkins, mini-glitter houses. I had eight students ranging from 7-years-old to seniors. We all had a great time, and I was so pleased and proud of each of the beautiful and unique creations!

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For each student, I provided:

two six-inch cakes

filling

frosting

offset spatula

handout with basic instructions and icing techniques

 

IMG_4861I also provided:

piping bags

couplers

tips

icing color gels

other miscellaneous tools

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I demonstrated basic steps for filling and frosting a cake, and decorating techniques using a star tip and round tip.  Lastly, I showed them how to make leaves with tip #352, and how to ice cupcakes.

I think the pictures speak for themselves!

 

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It’s a Boy!

Shower cake for Baby Boy

Shower cake for Baby Boy

 

A coworker requested a cake for his wife’s baby shower.  They are expecting a boy.  I asked them to send me some pictures so I could get an idea of what they wanted.  Here are the pictures they sent.

baby1 baby2 baby3 baby4 baby5

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures gave me a good idea of what their tastes were like.  I knew I should do a tiered cake in fondant for that classic look, and have baby booties on top.

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Cut out shoe part with detailing

Directions for making baby shoes can be found on the web. I saw the most adorable baby high tops, but I thought this cake would be better with a more traditional baby shoe look. Many thanks to the Cake Journal for their Baby shoe tutorial which I followed more or less.  I used a mixture of half fondant and half gum paste.  The gum paste gives strength and the fondant gives pliability to shape the shoes before they dry too fast!

Assembling the shoes

Assembling the shoes

 

When I saw the mother-to-be after the shower, she told me that she was so happy with the cake.  She said it was the first time that she asked for a cake and got what she wanted! She didn’t get the cake she wanted for her wedding cake or birthday cakes, but she did for her baby shower!  So I was very pleased that I was able to meet her expectations!

Here is a picture of the mom-to-be and the big-sister-to-be at the baby shower.  They are very sweet!

Mother and daughter with baby cake

Mother and daughter with baby cake

 

 

 

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Baby Sweater – Size 18 months to 8 years!

Kristi wearing pink sweater that I knit for her.

Kristi wearing pink sweater that I knit for her.

Pictured above is my niece Kristi wearing a sweater that I knit for her when she was 18 months old. Just to tell you upfront, this post is not about baking.  I haven’t posted since January because I really haven’t baked anything I thought was interesting.  I’ve been busy knitting and sewing.

Sometimes people ask me if it’s hard to spend so much time creating a cake and then have it eaten and gone.  Actually, I like that it’s not permanent.  I can feel free to try new things and if they turn out, it’s great, and if it isn’t exactly how I had hoped, no one will remember in a few days. Plus, I know the cake will taste good!  And I always can look back at my pictures.

I do like to create some more permanent items, though.  These days, I mostly make baby things like baby quilts, sweaters, hats, booties.  Here are a few pictures of my knitted projects from the last few months.

 

Baby girl hat and botties

Baby girl hat and socks

Purple Hat and Booties

Purple Hat and Booties

Multi-colored Toddler Cap

Multi-colored Toddler Cap

And guess what?  My niece Kristi is now 8 1/2 and still wears the sweater…now re-imagined as a cropped sweater with three-quarter length sleeves.  I guess it’s time for me to knit her another one!

Kristi wearing sweater at 18 months.

Kristi wearing sweater at 18 months.

Kristi now, 8 years old, wearing the sweater I knit for her 7 years ago!

Kristi now, 8 years old, wearing the sweater I knit for her 7 years ago!

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How to make Microwave Brownie Mix

Individual Serving Microwave Brownie Mix, Packaged for Gifts

Individual Serving Microwave Brownie Mix, Packaged for Gifts

In past years, I’ve baked a selection of cookies to give my friends and neighbors at Christmastime.  This year, I decided to do something different.  I made microwave bowl potholders.  They’re quite handy.  You microwave your bowl nestled in the potholder.  When you go to take the hot bowl out the microwave oven, the potholder is already in place!  I found some really great directions at the blog Syzygy of Me.

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and instant coffee in a large bowl.

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon and instant coffee in a large bowl.

Place labeled baggie in a mug to hold it open, and tare the scale.

