Frozen Themed Birthday Cake

Oh, where to go begin! So, unless you have been completely unplugged from the world for the past year or so you most definitely have heard of Disney’s Frozen and the two heroine sisters of the movie, Elsa & Anna. At some point you must have also heard the song “Let It Go,” or the more playful “Do You Want To Build A Snowman?” Hence it came as no surprise that when the time came to make a birthday cake for a friend’s daughter the theme would be Frozen. This cake and post is a special one as well since it marks my blog’s third blogiversary! It all started with a 2nd birthday cake for the same little girl this cake was intended for in the shape of Elmo’s head and ever since I have been blogging about other delicious treats I have made and some lovely knitted/crocheted items and handmade jewelry. But, I digress, back to Frozen. By far this was the most ambitious cake I have ever made and required numerous steps over the course of a few days.

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On the first day I made sky blue and violet marshmallow fondant. Thankfully I had done a test run of the process a few weeks prior so I pretty much knew what to do and what consistency the fondant needed to be. I lightly coated the fondant with shortening and wrapped it tightly in clear wrap and then placed it in a Ziploc bag to ensure it wouldn’t dry out. I then put it in the refrigerator so it could “rest.”

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I also made some white chocolate and dark chocolate molds of snowflakes, the number 5 and plaques by melting Wilton candy melts and pouring the melted chocolate into the molds and refrigerating them for at least 15 minutes and then tapping them out on my counter.

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The following day I made hard candy by dissolving sugar in water and light corn syrup by stirring it over medium heat. Once the sugar was dissolved I raised the heat to high and brought the mixture to a boil without stirring it to a temperature of 300 F.

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Once it reached 300 F I added a few drops of blue dye to the mixture and poured it into a greased rimmed cookie sheet and placed it in the refrigerator until it hardened – about an hour.

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I then unmolded the hard candy onto a sheet of wax paper and broke it into pieces so I could use it as a cake topper for Elsa’s ice castle.

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With all of the decorative pieces done it was finally time to bake the cakes. I started with baking the larger of the two cakes – a three-layer 9 inch chocolate cake. The recipe I was following was for a two-layer cake so I whipped up the batter twice and for the second batch I baked one layer and 12 cupcakes.

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For the smaller of the two cakes I baked a two-layer 6 inch yellow cake.

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Once I leveled the cakes I frosted the layers and the sides and tops of both cakes with chocolate frosting. I placed both cakes in the refrigerator overnight so the frosting could harden.

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The next day it was finally time to put the entire cake together! I began by rolling out the sky blue fondant…

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Which I used to cover the 6 inch yellow cake. After rolling out the violet fondant I covered the larger chocolate cake. I did end up with an air bubble on the blue cake and while at first I was upset and frustrated with it I soon realized it wouldn’t be a big a deal as I was going to mask it with the candy pieces and figurines.

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Then it was on to decorating… I wrapped the bottom of both cakes with silver speckled ribbon which I attached to the cake with double-sided tape. Next I attached the smaller chocolate snowflakes to the cake with small dabs of vanilla frosting – I rested the larger snowflakes against the cake. To create the ice castle I pushed down a few pieces of the hard candy onto the top of the smaller cake. And finally I placed the Frozen figurines – which I was lucky enough to find on the Disney Store’s website as they were sold out in all stores – on the cake.

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Here’s a close-up of the top tier of the cake…

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And after carefully transporting the cake – thankfully I wasn’t driving too far – without any of the decorations on it but the small snowflakes I “glued” on  I reassembled the entire cake to perfection once again!

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And of course there were Frozen themed cupcakes that I baked in Frozen themed cupcake liners and then topped them with white decorative sugar and a chocolate snowflake!

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This cake was a hit in appearance and as this picture suggests (and I can attest to as well) in taste!

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And if you are wondering, yes, all of this work was worth it! The Birthday Girl was absolutely thrilled with her cake and she enjoyed a nice slice of the chocolate cake!

 

Marshmallow Fondant

Ingredients:

1 package (16 ounces) white mini marshmallows

2-5 tablespoons water

2 pounds (about 8 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening

Directions:

1. To make marshmallow fondant, place marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds on high; stir until mixed well. Continue microwaving 30 seconds more; stir again. Continue until melted (about 2 1/2 minutes).

