Archive for category In the Kitchen

Banana Bread Muffins with Cream Cheese Filling

Banana Bread Cream Cheese Muffins

 

On Sunday morning I woke up wanting real breakfast, not just some flakes in a bowl.  I hunted around the kitchen and found two very over-ripe bananas.  Not quite enough to make my favorite banana bread recipe, but a good start.

Taking inspiration from a pumpkin cream cheese muffin I had at Starbucks, I decided to stretch the banana bread batter by creating a cream cheesy filling! I just so happened to have pumpkin seeds on hand too, so why not go all out!

I’m using a “vintage” oven that we inherited with our new house.  The appliance guys who delivered our washer & dryer even made fun of it’s two burners and antique look.  I thought I would hate it, but now that I’ve cleaned it up and tested that everything works, I actually kinda like her!

Banana Bread Muffins with Cream Cheese

You can catch a glimpse of the old girl in this photo of the muffins ready to go in the oven.

I also warmed up some hot apple cider and we snuggled on the couch with our breakfast on a 35 degree morning.

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Too Busy Baking to Bake Anything

You might have noticed that things are little slow here at The Bake Cakery.  OK, a lot slow.  While I haven’t been baking goods of the sugary variety, there has been something else baking:

For those that know Jason and I, you might have thought this announcement would never come, but with grad school finished up and 8 solid years of marriage to look back on, we decided it was time!

I have been experiencing the joys of pregnancy: namely nausea, exhaustion, and moodiness. Without an appetite, I haven’t had the desire to bake or even think about new recipes for the past few weeks.  Now, with my first trimester about to end, I’m finally starting to feel hungry again.  I did have my first peanut butter craving and whipped up a batch of these cookies to celebrate.

According to the What to Expect When You’re Expecting App, Baby Beaird is in the peach stage of the produce journey at 12 weeks and 3 days.

This will be the first grandbaby on my side and he/she will join 4 other sweeties on the Beaird side.  Between moving to a new city, buying a fixer upper and deciding to start a family, we know we’ll have our hands (& hearts) full for a good long time… and that’s just the way we like it.

Homemade Candied Ginger & Ginger Simple Syrup

I’m a big fan of ginger in savory dishes, but only recently have I been turned on to the sweet side of the spicy root. Store bought crystallized ginger is tasty but can be a fairly expensive ingredient for baked goods because its sold in small quantities.

My friend Jenny also spoiled me with Red Rock Ginger Ale and I’ve been mildly obsessed with how hot-but-cream-soda-y it is. At $5 for a 4-pack it’s not cheap either and well, I am.

Homemade Candied Ginger Recipe

Always looking for ways to make things myself, I grabbed a $2 hunk of ginger at the Farmer’s Market and began my research. Obviously the first step to ginger anything is peeling it and my mom (who taught me most everything I know about cooking) showed me a neat trick.

Since it’s easier to show than explain, I made my very first YouTube video just for y’all:

Now that we’ve got our ginger peeled, it’s show time. This recipe is a 2-fer because you end up with chewy spicy candied ginger and a wonderful ginger infused simple syrup – the starting point for ginger ale!

I have big plans for all that candied ginger so stay tuned for some baked goods featuring the ingredient!

Elmo Smash Cake for Baby V!

Coming off a couple of insane weeks of travel, Jason and I made the trek from Atlanta to our sleepy hometown of Vero Beach.  There were lots of reasons to celebrate – new babies, several birthdays, recent engagement and of course the whole reason we had a long weekend – Independence day!


Elmo Cake

When a long weekend and your nephew’s first birthday party coincide, you just don’t miss that! In fact, no matter how exhausted you are, you volunteer to make the smash cake ’cause that little man is only turning 1 once.  Elmo agrees.

We also volunteered to bring an Elmo fruit platter that was inspired by a photo on Pinterest (sorry, after much googling I still can’t find the original source of the photo). While I was helping Elmo paint a masterpiece, hubs meticulously arranged strawberries, mandarin oranges and blueberries into this:

Awesome job right?  My man may let me take over the kitchen most of the time, but he’s got serious skills.

As for the details of the cake, my original goal was to limit the use of food coloring. I also wanted to keep it mostly buttercream (fav recipe here) so little V could smash it easily.  Unfortunately I realized it’s almost impossible to achieve that “Elmo red” any other way.  By making removable marshmallow fondant decorations, he was able to smash it and get more cake than frosting. See?

He even shared the lemon cream cake (1/2 of this recipe) with mom & dad who noticed the subtle lemon & tried to sneak in a few extra bites :).

I express my love through cake and I hope when this little guy gets older he sees the family pictures of his first birthday and knows there are a lot of people who think he’s pretty cool, crown and all!

Happy Birthday 1st Birthday Baby V!


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Homemade Vanilla Extract

If you bake, you’ve probably shelled out a pretty penny for vanilla extract. Nothing beats that extra sweetness and flavor in a cake, frosting or cookie! At $8.99 a pop for the cheap-o corn syrup stuff or $20+ for the really good stuff, its pricey. You can be like my friend Joey and buy a gallon at Sam’s and yes, that should last you a while.  But what if you could easily make your own at home?

