Piñata Cake: The Verdict

Well, the piñata cake was a hit! I was so amazed and pleased when the cakes just slid right out of the bowls. They looked great!

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I let them cool overnight, then filled and frosted them Monday afternoon. We had plans to have dinner at our friends’ house and I wanted to share the sugar bomb cake with them so we wouldn’t all die from sugar shock have leftovers hanging around.

It was a little heartbreaking to carve my beautiful cakes up, I have never done that and it was a little weird. I hollowed out the bottom bowl a lot but left most of the top intact. I love cake and could care less about candy (that is not chocolate) so I wanted to leave as much cake as possible.

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Easter candy was on sale last week so before my boys went to their Papa’s for the weekend I let them pick out a few things. They chose jelly beans, mini candy bars and Angry Bird gummies. They also chose Cadbury caramel eggs but those got lost in my tummy over the weekend somehow. 😉

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Once the bottom layer was filled I added frosting to the “lip” to secure the “lid” and plopped it right on top. It was perfect.

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After doing a crumb-coat (essential when frosting any cake) and chilling for about 15 minutes I was able to quickly frost the cake and decorate with copious amounts of sprinkles. (I made a huge mess, but I had to leave it because we were in a rush to pick up the boys and head to dinner)

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When we told the boys we had dinner plans they were disappointed because they thought that meant I didn’t make the cake like I had promised. Do they not know me?! I never renege on cake!

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All the boys ate impatiently and did the obligatory post-dinner playing before demanding that we cut the cake. Their friend J had already tried the wonder that is Pinata cake because his mom is L, is my friend who gave me the recipe.

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So even though it was delicious, this will always be a cake we share with lots of other people, and probably only on special occasions. But my sweet husband and I have already discussed ways to make this type of cake less sweet and more elegant. We were thinking yellow cake filled with pretzels and homemade malted milk ice cream and topped with salted caramel ganache. It would also be fun to make it square instead of round. You could even hollow out cupcakes and put things like fortunes or tiny presents in them.

How would you make this cake less playground and more dinner party?

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Piñata Cake!

I am finally making a piñata cake for my boys. I wasn’t paying attention the first time I read the recipe and didn’t realize I didn’t need special pans for it, you just bake the cakes in heat-safe bowls. Genius!!

My big littles will be home tomorrow afternoon and on Friday I promised them the cake would be ready upon their return.

The original recipe calls for white cake mix, which I’m sure you know I believe is an abomination so I borrowed a recipe from my friend, L who has already made the cake.

*L’s Easter Piñata Cake:

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The white cake was easy enough to make, it used a slightly different technique than I’m used to for most cakes, but the batter was light and fluffy and tasted yummy when I licked cleaned the spatula.

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The only thing I’m a little nervous about is baking in bowls, since I’ve never done it before. The cakes are in the oven so I guess we’ll see! I hope I can get them out cleanly, but I’ll keep you posted!!

Are you doing any baking this weekend?

Meyer Lemon Curd Gelato

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I received the Ciao Bella cook book for Christmas, along with the ice cream attachment for my KitchenAid. I have used the attachment four times now and both times I used the Ciao Bella recipes they turned out perfectly.

I wanted to use up the last of the Meyer lemons I bought for Easter as well as the last 1/4 cup or so of leftover lemon curd that I still had on hand. The plain base is perfect for pretty much any flavor you want to add to it, or you can add vanilla beans and/or extract and leave it as is.

Ciao Bella gelato is sold in Whole Foods Market, but making ice cream is so easy I really don’t think I’ll ever buy it again.

The book also had a recipe for lemon gelato that used the plain base plus 2 tsp. zest and 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. I had 3 lemons to use up and that amounted to 1/2 cup of juice and so that is what I whisked in. I zested only 2 of the lemons–naked lemons are so weird! ;)–and also whisked in the remaining curd and added a bit of vanilla extract.

The resulting gelato was gently tart and creamy and the zest created beautiful orangey flecks– I was really pleased with it. The only issue I have with the Ciao Bella recipes is that it only makes about a quart which is just not enough for a family of 5.

Next time I think I will at least double the recipe and see how that works out.

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*adapted from the ciao bella book of gelato and sorbetto

Ingredients

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar

Directions

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine milk and cream. Place over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally so a skin doesn’t form, until tiny bubbles start to form around the edges and mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk egg yolks until smooth. Gradually whisk in sugar until it is well incorporated and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Temper egg yolks by very slowly pouring in hot milk mixture while whisking continuously. Return custard to saucepan and place over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and it reaches a temperature of 185 degrees. Do not bring to a boil.

