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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Budget Friendly Creamy Tomato Bisque Recipe

An abundance of canned tomatoes from a recent coupon shopping trip left me thinking up a multitude of ways to use this versatile ingredient.  Y’all know I’m a frugal gal, some might even call me cheap (and I’d take it as a compliment!).  Often times, shopping what’s on sale leaves you with an interesting combination of ingredients on hand.  A little creativity and you can get dinner on the table:

Creamy Tomato Soup Recipe

 

Here is a (very short) snippet of my grocery shopping list from this week.  I scored 8 huge cans of tomatoes for 43¢ a piece, 12¢ sour cream, 67¢ shredded mozzarella and paid 69¢ for 7 delicious ciabatta rolls. (If you have a Publix nearby and want to grab these deals yourself check out SouthernSavers for the Publix Weekly Ad w/ coupon matchups for more details.. you have until 4/23!)

 

SouthernSavers Publix Weekly Ad

A kitchen full of assorted random ingredients just leads to me get creative and after a few suggestions from Twitter and Facebook friends, I decided to make a chunky tomato bisque, (thanks @mariafrey!) Except that I made it chunk-less (you’ll see what I mean)…

 

Making this soup allowed me to reconnect with two of my kitchen utensils that don’t get a lot of action: My big ol’ stockpot, and  the stick blender that I used to puree this chunky soup silky smooth!

 

Stockpot with Onions and PeppersCuisinart Stick Blender

I followed the recipe pretty closely, making small adjustments based on what I had and seasoning to my taste. Its a big batch so you can feed 6-8 easily depending on whether its an entree or starter.

If you add up the extra produce, I made this whole pot of soup for less than 4 bucks! And you know tomato soup gets even better the next day so we’ll be chomping on this with half a sandwich for lunch tonmorrow!

I have a couple more recipe suggestions to try including a super simple tomato sauce (thanks Kristy!) and a tomato eggplant sausage penne that my sis likes to make. I’ve still got 6 cans of tomatoes left so I’ll be adding these to our menus for the next few weeks!

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A Letter to Whole Foods about Coupons

Dear Whole Foods,

Wow! Your stores are beautiful.  Filled with fresh, local and crisp produce. Brimming with prepared food options: Barbecue, pizza, GeLAtO, cupcakes, and the biggest salad bar I’ve ever seen.  Tons of variety in the dry goods too.

There’s just one problem.  Your wares and goods don’t fit my budget (for the most part).  But we could change all that… with coupons!

I visited your store for my very first time yesterday in Atlanta, GA. And I loved everything about the experience – except what happened with my coupons.

You see, I checked your sales flyer online and printed some “Whole Deal” store coupons. Using Mambo Sprouts and a couple other sites I also took the time to print some corresponding manufacturer coupons.

I came in with my coupons and grocery list and quickly got distracted by all the shiny veggies.  Nom!  When I refocused, I grabbed what was on my list..Garden of Eatin Tortilla Chips, Muir Glen Tomatoes, 7th Generation Paper Towels and a product I’ve never tried before, So Delicious Coconut Milk. I bought these items because they were on sale and you offered coupons. Many of them the manufacturer also offered coupons that helped keep me in line with my budget.

Then I got to the prepared foods section.  Oh my, I would have had one of everything if I hadn’t just eaten dinner (frugal tip: don’t shop when you are hungry… especially at WF).  I was tempted by several things, but I did actually grab a pack of sliced pancetta at, GASP, full price.

Sales and coupons are what got me in your front door. But when I got to the register to pay, I was surprised to have several coupons handed back to me.  I politely explained that every store I shop at allows you to use a store and manufacturer’s coupon together, so he called a manager for clarification.

The manager gave me a little talking to about how he would do it this one time, but that Whole Foods doesn’t allow a store and manufacturer’s coupon together.  Whoa! Really?  That makes no sense and here’s why:

Let’s take the example of the Seventh Generation Paper Towels that cost $2.69 regular price
(Wow, I would never pay $2.69 for paper towels even if they were made of pure cotton!)


Whole Foods Coupons: Fail or Win?

You offered a $1 off any Seventh Generation product coupon here and
Seventh Generation also offers a $1 Manufacturers coupon on their website.

1.  A Whole Foods Coupon is like a sale that you have to be savvy enough to get in on. Not everyone gets the discount, but these are also not reimbursed by the manufacturer directly.

That coupon makes my paper towels $1.69 (still more expensive than Marcal with a coupon). This price alone would not get me in your door for paper towels, I have TONS of other options.

2.  Manufacturer’s coupons are reimbursed directly by the manufacturer plus 8 cents!

That coupon together with my Whole Foods “sale” coupon makes my paper towels 69¢.  Now we’re talking!  The funny thing is, using these two coupons together, Whole Foods actually makes 8 cents more (a total of $1.77) than if I hadn’t used the Manufacturer’s coupon, but your consumer pays less overall. What a great value to your customer and it doesn’t cost you anything!