Place labeled baggie in a mug to hold it open, and tare the scale.

As I was making the potholders, I decided I wanted to give a microwavable food item that could be used with the potholder.  I thought about healthy things like soup or oatmeal, and then I realized I could give a fun ready to bake treat– microwave brownie mix!  I took some different recipes from the web and then modified them a bit to my liking.  I like the cinnamon because it gives the brownie a hint of baked goodness, the instant coffee deepens the intensity of the chocolate, and the two types of chips add to the complexity of flavors…the chocolate chips lend bursts of real chocolate, and the white chips add color contrast and a bit of vanilla flavor. I printed the “baking” directions on a label and stuck them on plastic ziploc bags, and filled the bags with single portions of the brownie mix.

Add 87 grams of flour mixture to baggie.

Add 87 grams of flour mixture to baggie.

Add semisweet chocolate chips and white baking chips.

Add semisweet chocolate chips and white baking chips.

Since I was making a bunch of these to give as gifts, I multiplied the amounts of all the ingredients except the chocolate and baking chips times sixteen and mixed them in a big bowl.  (I wanted to make sure each mix got enough chips, so that’s why I didn’t mix the chips into the mix.  I thought that most of the chips would probably end up at the bottom of the bowl.)  I labeled the baggies and filled each one with 87 grams of the mixture and added chocolate and white chips to a total of 114 grams.

Here’s the recipe amounts for making a single serving or mixing up a batch of sixteen portions.  A few of my friends told me that the single serving mix was a perfect dessert for a family of three!

Ingredient

Large Single Serving

Sixteen Servings

Single Portion Package

Flour

¼ cup or 31 grams

4 cups or 496 grams

2/3 cup

or

87 grams

Sugar

¼ cup or 46 grams

4 cups or 736 grams

Cocoa powder

2 Tbsp or 9 grams

2 cups or 144 grams

Salt

pinch

2 tsp or 14 grams

Cinnamon

dash

½ tsp

Instant coffee, crushed into powder

dash

½ tsp

Semisweet chocolate chips

1 Tbsp

1 Tbsp or ~23 grams per package

White baking chips

1 Tbsp

1 Tbsp or ~23 grams per package

Directions for single serving:

1.  Empty contents into a microwave safe bowl or large mug.
2.  Add 2 tablespoons oil and ¼ cup water.
3.  Mix well.
4.  Microwave for 1 minute and 40 seconds or until cooked through.
       CAUTION: The bowl or mug will be hot!
5.  Remove from microwave and allow to cool for 2 minutes.
6.  Top with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
7.  Enjoy!

Microwave brownies aren’t as wonderful as oven-baked ones, but they’re still yummy and will satisfy a chocolate craving in a pinch.  And they’re fun for kids to make!

Freshly "baked" microwave brownie!

Freshly “baked” microwave brownie!

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Snoopy Christmas Birthday Cake

Natalie's Snoopy Birthday Cake

Natalie’s Snoopy Birthday Cake

Filling and frosting Snoopy Cake

Filling and frosting Snoopy Cake

My cousin’s daughter Natalie’s birthday is Christmas eve.  We always have a big family gathering of about seventy people that evening to celebrate Christmas.  The last few years I’ve made a special birthday cake for her.  This year, we had a Charlie Brown Christmas theme so I made the cake with Natalie and Snoopy on the cake.

Pictures for Snoopy Cake

Pictures for Snoopy Cake

The cake was a quarter sheet chocolate cake filled with chocolate buttercream.  I found a picture of Snoopy holding a Christmas present to use, and I looked at some pictures of the Peanuts characters from the Charlie Brown Christmas to draw one that looked like Natalie with her long hair and Asian eyes.

Trace of figures in the frosting

Trace of figures in the frosting

After coloring all the frostings, I filled and frosted the cake.  I traced my patterns of Snoopy and Natalie onto parchment paper and cut them out.  I traced the outlines on the cake frosting using a toothpick.  I outlined the figures with black frosting (chocolate frosting colored black) with a round tip #2 or 3, then filled in with the various colors, also using round tips of varying sizes.  I smoothed out the filled in shapes with a small knife.

