July 24, 2010

*NOTICE! I’VE MOVED!*

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:12 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

Hey everyone!

I’ve moved to a new blog address, so if you’re looking to see what’s going on at Punkin’s Cake Shoppe, please click the link below and be re-directed to the new site!

punkinscakeshoppe.wordpress.com

Thanks y’all!

B.

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July 10, 2010

Back in Business

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:03 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

Well, I’ve had the grand idea to use this blog as my new “website” for my dream child…a baking business on the side. So, if you’re interested in my goodies, stay tuned…there will be more information to come!!

December 8, 2009

Christmas Cake Tips

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:04 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

For anyone who is looking for a new cake idea, or just some yummy recipes, here is a great website:

http://www.northpole.com/Kitchen/Cookbook/

A friend of mine sent this to me and it has a menagerie of cake ideas, breads, and all kinds of sweet goodies!

I hope that you all find this helpful!

Merry Christmas!

November 11, 2009

“Let them eat cake!”

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:44 pm by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

As the semester winds down for my Careers in Writing course, I figured it was time to blog about a dessert that is nearest and dearest to my heart: Cake! One of the most scrumptious desserts ever, cake is a wonderful medium that satisfies the sweet-tooth and can be manipulated flavor-wise, and in its physical state as well.

The history of the cake goes back to the ancient Egyptians, who seemed to possess vast skills when it came to baking. These cakes typically contained dried fruits, and lasted for long periods of time. Differing forms of cakes can be found in the Bible as well, showcasing the expansive time frame over which “the cake” was developed. What you and I consider the traditional “cake,” however, actually came onto the scene in the eighteen hundreds with the introduction of baking powder and a ‘lil more flour.

(If you’d like to delve deeper into the history of the Cake, take a look at this website. I thought it was a great find! http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodcakes.html)

Flash forward to 2009. The modern cake includes ingredients such as liquor, beer, minced meat, sour cream, and all kinds of nontraditional add-ins. With the growing fascination in all things culinary, the world of baking and specialty cakes is taking the United States by storm. Such noteworthy programs as Food Network and TLC, with its own take on food shows and challenges, are broadcasting more and more segments dedicated to making cakes that mirror art more so than the “typical” dessert.

I am one of the many foodies who has taken a liking to the idea of dressing up a cake as much as anything else. Fondant, thanks to the French, has made American bakeries all the more chic with beautifully decorated culinary pieces that sometimes look more life-like than not.

Just for your entertainment, I’ve posted links to various well-known Cake Decorators/Pastry Chefs whose work is phenomenal. These pieces of edible art will make you appreciate the creativity that goes into producing these amazing cakes:

http://www.mikesamazingcakes.com/

http://justcake.com/flash_index.php

http://tlc.discovery.com/videos/cake-boss/

http://www.charmcitycakes.com/

normal_IMG_5615

The "Doctor's Coat" Cake

One cake, in particular, that I am especially proud of is my “Doctor’s Coat” cake, which I made a year or two ago for the CEO of Cardiovascular Medicine, the company that I’ve been with for almost five years now. Now, to be totally honest with you, I cannot remember whether I used a vanilla or chocolate cake base, but which ever one I used, it was yummy. However, it is the outside of the cake that I am extremely proud of.

I am one of many self-taught bakers who, through hours and hours of Food Network Challenge episodes, taught myself the basics of cake baking and decorating. Add in a Wilton class on cakes, and you have the start of my cake-making frenzy. With that said, this cake was an opportunity to practice with Fondant and make a cake that reflected our practice and showed off some of my skills. So, I set off to baking and somewhere around six hours later came out with two very sore ankles and a cake that I’m still quite fond of.

Cakes like these take time, and a lot of labor-intensive work that not a lot of people realize goes into making a cake like this. Add in the cost of all of the ingredients, especially if you’re making EVERYTHING from scratch, which I typically do, and you’ve got quite the bill on your hands. But, in the end, the smiling faces and admiration for all your toils and labors are well worth the trouble.