2. Place 3/4 of the confectioners’ sugar on top of the melted marshmallow mixture. Fold sugar into marshmallow mixture. Flavoring can be added at this point if desired. Place solid vegetable shortening in easily accessed bowl so you can reach into it with fingers as you are working. Grease hands and counter GENEROUSLY; turn marshmallow mixture onto counter. Start kneading like you would dough. Continue kneading, adding additional confectioners’ sugar and re-greasing hands and counter so the fondant doesn’t stick. If the marshmallow fondant is tearing easily, it is too dry; add water (about 1/2 tablespoon at a time) kneading until fondant forms a firm, smooth elastic ball that will stretch without tearing, about 8 minutes.

3. It’s best to allow Marshmallow Fondant to sit, double-wrapped, overnight. Prepare the fondant for storing by coating with a thin layer of solid vegetable shortening, wrap in plastic wrap and then place in resealable bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible. Marshmallow Fondant will keep well in refrigerator for several weeks.

4. When not working with fondant, make sure to keep it covered with plastic wrap or in a bag to prevent it from drying out. When ready to use, knead fondant until smooth. Roll out fondant 1/8 in. thick.

5. To color fondant: If you need to tint the entire batch of fondant, add a little icing color to the melted marshmallow mixture before adding confectioners’ sugar. For smaller amounts of tinted fondant, add icing color to portions of fondant as needed.

 

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan(s)

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan(s)

2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups whole milk

Directions:

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Butter the pans, line the bottoms with parchment, butter again, and dust with cocoa, tapping out the excess. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined (do not overmix).

4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – approximately 25 to 30 minutes for two 9-inch rounds. Cool the cakes in the pans for 15 minutes, then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

 

Yellow Cake

Ingredients:

1 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter and flour two 6-inch round cake pans and knock out the excess flour.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes. (If you’re using the organic sugar, the texture of your mixture will be quite gritty.) Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla. On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended.

3. Spoon equal amounts of batter into each pan and smooth the tops evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until light golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then unmold onto wire racks to cool completely.

Christmas Themed Sugar Cookies

It’s Christmas Eve and I am happy to say that all of my Christmas baking is officially done. For my final cookie post before the holiday – check out my Rainbow Cookies and Gingerbread Men from earlier in the week – I am going completely traditional with sugar cookies decorated to reflect the holiday!

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After sifting together cake flour (yes, you read that correctly, cake flour for cookies), baking powder and salt in a large bowl…

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I then mixed together butter and sugar in a separate bowl and then added in an egg and vanilla extract and continued mixing until all of the ingredients were incorporated.

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Next I added in the flour mixture to the butter mixture in 2 additions.

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Once the dough came together I divided it in half and wrapped it in plastic wrap and refrigerated it until it was firm – the recipe stated at least an hour but I left it in the fridge overnight and just let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling it out.

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Whereas the recipe said to roll the dough to about a 1/8-inch thick I found it to be thin to work with and the few cookies that I did manage to cut out at that thinness ended up over-browning when I baked them so I went with the standard 1/4-inch thick.

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I decorated a few of the cut-outs with sanding sugar prior to refrigerating them for 30 minutes before baking them in a 350 F preheated oven.

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After letting the cookies cool it was time to spruce them up with royal icing, sanding sugar and sprinkles.

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These snowflakes were by far my favorite and I must say that the cake flour produced a sugar cookie that was much more delicate than and not as crunchy as your typical sugar cookie. I definitely think this will become my go-to sugar cookie recipe from now on.

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Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Sugar Cookies

Makes 24 to 36 cookies

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt onto a piece of parchment paper or into a medium bowl; set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture in 2 batches until just incorporated. Divide between 2 pieces of plastic wrap; shape into disks. Wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour. (The dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw overnight in the refrigerator before rolling.)

2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough on a floured surface, dusting with flour as needed, until about 1/8 inch thick*. Cut out shapes with 2-to-4-inch cookie cutters; arrange 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. (If the dough becomes too soft as you work, return to the refrigerator until firm.) Gather the scraps and refrigerate until firm; reroll once to cut out more cookies. Chill the cutouts 30 minutes.

3. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Bake, switching the pans halfway through, until the cookies are slightly puffed and just golden, 13 to 15 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely before icing.

*I rolled out my cookies 1/4 inch thick.

Holiday Baking… Six Hits and A Miss

What would the holidays be without some yummy homemade treats? Every year a day or two before Christmas Eve I bake about four or five different types of cookies. This year was no different, although this year baking didn’t seem as stressful as year’s past- probably because I was able to bake on the weekend as opposed to a weekday. Every year I get the idea to bake up actual Christmas cookies with frosting and decorations, but, it never happens. Instead my holiday cookies look more like this…

An assortment that includes Rugelach, Peanut Butter, Malted Chocolate Chip, Lemon and Fudgy Chocolate Cookies.

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I also decided to bake a cake for a friend’s Christmas Eve dinner. I wanted to try something new so I went with a recipe that I saw in the December 2012 issue of Food Network Magazine, an Almond Layer Cake with White Chocolate Frosting.

First things first, I got together all of my ingredients together.

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To start off I essentially created a variation of pure almond flour by pulsing together cake flour, baking powder, salt and almonds until the almonds were finely ground down.

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Next up I whisked together egg whites, milk, vanilla and almond extract. While there are almonds in the flour component of the batter, the almond extract is what truly gives this cake its almond taste and scent.

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And finally, what cake would be complete without creaming together butter and sugar.

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I then incorporated all three of these components to create the batter for the cake.

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And then divided the batter among my two prepared pans and popped them into the oven.

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After about twenty-five minutes my cakes were ready to come out of the oven and cool down.

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While I had no doubt that the cake would taste good I was a bit doubtful that the frosting would be as good. I have never been partial to white chocolate so I wasn’t sure how I would like white chocolate frosting. Also, I couldn’t imagine the almond flavor actually tasting good with it. But, I was wrong. The frosting actually leaned more towards a cream cheese flavor than a white chocolate flavor which was a good match for the almond flavor.

The frosting was super simple to make. Basically I made a cream cheese frosting and then incorporated melted white chocolate into it. For the white chocolate I opted to use two Ghirardelli white chocolate baking bars.

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To start frosting I used about a cup of frosting in between the two layers and then covered the cake in a crumb coat and placed it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

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I then used the remaining frosting to finish covering the cake. Once that was done I covered the cake in some red sparkles I had bought to give it a festive feel.

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This cake was a HIT! One of my friends said it was like eating a Good Humor Toasted Almond ice cream bar!

Unfortunately everything can’t always be a success. I tried making Rainbow Cookies a few years and I wasn’t too happy with the end result. While they tasted good I wasn’t pleased with the way they looked. I decided to try this year after coming across a recipe in a recent issue of Food Network magazine that seemed flawless enough. Once again though, there wasn’t a pot of gold at the end of my rainbow. I’m not sure if I waited too long to slice them or something went wrong while mixing and baking but they weren’t too appetizing looking. While I could overlook that, I couldn’t overlook the fact that they didn’t have much of a taste. All I could taste was the chocolate and not much of anything else.  After failing twice to get these cookies to somewhat near perfection I doubt I will try again. Sometimes you don’t need three strikes to be out!

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They looked great prior to and after being covered with chocolate, but, as you can see that was short-lived once I started slicing them. Oh well!

A Pumpkin Pie… And Tart

Thanksgiving is not only a day to indulge in some yummy food but also a day to save room for dessert. This year along with making the prerequisite pumpkin pie I also made something a little more special, a Pecan Pumpkin Frangipane Tart. (Frangipane is a filling that is made from or flavored with almonds.) I got the recipe two years ago when I attended a cooking demonstration at Williams & Sonoma. I made it for Thanksgiving that year and have wanted to make it again ever since.