Pour mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a clean bowl and let cool to room temperature, stirring every 5 minutes or so. To cool custard quickly, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water and placing the bowl with the custard in it; stir custard until cooled. Once completely cooled, cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or overnight. Makes enough for about 1 quart (or 4 cups) of gelato, realistically about 4 servings.

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Any suggestions on what flavor I should attempt next?

Lemon Fest 2013 Continues

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Last night I crossed off two projects from my baking to-do list. Lemon Pudding Cake and Duke of Earl Cookies.

I used Meyer lemons in both recipes which was why I was trying to do both at once. Plus, the cookie dough needed to chill in the fridge for an hour or so, which is about how long the cake needed to bake for, so it worked out well.

For the cake, I got to set up my first bain-marie and I was excited to see that it worked perfectly. In fact, nothing about that recipe was stressful or difficult. It was a breeze to make and was a great mid-week dessert–and it tasted fantastic. Really, exactly how I was imagining.

It was so nice to dust confectioners’ sugar on top and feel confident that not only was it really pretty, but it was probably going to taste exactly how I thought it should.

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The cookies used the zest from the lemons that I used for the cake and was also an easy, straightforward recipe. I followed the recipe exactly, I bought brown rice flour for it. (I had rice flour but not brown rice, but I wanted to get the slightly nutty flavor that the brown rice would provide.

The dough wasn’t at all frustrating–it was simple to roll into a log (unlike my cinnamon rolls 😉 and again I used my brioche pan to support it while it chilled. It made 26 cookies (the recipe said it would make about 40) and after they were through they were round and sparkly (from the superfine sugar) I tasted one and gave one to my sweet husband to taste.

Both of our response? “Good.” Not great–but good. I was looking forward to eating them this morning, but I made the mistake of brewing my customary pot of coffee instead of a pot of tea and I think the dark espresso overpowered the taste of the delicate earl grey cookies.

The rice flour gave it a slightly crumbly texture: like a pecan sandy. I have to admit, I normally prefer giant chewy cookies, but again, these cookies were perfectly delightful and a low-key addition to breakfast. But still…they were missing something.

So what does one do when faced with so-so cookies and leftover, glossy lemon curd and fluffy-sweet lemon vanilla buttercream?

Yes, frosted cookies served with a schmear of curd…

Perfect. And I still have 3 lemons left!!

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Duke of Earl Cookies: The Sugar Cube

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I love tea. I really do. You wouldn’t know it to talk to me because all I talk about is my love affair with the dark mistress, coffee. But there was a time when I didn’t drink any coffee at all but instead had a nice, steamy mug of Earl Grey tea each morning instead.

I love the idea of incorporating tea into baked goods, and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve attempted to make chai cookies before, to not-so-great results.

But I am loving this cook book so far so I have a good feeling that the recipe would turn out well. I have a few projects on the list first, but I love having small treats to nibble in the mornings when I am drinking coffee and who knows, this could inspire me to go back to tea…

So which side are you on? Team Coffee or Team Tea?

Hummingbird High: Meyer Lemon Pudding Cake

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I have several Meyer lemons leftover from my yummy Easter Lemon Drop Cake. I’ve been wondering what I should do with them…lemon ice cream? Cupcakes? But as luck would have it, I stumbled upon this fortuitous recipe on one of my (new) favorite food blogs.

It seems completely meant to be right? Pudding…cake–my two favorite things on the planet coming together to help me not waste these beautiful, fragrant, thin-skinned lemons.

My boys are bugging me to make a Piñata Cake like I have been promising, but given the sensitive time constraints of the ripe lemons I think this might have to come first.

I promise, boys: Piñata Cake is next!!

The Sugar Cube by: Kir Jensen

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The other new cook book I purchased recently is one written by a woman in Portland who runs a food cart. I found the book at the library and had to have it. It was definitely right up my alley.

There are a million things I want to make from the book, but the first one I attempted over the weekend was the Black & White Sesame Brittle. I couldn’t find black sesame seeds so I used twice the amount of white and it was fine. I think it would look more striking with both, I’ll try to find them for next time.

I decided to make it as part of the belated-birthday gift I was taking to my boys’ Nana. There was a sesame candy I have had at her house before so I thought she might like it.

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The brittle came out great but it could have gone a tiny bit longer in the pan. It was not quite the deep golden brown it should have been, but I was nervous about overcooking. It’s also not a great idea to make brittle on a humid day, which I did but a little dusting of confectioners’ sugar insured that it wouldn’t get sticky.

I tucked most of it into a round gift tin and kept the tiny bit left over in a ziploc–it’s gone already. It was a big hit in my house and Nana said she enjoyed it too. I can’t wait to try more recipes!

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Have you ever made brittle before? Were you shocked at how fun and easy it is?