Apple-Walnut Bundt Cake

I’m a little off-season in making this cake, but, a few weeks ago while organizing my baking supplies – I guess I have too much time on my hands – I came across a Bundt pan and remembered that I specifically bought it to make this cake after finding the recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine last fall. Every October I go apple picking and I always like to try a new recipe or two with the apples, but,  before I got a chance to make this cake I had used up my apples baking a few Apple-Raspberry Crumb pies and enjoying an apple a day.
I started off by toasting the walnuts and caramelizing the apples. I’ll be honest, when a recipe calls for toasting walnuts, or any nut for that matter, I usually by-pass that step. I did like the flavor of the toasted walnuts, but, I am not sure if it will sway me one way or another to toast them in future recipes. My apples came out a little mushier than I would have liked, but, they tasted great.
While my apples and walnuts were cooling I got to work on making the batter for the cake. I started off by sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt together. The recipe called for freshly grated nutmeg which I didn’t have on hand so I used regular ground nutmeg. Once that was done I got to mixing the brown sugar, butter and eggs in my stand mixer. Once they were blended together well I added the flour mixture, alternating with milk, per the recipe directions.
I folded in the caramelized apples and walnuts by hand so the apples wouldn’t be further broken down by mixing them. I must say, cake batter doesn’t look very appetizing sometimes. I poured the batter into my prepared pan and baked it for about 50 minutes in a 350 degrees oven.
And voila, a not-so-appetizing looking cake batter turned into a delicious spice cake that filled my house with a nice aroma while baking. And while the recipe did call for an apple-cider glaze on top of the cake I opted not to do it because I am not a big fan of how sweet icings can be.
Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 Minutes
Serves: 10
For the Caramelized Apples:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
For the Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Coarse salt
1 3/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
For the Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons apple cider
Make the caramelized apples: Cook granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in apples. Cook, covered, until softened, about 6 minutes. Slightly mash apples with a fork until broken down but still chunky. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring, until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl.
Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix in caramelized apples and the walnuts.
Transfer batter to pan. Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cake cool in pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack, and let cool completely.
Once cake is cool, make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and cider. Drizzle over top of cake, letting it drip down the sides.
Cook’s Note
Storage: Glazed cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Agate & Jade Necklace

After making the Teal Multi-Strand Necklace that took a few mishaps before getting right I decided my next necklace should be something a bit simpler. So I opted for a basic stringing technique to string semi-precious dyed agate oval beads and dark green dyed jade nuggets using natural silk bead cord in carnelian size 8 – even though you can’t see the thread I still like to use a color that’s complementary to the beads. I also used gold-tone beads as spacers between the jade nuggets and some left-over metal pieces from my Necklace Makeover as spacers between the agate beads.

I was quite pleased with the finished product.

Teal Multi-Strand Necklace

I’ve seen necklaces like this before and have always wanted to try to make one myself. Unfortunately, my first attempt at it didn’t go too well. I had essentially finished the necklace but when I put the clasps on and tried it on it was uneven and didn’t lay flat. I tried to fix it but ultimately decided that taking it apart would be the best bet. Ziploc bags and a metal bead scoop definitely came in handy!

On the second go around I decided to count the beads as I put them on the beading wire to ensure that it would be even. On my first attempt I did each section my measurement, which was probably the downfall in the design in the first place. Believe it or not, by counting the beads the necklace came together a lot quicker.
And it’s done!
This necklace was definitely a learning experience. I’ve done multi-strand necklaces before, but not anything as elaborate as this one. I had to learn how to properly attach a bead cone to the ends to cover up all the crimp beads that were holding each of the 15 strands to a jump ring and also remember to stagger the strands in the middle portion of the necklace so it would hang nicely. Now that I have somewhat mastered the technique I will definitely be making more of these.
FYI: The beads are all glass seed beads in size 11. I made the spacer bars by using a ladder stitch to stitch together 5 4mm cube beads and then embellishing them with teal seed beads and Swarovski 3mm bicone crystals.

Necklace Makeover

Sometimes a favorite piece of jewelry needs an update. That was the case with this necklace. I still liked the stones, but, the gold-plated links were beginning to tarnish.

I took the necklace apart to save the stones and after some searching found these metal pieces that I thought would make a nice combination.