Not only that, but you actually got a new customer in the door and made a sale that you wouldn’t normally make, AND you got 8¢ extra!  Sounds like a win-win, except that this is exactly what the manager would not allow.

It’s interesting because when we are talking about National Brands like 7th Generation and Muir Glen (made by General Mills)… I can buy these products at almost ANY grocery store.

Publix for example takes competitors coupons and manufacturer’s coupons together.  Did I mention their regular prices are also lower?  The tomatoes I got were $1.99 at WF and only $1.69 at Publix.  I have the option to use them there, but I would love to add Whole Foods to my rotation of stores to shop at because of the products you offer that I can’t get anywhere else.

So whadya say Whole Foods, can we work on this policy and get some eco-minded (but also budget-minded) new customers in your store?  I hope so!

Confetti Chicken Pasta Recipe

Confetti chicken pasta is a “recipe” my I-can-make-anything-with-what’s-on-hand momma whipped up back when I was little.  It took no time for this to become a family favorite and now she makes it with a rainbow of bell peppers and a spicy cream sauce each time.

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Actually, I don’t have her recipe (she’s probably afraid I’d share it… hehe), but I do have a very clear memory of what Confetti Chicken is supposed to taste like. Most of my cooking is that way and I learned how things should taste from the best cook I know!

For me dinner is about sitting down with your family to something that might have taken hours to make, but only a few minutes to eat and savor. You always want more, but there’s no room in your belly so you wake up the next day thinking about those delicious leftovers you’ll have for lunch.  Its about layering flavor – opening up the fridge to see what you have on hand that will work well together – and whipping up something you want to eat again and again! (psst…. you are getting a peek of the kitchen in the new place we’re renting)

Confetti Chicken Pasta with Veggies Recipe

Here are all the colorful veggies and chicken heading into the sauce and pasta!! Don’t mind the Amy vs. Oven burn on my right hand.  That happened the last night before we moved when all was packed and nothing was left in the freezer but a frozen pizza and no utensils…

Here’s the version of Confetti Chicken Pasta that I made last night, but feel free to switch out the type of cheese, veggies and shape of pasta depending on what you have in the house (or what’s on sale!) as I frequently do.

Ok, I’m hungry now, time to start on tonight’s dinner….

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Tres Leches Cake Recipe with Toasty Meringue Frosting

One of my favorite birthday traditions growing up was that my mom would always ask us what special meal & cake we wanted and then she’d slave away in the kitchen until it was just perfect. I’ve decided to continue that tradition, so I asked J-Bird for his special request. This year it was Tres Leches!

Tres Leches Cake Recipe with Toasted Meringue Frosting(instagram photo courtesy of Jason)

We were celebrating a BIG birthday – my hubs turned 30!  He was out of town for work on his actual b-day, so we decided to gather up some friends and have a night out at the Japanese Steakhouse (his favorite).  After slathering white sauce over everything and eating about a pound of rice, everyone came back to our place to sing & eat cake!

Torching the Meringue Frosting

His choice of cake actually surprised me because I’ve only made Tres Leches once for a Cinco De Mayo party.  It was kind of fitting for a 30th birthday – I told everyone it was a “Tres Cero” Leches Cake (three zero in Spanish).  Oh the wit.

As far as I’m concerned, any cake you need a torch to make is a winner! The frosting is particularly forgiving because you don’t have to be too exact with your piping skills. You could even make it spiky with a spoon before torching instead. After it was all toasted,  I garnished the top with some strawberry “roses” and blackberries.

Fruit Arranged on Top of Tres Leches Cake

I was so busy baking that I forgot to buy candles, so we got creative with a taper and then had to go a little overkill with lighting it. (Jason REALLY wanted to play with the torch!) Jason Lighting the Candle

Tres Leches is a sticky, buttery cake with most of the sweetness coming from the frosting and berries. The meringue adds that extra touch of caramely flavor that is hard to resist.

Don’t tell, but we ended up sharing leftovers for breakfast with a hot cup of coffee!

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Red Velvet Cake with Beets?!

I love an excuse to try a new recipe, really I do… but when my good friend Jenny raved about a red velvet cake with made with beets, I made lots of funny faces – until I realized she was serious. Not to mention that it was her birthday, so I couldn’t possibly say no!

Jenny has been on a quest to get healthier and as her workout partner, I figured I had to oblige her request for a lighter version of this quintessential southern cake (after all she could only save up so many Weight Watchers points!)

The recipe comes from Spotted Salamander Catering in Columbia, SC who introduced Jenny to beet red velvet cupcakes at one of her recent couponing workshops. They kindly shared their recipe, so I set out to recreate it and hopefully not fail at my first encounter with beets.