Snoopy cake in progress

Snoopy cake in progress

The final touches were adding the Happy Birthday Natalie and the falling snow flakes.

Happy Birthday Natalie!

Happy Birthday Natalie!

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Bananas + Toffee = Banofee Pie!

Slices of Banoffee Pie

Slices of Banoffee Pie

Last month, I spent some time in Ireland for work.  While I was there, I tried an English dessert called Banoffee Pie. The pie consisted of a creamy layer of toffee filling, sliced bananas, and mounds of fluffy whipped cream, all on a tasty cookie crumb crust and dusted with chocolate.  It was so delicious, I decided I wanted to make it when I went home.

“The Completely True and Utter Story of Banoffi Pie” is told in an entertaining manner by  Ian Dowding who invented the creation.  He also provides the “Official Banoffi Pie” recipe here.  Mr. Dowding’s yummy creation has undergone some transformations to it’s most popular form today.  From what I gather, he detests crumb crusts, but the two versions I ate in Ireland both had crumb crusts.  All the recipes I saw (except for his) did also.  His original whipped cream topping has an addition of coffee flavor, but again, I did not see that anywhere.  I did add some instant coffee to some whipped cream as he instructs, and tried it on a piece pie, but I really didn’t like it, so left out the coffee.  The popular version with crumb crust and unsweetened whipped cream is given below.

The recipe I used was given to me by my Irish coworker. It’s very simple, with few ingredients.  There’s really no baking involved, it’s more of an assembling of the ingredients.  And it will taste like you got it from a bakery!

Crumb crust made with digestive biscuits

Crumb crust made with digestive biscuits

Ingredients

4 ounces butter, melted

20 McVities Digestive Biscuits (can be found at Cost Plus World Markets, link to store locator)  For gluten-free crust, see note below.

14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk

~4 bananas

1 pint whipping cream

grated chocolate or cocoa powder

1.   Submerge (unopened) can of sweetened condensed milk in a pot of water.  Bring water to a boil and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Open can of sweetened condensed milk after simmering for 3 hours.  It's hot so be careful!

Open can of sweetened condensed milk after simmering for 3 hours. It’s hot so be careful!

2.  While the milk is cooking, assemble pie crust. Crush biscuits until you have a fine crumb texture.  You can do this by placing the biscuits in a ziploc bag and crushing them with a rolling pin, or by using a food processor.  Pour crumbs into a bowl.  Add the melted butter and stir to combine.  Press the mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring form pan or other baking dish.  (I made a large pie in a 10×13 dish to share at work when I got back from my trip.)  Chill the crust for at least one hour.

3.  When the sweetened condensed milk has cooked for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, carefully remove the can from the pot of water and allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes.  The contents will be hot and under pressure.  The can I used had a pull tab.  I used a pot holder to hold the very hot can, and a butter knife to pop the tab.  Some of the toffee squirted out, so be careful!  Pour or spoon the toffee onto the crumb crust.  Chill for at least one hour or overnight.

Layer of bananas over the toffee.

Layer bananas over the toffee.

4.  Slice bananas and arrange in a single layer on top of the toffee. If using a spring form pan, remove the sides from the pan and place the pie on a plate.Whip the cream and spoon it over the toffee and bananas, spreading to the edges to seal the pie.  Sprinkle with grated chocolate or cocoa powder.  Serve and enjoy!

Single serving Banoffee Pie with gluten-free crust made from almond meal.

Single serving Banoffee Pie with gluten-free crust made from almond meal.

Note #1:  For a gluten-free version, I made the crust from 1 cup of Trader Joe’s ground almond meal mixed with 1 tablespoon sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter.  This made some small 4-inch tarts for my gluten-free friends.

Note #2:  Mr. Dowding says that multiple cans of sweetened condensed milk may be prepared ahead of time and stored for later use.

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The Best Gluten-Free Cookie Recipe

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond flour

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies made with almond flour

This is different post from my usual post on baking something pretty.  These cookies may not look like much, but they are by far the best gluten-free cookies I have ever eaten! Most gluten-free cookies I’ve had are dry or crumbly and don’t have much flavor.  These are moist and chewy and delicious!  Even if you eat gluten, you will want to try these cookies!  I ate them at a potluck and had to get the recipe.  They are easy to make.  In addition to being gluten-free, these cookies are free of refined sugar or any animal products.  All the ingredients are available at Trader Joe’s.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Almond Cookies

Ingredients:

3 cups blanched almond flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 whole eggs

1 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. In a medium mixing bowl combine almond flour, baking soda, and salt.