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Now when I say easily, please know it doesn’t take much effort, but I didn’t say fast. If you start now, you could have some ready for Christmas cookies! I’ve had the one above going for about 2 months and it’s not dark enough yet. Luckily I’m patient and have plenty of store bought vanilla bean paste to last a while. I find that we are pretty disconnected from our food and where it comes from. Have you ever spent much time thinking about how vanilla extract is made, what makes it wonderful and where it comes from?  If you just want to hurry up and get your extract started (the sooner the better…) then skip down to the recipe. Otherwise, stick around and I’ll share what I know about this amazing “bean”!

What is Vanilla?

Vanilla beans actually come from an orchid. Crazy right?  I just saw the Vanilla Orchid in person at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (the orchid greenhouse is the best part!)  To get high yields, orchid farmers hand pollinate the flowers. Once formed, the beans are cured and fermented for up to a year to allow the aromatic flavors to develop. (Now you know why it costs so much!) Commercial vanilla extract uses grain alcohol to dissolve the flavor compounds of the vanilla.  The FDA requires a very set ratio of vanilla bean to water to alcohol in order to label it vanilla “extract”.  From what I’ve read, it takes up to two full years for vanilla extract to reach its full flavor. We won’t be quite so precise (or patient) with ours.

I put my jar in the pantry where its very dark with the door closed.  I see it there and I remember to shake it up.  One of the things I read that I’m excited to try is that as you use the extract, top it off with vodka. Supposedly the extract will stay flavorful for 7 years. I also can’t wait to try the same approach with lemon peels, lavender and other flavors that might make a nice extract for baking!

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Red Quinoa Cakes Recipe

Allow me to introduce my friend quinoa – a versatile, delicious and nutty grain.  If y’all have already met, don’t worry, you’re about to get re-acquainted in a whole new way.

Uncooked Red QuinoaIf you want to mix it up at dinner, Quinoa (pronounced kee-no-ah if you’re me, or keen-wa if you’re my mom) is an excellent healthy alternative to rice, pasta or potatoes. It contains tons of protein and vitamins! I buy my quinoa in bulk and throw it into the dinner rotation at least once a month.  Until now, my fav recipes have been pilaf or salad style (both excellent recipes to try out if you are just getting started with quinoa).

 

Quinoa originates from South America and there are three main varieties: red, black and white.  I’ve tried all three and personally I prefer the little bit of nuttiness and pepperyness of the red one, or you can make a medley of all three. Quinoa contains naturally occuring compounds called saponins that act as a pesticide, so pro tip: you’ll want to rinse your quinoa prior to cooking.

 

Always scouting for new recipe ideas, I came across these quinoa burgers on Pinterest (yes, I’m officially obsessed with this awesome inspiration/idea cataloging tool!). As Jason lovingly pointed out, me and veggie pancakes have a love-hate relationship. I love to eat them, but they hate to stay together in the pan for me.  I thought there were going to be issues with these babies because I ended up with more of a lumpy batter than a patty (thus the addition of a bit extra flour in the recipe below).

Red Quinoa Cakes

Low and behold, the quinoa cakes turned out beautifully. Did I mention they were savory and super satisfying? Moist on the inside, with a crispy exterior and even a bit of a burger texture to them thanks to the quinoa grains. We decided these would be best accompanied by a green salad because they are protein and carbs all-in-one! I topped them with a bit of greek yogurt dip (as recommended in the original recipe) and we also snuck in a handful of sweet potato fries that were free with a coupon.

Have you tried quinoa?  What are your favorite ways to prepare it?

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Lemon Curd Filled Cupcakes w/ Marshmallow Meringue Frosting

Who knew lemon could be better than any chocolate out there?  Naysayers, you have to try this lemony combination.  A buttery cupcake with flecks of lemon zest, a tart robust lemon curd studded with vanilla bean and then top it all off with a fluffy marshmallowy meringue. Win!

I made these bad boys as a Mother’s Day surprise. Just one problem when it comes to mom & her sweet tooth… she usually has to shy away from desserts due to a chocolate allergy – bummer!  We couldn’t have all that on her special day, so I grabbed a bag of lemons and a lot of eggs and got to work on this epically delicious concoction.

Y’all know I’ve been in meringue heaven lately with my Robin Egg Meringues and the Tres Leches Cake with Toasted Meringue I made for Jason’s birthday.  I just can’t get enough of the sweet fluffy stuff!  Now I like buttercream just as much as the next gal, but this time I saved the butter for the cake batter and the results were fantastic!

The recipe came together from three different ideas I found out there.  I had been dying to try this lowfat lemon curd recipe and it was the highlight of the cupcake for me with the addition of vanilla beans.  The hardest part is the cramp you get from all that whisking :). I knew I wanted a light flavorful cupcake and any recipe with dairy, be it yogurt, buttermilk or sour cream, immediately gets my vote because all my favs include one of these!  Finally, I wanted an airy sticky texture on my marshmallow meringue, so I found one that didn’t include water and it was just the ticket! Cheers!!