I had two initial observations. (#1) Fresh beets turn everything fuschia and (#2) they smell remarkably like dirt. No worries, that must mean they are filled with antioxidants and vitamins and stuff, right? Now I know where the phrase “beet red” comes from, just be sure to wear appropriately colored clothing!

As I always do when trying a new recipe, I did some pre-baking research and found lots of details and variations of beet red velvet cake. This post in particular highlighted the effect of pH on the color of the final cake and the chemical engineering nerd in me couldn’t resist an experiment of my own. Beets are naturally red from betalains, compounds whose color is very sensitive to temperature, pH and moisture.

The original recipe from Spotted Salamander really only made enough for one 9″ round cake pan, so I made two layers exactly the same way, but added lemon juice (1/4 c.) to one to see if it resulted in a brighter red cake. (if you stare at the picture below long enough you’ll notice the top layer is darker brown and the bottom layer with lemon juice retained a more reddish tone.. too bad I didn’t have any litmus paper on hand!)

The icing on the cake (heh) is that I reserved some of the beet juice to tint the cream cheese icing on the cake. No Red #40 here!  When I’m piping words I like to print out the size and spacing of the text as a guide and then freehand it. This font is Minya Nouvelle for anyone interested.

Beet Colored Frosting

And of course you need the action shot of the birthday girl blowing out quite a few glowing candles 🙂 The cake was really delicious and thankfully didn’t taste (or smell) like beets at all!

Here’s the full recipe from the Spotted Salamander with my notes added in blue:

Update: If you’d like to know more about the science and history of Red Velvet Cake, check out my guest post on ChEnected.

As it turns out, you can have your cake and eat your beets too!

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Pound Cake Recipe

Sometimes all it takes to inspire a new recipe is a fun new ingredient to experiment with, a special occasion or a cool new tool you are just dying to try out.  The cake I’m going to share with you today was really a combo of all three, as I set out to use a new fun mini bundt pan set to make a vanilla infused pound cake for two very important occasions!

Let’s start with a sneak peek inside my kitchen when I’m baking. Here is what it looked like after a recon trip to Publix to acquire all necessary ingredients:

Using the iPad in the Kitchen
We got an iPad last year and as you can see, it’s quickly become our most used kitchen tool!  Its so handy when you need a quick recipe idea, want to do a conversion and I’ve even starting saving our weekly meal plan to it for quick perusing.

More on using the iPad in the kitchen in a later post, for now lets get back to the vanilla cream cheesy goodness.

The star ingredient in this cake is Vanilla. I used two delicious forms to get the rich robust flavor I wanted: Nielsen Massey Vanilla bean paste and Khoisan Tea Bourbon Vanilla powder. Both of these were gifts from my super awesome momma, and both were picked up in the TJ Maxx food aisle for a fraction of what you would pay elsewhere.

Nielsen Massey Vanilla Bean Paste & Khoisan Tea Bourbon Vanilla

The bean paste is a thickened vanilla extract flecked with sweet, flavorful vanilla bean innards!

Vanilla Bean Paste Closeup

Also a gift, but this time from Jason’s mommy, I had been dying to try out this fun Nordicware bundt pan (ps… If you ever don’t know what to get me for Christmas… kitchen toys are always a winner!) With bundt cakes its important to spray your pans very well and I use an icecream scoop to distribute the batter evenly.

Nordicware 4 Shape Bundt Pan

 

You’ll notice a few air bubbles in my final product. I’m so used to trying to keep things light & fluffy that I forgot with bundt cakes you should tap on them to settle out the air prior to baking.  Mini Bundt Cakes

The three round cakes were a surprise for our good friend James’ birthday.  His wife was out of the country and after some prodding she informed me that he loved pound cake with glazey stuff on top. It was the funniest thing when his sister also dropped off a pound cake the same day!

 

The remaining heart shaped cake (not exactly appropriate to share for a dudes bday when his wife is in another country) stayed home and got a special Valentine’s day treatment for me and J-Bird to enjoy.   I sprinkled these sweet Wilton Hearts under the cake like confetti and drizzled the glaze over the contours of the cake for a dramatic effect.

Heart Shaped Bundt Cake

I also cooked down some frozen strawberries in confectioners sugar and water and served that with the sliced cake. Apparently we were too busy savoring it to take a photo! At any rate, here’s the recipe so you can whip this up in your own kitchen.

 

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Cheesy Souffle & Mixed Green Salad Recipe

I have been mixing things up for dinner lately and trying to incorporate healthy satisfying dishes that are also light. Cheese is my weakness so I’ve been hunting for ways to incorporate it wisely without going too crazy.