*If you’re interested in making your own cake, Southern Living has great recipes for cake batters and a menagerie of buttercream flavors that are sure to delight everyone. I absolutely love Southern Living and the recipes are easy to follow! (Always a plus!). Also, if you want to expand your horizons and try to use Fondant to cover your cakes, go to Michael’s. They have boxed Fondant that will cover two 9-in. rounds (I think), and they’re around $6.00-$7.00 a box. You can color it, you can flavor it, you can eat, or (like most people) you can peel it off your piece of cake and throw it away. (FYI: the taste of Fondant is an acquired one, so if you use it on a cake and your guests don’t like it, don’t get offended. Just tell them to peel it off. You should always have a good layer of buttercream underneath your Fondant anyway, so your guests will still get a lot of yummy frosting!).

For more information on Wilton, visit their website at: http://www.wilton.com/

October 24, 2009

The Ukraine

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:10 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

The gang at Thanksgiving

The gang at Thanksgiving

Be warned: This recipe is not a dessert!! I’m leaving the beaten trail and heading into the land of “real” food…

Of all the places mentioned in this blog, Ukraine is the one place that I have not visited. The Ukriane was first introduced to me when my church, at the time, went on a mission trip to do Vacation Bible School over there at a church that partnered with us. Tammy, one of my best friends, along with the Children’s Ministry director, were going with the group over to teach and help out with the overall process of sharing the Gospel with these kids. Well, along the way, some friends of mine met Inna, a sweet, sweet young lady who I was introduced to through mutual friends.

Alongside helping the members of my church, and the church in the Ukraine, Inna brought with her a recipe from her home that she was kind enough to make, and share, with us. Last Thanksgiving Inna got to come down to Georgia to spend part of the holiday with us, and while she was here, she treated us to an authentic Ukrainian dish called Borscht.

Borscht is a mix between a soup and a stew, consisting of cabbage, beets, potatoes, carrots, some form of meat (I used chicken), tomato juice, onion, and salt and pepper to taste. It’s an extremely simple dish, but one that requires a lot of prep and some patience. The chicken needs to be boiled anywhere between 45 minutes to one hour, on High heat, to ensure that it’s cooked through. I used a package of 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts that I cut into strips and/or cubes. After boiling for about an hour, I added almost an entire bag of pre-shredded cabbage and let it cook over medium heat for 5 -7 minutes. I then added 3 cubed potatoes (peeled or with skins on) in with the chicken and cabbage mixture. You need to let the potatoes cook for at least 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, while the chicken was cooking, I sauteed one medium white onion in a small amount of Canola oil until it was slightly golden, and then added 1 grated carrot and 2 grated beets. To the onion, carrot, and beet mixture, I added 4 oz. or so of tomato sauce. Once the sauce was incorporated, I mixed the vegetables in with the chicken. Let the entire “soup” cook on Medium heat until the potatoes are soft and can be pierced with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yumm!!

Yumm!!

One problem that I encountered was the amount of water in the soup. I ended up needing a bit more liquid in it, so I ended up adding one large glass of hot water to the soup, and added additional spices as needed.

This dish is absolutely wonderful, and a great meal to have on a cool Fall day. One of the staples of this dish is to serve it with sour cream. In my opinion, it’s the sour cream that makes the dish taste complete. It’s just yummy. And, if you want to impress your kids, make this for Halloween. The beets turn the soup a brilliant red/purple color that will add to the “ghoulist” feel of Halloween.

This is one of my favorite dishes to make, and it’s fairly simple to do. Try it out and see for yourself just how delicious this little taste of Ukraine truly is.

Scotland: A bonnie place indeed…

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:22 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

Me in front of a Chuch in Edinburgh, Scotland

Me in front of a Chuch in Edinburgh, Scotland

Scotland was one of the few places that I was absolutely dying to go see. Even though I truly loved visiting England, France, and Italy, there was a calling inside of me to go to Scotland. Ever since I can really remember, I have had a love and longing to visit the place where my family has so much ancestery. The beautiful landscapes, emerald green and undescribable in words, literally took me back to the time when I could imagine newly erected structures of stone, untouched mountainsides, and castles full of lairds and their clansmen standing watch over their land-it’s just perfection to me. Scotland is truly the place where I can look out at all of the lush greenery and see all the proof you  need to know that there is a God, and He is wonderfully artistic. A land that beautiful did not just spring up out of nothing, it was masterfully and wonderfully desgined, and I was truly blessed to have laid my eyes on it during my lifetime.