3. In small bowl beat eggs, maple syrup and vanilla.

4. Pour wet ingredients into dry and beat until combined.

5. Melt coconut oil, pour into batter and continue to blend until combined.

6. Stir in chocolate chips.

7.  Drop rounded balls of cookie dough about tbsp in size onto parchment-lined baking sheet,

8.  Bake for 14-15 minutes.

9. Let cool.

Enjoy!

Fresh from the oven.

Fresh from the oven…great with a glass of milk!

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Lovebirds Cupcakes

Finished favors

Finished lovebirds cupcake favors

One of my coworkers is getting married this month so we are having a wedding shower luncheon.  I am making cupcakes for party favors for the guests.

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The wedding invitation

I wanted to make the cupcakes to match the wedding invitations. Here’s a picture of the wedding invitation I found on the web.  It’s a DYI kit from Michael’s with these sweet lovebirds.

I know that the bride is not fond of chocolate, so I decided to make an orange citrus pound cake batter for the cupcakes.

Foil-lined baking cups

Foil-lined baking cups

I baked the cupcakes in plain paper liners a few days ahead and froze them.  I used foil-lined baking cups to assemble the final favors.  There were a number of reasons I used the two liners. First, with the inside paper liners, I didn’t have to worry about how they would freeze, store, and defrost.  Second, the outside liner will expand and fit into the shape of the plastic container since they are not stuck to the cupcake.  Third, I like the foil-lined baking cups because the colors are much more vibrant than the paper liners, but I don’t like using them for baking the cupcakes because the foil scratches my lips when I eat the cupcake!  I make my favorite homemade vanilla buttercream for the frosting.

Making fondant lover birds, step by step

Step by step creating fondant lovebirds

As to the decorations, I made the lovebirds from fondant.  I couldn’t find a bird cutter small enough to make the birds, so I looked for a shape that was similar.  I used the smallest leaf cutter that I have to cut out a basic shape.  Then I pinched one end to make the bird’s beak.  Next I pulled the other end out and up a little bit to make the bird’s tail.  I used a fondant tool to make poke a small hole for an eye.  Frosting tip #98 turned out to make a very nice impression of a bird’s wing!  Then I flipped the shape over and repeated to make the eye and wing on the other side.  I made these a week ahead so they could dry.

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Dipping chow mein noodles in melted chocolate

For branches, I took those crispy chow mein noodles and coated them with melted dark chocolate and let them harden on parchment paper.  I also did these ahead of time and stored them in an airtight container.

I found the favor containers on Etsy.  I think the bottoms are sundae containers and the and the tops are domed covers for drink cups.  There are some online stores where I saw similar tops and bottoms, but you had to buy packs of 1,000 and no guarantee the tops and bottoms would fit together since they aren’t sold as a set!

Love birds on buttercream icing with gold flakes

Love birds on buttercream icing with gold flakes

On the evening of the assembly, I gathered all my premade supplies and went to work.  Into the plastic cup went the foil-lined cupcake liner, then the cupcake in its plain liner.  Next I frosted the top of the cupcake with the buttercream.  I tried both a start tip and a round tip.  They both worked well.  (I personally preferred the round tip because I thought the branches looked better with a more simple design. I found out that people took the cupcakes frosted with the star tip; I guess they look fancier.)

Favor tags

Favor tags

I added two love birds and a couple of chocolate branches. The finishing touch was  a sprinkling of gold flakes.  After I snapped on the domed top, I tied a ribbon around the favor and added a small tag with the bride and groom’s names. Tip: I taped the ribbon to the bottom with a small piece of tape to hold it in place while I was tying the bow.

I really like the way the favors turned out, especially the way clear plastic holders let you see the entire cupcake so clearly! I think the bride was really touched by the matching lovebirds theme.

The beautiful bride-to-be

The beautiful bride-to-be

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