My sweet mom gave me a beautiful red Emeril souffle crock for Christmas and I just love that having the right equipment can make a girl confident enough to attempt even the toughest of recipes. Turns out my preconceived worst-case-scenario visions of catastrophically collapsing souffles were unwarranted and this recipe is actually pretty easy!

I served this along a mixed green salad topped with Craisins and drizzled with The. Best. Salad. Dressing. Evar. Period. (see recipe for that below)

Cheesy Souffle Recipe

Cooking Spray
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. light butter
1/2 tsp.table salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 c. Monterrey Jack cheese
2 large egg yolk(s)
5 large egg white(s), beaten
16 fl. oz.Fat Free Half & Half

Preheat your oven to 375°F. Spray a 2 qt. soufflé pan with cooking spray.

In a saucepot over medium heat melt butter and whisk in flour to make a roux.

Whisk in 1/4 c. of Half & Half until the flour is dissolved.  Add the remaining Half & Half and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened.

Remove from heat adding in the spices,  cheeses and egg yolks.

Beat the egg whites using high speed in a stand mixer until stiff and airy.

Gently fold 1/3 of the eggwhites at a time into the cheese mixture until completely incorporated. This will appear a bit lumpy, but not to worry.

Pour into soufflé pan and bake for 40 minutes

Salad Dressing Recipe

some vinegar (preferably Vincotto Hot Pepper Vinegar)
some Olive Oil (preferably Frantoia)
a little Salt/Garlic/Pepper spice blend

Ok, busted – this really isn’t a recipe. I pour some vinegar into a bowl and whisk while streaming in a similar amount of olive oil.  Once its whipped and thick, I grind some spice blend on top and drizzle it over mixed greens. -Booyah!

For a girl who grew up hating leafy greens & salad dressing,  and whose still not a fan of tartness, this vinaigrette is totally r.o.c.k.i.n. Yes you have to have Frantoia Olive Oil and the Vincotto Hot Pepper Vinegar (which is actually very sweet and not hot in the slightest).  You will never look at salad the same way again!!

Souffle and Salad

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Baby Brioche Recipe


Before I attempt anything crazy like croissants, I though it wise to try my hand at a few simpler breads first.

Brioche is one of those breads I’ve seen used to make fancy french toast or bread pudding on TV, but I’ve never come across it in any of my local spots. I’d heard its a sweet, eggy, dense bread with a funny round puff on top that is generally cooked in a big fluted pan.

Three things pushed me over the edge to give it a go at home:

  1. These adorable mini-brioche pans (mama is the traditional one in the back)
  2. Cooking Light December 2010 Issue staring at me with a lightened up recipe for brioche rolls.
  3. This awesome Taylor Digital Measuring Cup Scale that my sis gave me for Christmas (just had to test it out and it worked like a charm!)

The recipe made way more dough than I needed for my 6 cute tins. Not to worry, I just put the extra dough in muffin tins and they actually turned out really similar!

Be forewarned, its not a difficult recipe, but there are several very LONG waiting periods.  I would suggest starting the dough the day before you want to eat it! It’s really an exercise in patience, not baking.

Here’s the recipe:

Baby Brioche Rolls

1 package of dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp.)
1/3 c. warm 1% milk (heated to 100°F)
15.75 oz. flour (3 ½ cups)
1/3 c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 eggs, lightly beaten
6 ½ tbsp.  unsalted butter, softened and cubed
Cooking Spray
1 tbsp. water
1 egg

Combine the yeast and warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment.  Let the yeast dissolve for 5 min.

Add flour, sugar, salt and eggs to the milk mixture. Beat on low speed until smooth and scrape the bowl as needed.

Switch to the dough hook attachment and use it to knead the dough on low for 5 minutes. (It will look soft and elastic and the dough will begin pulling away from the bowl)

Add half of the butter at a time to the dough. Mix on medium after each addition until incorporated.

Knead the dough in the mixer for an additional 4 minutes until smooth and elastic again. Mine was pretty sticky at this point.

Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 hour. The dough should double in size and two fingers pressed into the dough leave an indention that doesn’t spring back.

Punch the dough down, cover with plastic wrap and then refrigerate for 8 hours or until morning.

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature (90 minutes).

Divide it into 4 equal pieces.

Cut the dough portion into 6 equal pieces and roll them into a 1.5 in ball.  Place into sprayed muffin tins and allow to rise another 45 minutes.

Mix water and egg white and gently brush the top of each roll with the mixture. This is what gives you the pretty golden outside!

Bake at 350 in a preheated oven for 14 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks. Serve with butter because it tastes amazing that way!

These are totally worth the wait.  I microwaved a little butter and spread it over each one. They were fluffy, sweet, buttery, soft in the middle and chewy on the outside!  The fluff in the center slipped over to one side on several of them, so I will skip that part when I make them again.

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