Because these all came from different recipes, I scaled and modified each one to get the right proportion of cake to filling to fluff.  Here’s my recipe as always with my notes and tips in blue:

 

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Crispy Accordion Potato Bake Recipe

Accordion Potatoes are like baked potatoes sophisticated older sibling, and once you try this you may never go back!  My mom used to do a version of this taking a russett potato, slicing it into 8 or 12 slices and shoving a slice of onion between each tater section.  A little sprinkle of salt, tiny pat of butter and wrap it up in foil to bake for an hour. MMmmMm!

Crispy Accordion Potatoes Recipe

This version is similar but you get a lot more potatoes, a little bit of crispyness on the edges and a gorgeous rustic presentation!

I first came across a photo of this recipe on my new favorite site, Pinterest.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?  This site lets you save a picture with a note and even keeps the info to the link  you got it from for easy reference later. Like this:

Pinterest Collage

(See the “Inspired by” photos over there in the sidebar? —>  Those are the most recent things I’ve saved!)  Thanks to Sherry at YoungHouseLove for showing me the Pinterest light!

Anyway, back to the tiny slices of potato amazingness. Let me warn you that if you don’t have a mandoline, you are gonna be awhile slicing your little heart out.  (In that case I’d actually recommend you go with the approach I mentioned above).  I absolutely LOVE my mandoline, it suctions to the counter, has super sharp adjustable-thickness blades and a veggie holder to prevent taking off your thumb.

Accordion Potatoes Getting Brushed With Butter

Enjoy!
Baked Accordion Potatoes CloseUP

Organized Cake Decorating Supplies

Keeping all my favorite cake decorating supplies in order is no small feat.  They range from tiny piping tips to a rather big turntable that I used to get an even coat of frosting on my layer cakes.  For the more frequently used supplies (spatulas, fondant tools, piping tips & bags, sprinkles etc.) I adapted the Wilton Ultimate Tool Caddy to fit my needs and make it easy to take on the go.

Wilton Cake Decorating Supplies Organizer

Luckily it is well-designed to fit a lot of the typical baker’s equipment, like this handy food coloring compartment:

Wilton Food Coloring Holder

But… I took it one step beyond Wilton’s vision and added some of my own touches to make it more practical.  I like to know where to find things, so labeling and organizing is an addiction second nature for me.  I’m also a little crafty and like to be unique so I did some personalizing while I was at it!

How I keep my Cake Decorating Supplies at Bay:

  1. Using a Silhouette SD that I borrowed from a friend (seriously the coolest crafting tool on the face of the earth!) I cut my logo out of sticker paper and applied it to bottom compartment.
  2. Bake Caker Logo Cut With Silhouette HD

  3. After putting everything in its place I used a label maker with black ink and clear labels (I don’t recommend the one I have to anyone… but it did the job). Now I don’t have to hunt for any of the supplies and I know where to put them back when I’m done making a mess in the kitchen (or better yet… hubby knows where to put them if he’s helping me with dishes)!Cake Supply Labels
  4. The last thing I did was get my piping tips in order…umm…like… by number. (Ok, maybe this was taking it a step too far but I looove it!)  Since the tip compartment is clear, I created a template that fits underneath, showing the spot where each numbered tip lives. If I have more than one of a type it just gets stacked on top!
  5. Cake Tip OrganizerWilton Piping Tips

I keep my fun BakeCakery stickers in one compartment so I don’t forget to include them with each cake. I soOoOO want to do a cake competition just so I can show off my sweet cake box!

How do you stay organized when it comes to kitchen gadgets?

Robin Egg Meringues Recipe & Tutorial

I had one of those nights where I felt inspired.  Not by a recipe, or an ingredient but just an idea: Create meringues that look like Robin Eggs. You know, those pretty teal blue eggs with brown speckles on them?  Unfortunately, by the time I thought of it, it was much too late to start a baking project and I didn’t think I had all the ingredients.  But I did it anyway…

Robin Egg Meringes

If you’ve never had meringues before, they are a fairly simple treat. Mostly sugar, egg white and a lot of air.  They melt on your tongue like cotton candy and they are one of the daintiest desserts you can make.

 

Usually they are made in the shape of a rose, a drop or star, but I’ve also come across these realistic-looking meringue mushrooms several times.  These gave me hope that you could make just about anything with meringue, but first I set out on a trek around the interwebs to find any previous attempts at a Robin Egg version.  To my surprise, I learned a lot about Robin Eggs and a lot about meringues, but nada on combining the two!

Finished Robin Egg Meringes

 

So here it is folks, my late night, super fluffy original Robin Egg Meringue treats!!

Tada!!

I kept a couple and sent the rest of these off to work with Jason.  I’ve decided what I really need are more friends/occasions to bake for here in Atlanta!

Here they are in their final habitat:

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