First up though… The Pumpkin Pie. I followed a recipe that I got from the Food Network website. This is probably one of the simplest recipes I have seen for pumpkin pie but it turns out one the yummiest ones I have ever tasted. I actually wasn’t a big fan of pumpkin pie until I made this one; I always thought it tasted quite bland. Although, I did cheat a little and bought my pie crust instead of making it from scratch as the recipe calls for. I opted to use the Keebler Ready Crust Graham 2 Extra Servings Pie Crust to make sure that my filling wouldn’t overflow. I used a regular sized pie crust once and quickly learned my lesson. The filling overflowed and I had to spend a considerable amount of time cleaning my oven afterwards. Not fun!

 

To make the Pecan Pumpkin Frangipane Tart I started off by making my crust. Using a store bought crust for this tart just wouldn’t be the same. Using a food processor I pulsed together the following ingredients: salt, eggs, flour, confectioners’ sugar & butter.

 

I then formed the dough into a disk and refrigerated it for 2 hours.

Afterwards I rolled out the dough and pressed it into my tart pan and refrigerated it once again. It needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes. I ended up being refrigerating mine for a few hours, but, it had no effect on the final outcome.

To make the frangipane I used sugar, cake flour, eggs, almond paste and butter.

I combined all of these ingredients in my mixer.

Now it was time to assemble the tart.

I started out by spreading Pecan Pumpkin Butter, which I bought from Williams & Sonoma, on the bottom of my dough. Unfortunately this is a seasonal item so it’s only available in the early fall. But, this isn’t the only thing you can use as the base for this tart. You could actually use fruit, jams/jellies, pudding and so forth. The frangipane is what really gives this tart it’s burst of flavor so whatever you use as the base is just a complement to that.

 

I then spooned the frangipane on top and smoothed it out evenly.

I baked it for about 30 minutes and this was the final product and it was delicious!

 

Pumpkin Pie

Recipe courtesy Joanne Chang

Pie Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, cut into cubes
2 egg yolks
3 tablespoons milk

Filling:
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
7 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
6 1/2 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch ground clove
Pinch salt
2 eggs
1 egg yolk

Equipment: 9-inch pie pan

Directions

Make the Pie Dough: In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar, and salt and mix to combine. Add the butter and continue mixing until the mixture holds together when you clump it, and there are pecan-sized lumps of butter still visible.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yolks and milk in small bowl.

Add the yolk mixture to the flour mixture and mix until a dough forms. Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap, wrap well and store in the refrigerator for several hours. (The dough will keep for several days in the fridge and several weeks in the freezer.)

On a lightly floured work surface, roll half of the dough into a 11 to 12-inch circle about 1/8 inch thick. Line the pan with the dough and crimp the edges. Chill the pie shell for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line the pie shell with aluminum foil and fill with dried beans. Bake the shell until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Remove the foil and beans.

Meanwhile, make the Filling: Lower the oven to 325 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, mix together the pumpkin and sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until reduced and thick, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream, milks, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, salt, eggs, and yolk. Pour the filling into the pie shell and bake until set, about 45 to 55 minutes. Cool and serve

 

Pecan Pumpkin Frangipane Tart

From Williams & Sonoma

For the Pastry:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
10 tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten with 1 tbs. water

For the Frangipane:
8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/3 cup firmly packed almond paste
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 egg white
1/3 cup plus 1 tbs. cake flour

3/4 cup (1/2 jar) Murihead Pecan Pumpkin Butter

Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

To make the pastry, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the all-purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt and pulse to mix. Add the butter and process in short pulses until pea-size crumbs form, 20 to 25 seconds. While pulsing, add the egg yolk mixture and process to form large, moist crumbs, 10 to 15 seconds more.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape the dough into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Roll out the dough 1⁄8 inch thick, dusting it with confectioners’ sugar if it begins to stick. Transfer the dough round into a 10-inch tart pan and, using your fingers, press the dough into the pan. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

To make the frangipane, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until light and creamy. Add the almond paste and granulated sugar and beat until smooth and creamy. While beating, add the eggs a little at a time, beating well after each addition. Reduce the speed to low and fold in the cake flour until just blended and no lumps of flour remain.

Spread the pecan pumpkin butter into the chilled tart shell, forming a layer about 1⁄4 inch thick. Spoon the frangipane on top in an even layer. Bake until the tart is golden and set, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the tart cool to room temperature, then remove it from the pan. Dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Makes one 10-inch tart.