Using a basic stringing technique with white natural silk thread (size 8) and gold-tone findings I was able to get to work on a “new” necklace.

And here’s the final product. I actually like it more than the original necklace and already have worn it a few times.

Earring Class Redo

This past weekend I went to a jewelry making class with some friends. Initially we thought the class was going to be for a pair of earrings and a necklace so we were a tad bit disappointed when we learned it was just earrings and not the earrings that we saw when we signed up for the class but something completely different. I had some difficulty trying to figure what I wanted to do since I wasn’t too keen on the design we were being taught and with the stones provided to us. So, I came up with this while I was there, figuring I would go home and change them up afterwards.
So today I decided to take them apart and brainstorm with the other beads and stones I got from the class.
After a few attempts I finally came up with these by using a basic wire wrapping technique. I wasn’t all that sure about them at first, but after putting them on they grew on me.

Quick and Simple Fingerless Mittens

Not too long ago I came across a pattern to make fingerless mittens in a Martha Stewart magazine. I made myself a pair using Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick Yarn and size 13 knitting needles. I was very happy with the result and recently made another pair as a gift.
I decided not to use such a thick yarn the second time around and opted to use Patons Shetland Chunky Yarn and size 10 knitting needles.
I knitted two of these rectangles by casting on 36 stitches and working in garter stitch (knitting every row) for 8 inches (59 rows for this specific yarn).
Once the rectangles were done it was time to sew them up – create a seam – so these blocks of knitted yarn could actually become mittens. I folded them vertically so you would still be able to see the garter stich pattern running horizontally along the mittens and started sewing from the wrist part towards the fingers, making sure that I left a space for the thumb. One thing to note, when you sew make sure you are sewing on the side that would be considered the inside (wrong side), if not, you will end up with a finished product with a visible seam. But, if you do like the look of a visible seam try something different and create the seam using a contrasting yarn color to the one you chose for the mittens for a different look.
And they’re done!
Overall I was happy with how they came out. One thing though, since I did use a thinner yarn they were a tad bit bigger than the ones I originally made for myself. But, since the person I gave them to has a larger hand than me they were perfect fit for them. If I were to make myself a pair using this type of yarn I would definitely cast on less than 36 stitches to start the rectangles. I would probably go with something like 30 stiches to get a more snug fit.
You can find the specific pattern on the Martha Stewart website – while the title does stipulate Child’s Knit Hand Warmer, the description has the modifications for the adult size.

Elmo Cake

It’s been a while since I have properly decorated a cake and I have never done a character cake. But, for my friend’s daughters’ second birthday I decided to make her an Elmo cake; it’s one of her favorite characters and was the theme of her birthday party. After going to three different Michael’s craft stores I was finally able to find the Elmo cake pan that I would need.
I used a basic yellow cake mix to make the cake. I have never been so apprehensive about making a cake. I was fearful that when I flipped the pan over Elmo would somehow be stuck to the pan or worse break in half. Thankfully I prepped the pan well and Elmo popped right out!
After cooling overnight Elmo was ready to come to life. First I needed to make the icing and color it. While I did use a box mix for the cake (my favorite is Betty Crocker) I decided to make the buttercream icing from scratch. Coloring icing is not always fun, especially when you have to make dark colors like red and black. I ended up using the entire 1 oz. jar of Wilton no-taste red to get Elmo’s fur the proper shade of red. Thankfully orange wasn’t as daunting to make.
Now that my icing colors were the right shade it was time to decorate. I started off with filling in Elmo’s mouth and icing his nose.
After an hour or so of meticulous work Elmo was done and I must say I was quite pleased with how he came out. His eyes took me a while to get right but it was well worth the time. He was a hit at the party and brought a great big smile to the birthday girl’s face.
Buttercream Icing (From Wilton)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups (1 lb.) sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Cream butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.

Hey Everyone…

Thanks for visiting! About two months ago while I was baking up a few batches of cookies I thought it would be fun to start a blog chronicling all the different things I make. In the past couple of years I have learned how to knit, crochet, bead weave, and decorate cakes among other things. I have always enjoyed creating things and challenging myself with new techniques, patterns and recipes. So welcome to my new blog. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy making all the items.

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