There are so many wonderful places that my aunt and I got to visit, ranging from some of the most “haunted” sections of Edinburgh, to ruined castles still majestic and strong even in their current states. To see Dirleton Castle, a fortress that lasted through various attacks on its walls, and Tantallon, a beautiful coast-side stronghold still prominently watching over the waters, was just awe-inspiring. I will never forget standing in the midst of those mighty fortresses and feeling the grandeur and the history that pervaded each of them. It was absolutely amazing.

Although I could talk for hours-on-end about the beauty of Scotland, it is the food that is the focus of this blog, and therefore I am going to get back on track here. 🙂

Unfortunately, the food was not something that sparked as much admiration in me as the did the surrounding lands

Angel and I at Stirling Castle

Angel and I at Stirling Castle

and architecture. I had Italian food in Scotland, French pastries and hot chocolate, and Starbucks, all while I was in that beautiful country. Scotland is very much like England, in that fish and chips can be found anywhere, as well as all of the other bar food you can imagine. The pubs are the only places that stay open until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, while everything else, restaurants included, tend to close around 8pm. (We got politely “shooed” out of a Starbucks because it was closing…it was a traumatic experience, but I survived).

The best meals that we had, and I think Angel would agree with me on this, were the breakfasts served at our Bed and Breakfast. We were treated to a traditional Scottish breakfast every morning, consisting of eggs, fried or scrambled, a choice of sauteed mushrooms, toast, blood sausage, bacon, and/or porridge. Top that off with some freshly made coffee and we were good to go. (The only thing that we did not order was the blood sausage. All I can say to that is gross and no thank you).

However, in spite of some pretty awesome breakfasts, it is one of Scotland’s most famous foods that I chose to blog about today. The deep fried Mars bar is something that is rumored to be sold all over Scotland. Knowing this at the onset of our trip, I asked our taxi driver about it and to my shock, found out that he had never even tried one. My initial thought after hearing his response was if this super crispy dessert item hasn’t been tried by a citizen of Edinburgh, then what kind of joke was this? Well, even though some Scots haven’t actually tried it, the deep fried Mars bar is actually served in Scotland. I actually found an article from the BBC about the prevalence of the Mars bar and the bad state of health a lot of Scots are currently in because of it and other fried foods.

You can access and read the article here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4103415.stm

So, I made my own deep fried Milky Way, Milky Way Dark Chocolate, Snickers, and Musketeer mini bars. (You’ve got to go big with these cooking experiments people. As the phrase goes: Go big or go home-or collapse from all of your arteries becoming clogged). My experiment started off with a fairly large cooking pot with about 2 inches of Canola

Amazingly enough, they tasted better than they looked.

Amazingly enough, they tasted better than they looked.

Oil, heated over Medium, Medium-High heat for 5-10 minutes. I mixed together some pancake mix and dropped just a dollop into the oil to check its “hot” status, and it was ready to go. You know your oil is ready when it only takes a few seconds to fry whatever it is you’re cooking without burning it to a crisp. Disclaimer: If you try this at home-watch out! The oil will pop and if it gets on you, it will hurt. I speak from experience-watch your oil, and stand back when you (carefully) put your food in the pot to fry. Anyway, once the oil was hot enough to start frying, I dipped the candy bar minis, which I stuck in the freezer for 5 or so minutes to get a good chill on them, into the pancake mix, and then carefully put them in the oil. Within literally a second or so, the bars should start to look like a doughnut, with a light crispy coating forming around it. Once the chocolate has a light brown coating, immediately remove it from the pot with a spoon. You can serve the chocolates/candy bars plain or sprinkle them with a dusting of powdered sugar.

The end result was an alright-tasting confection that I’m sure is full of an ungodly amount of calories, even for a mini chocolate bar. It’s something that you might want to make to remind yourself of Fair-food or just to experiment with. If asked whether I would make this again, my answer would be “No.” Deep fried oreos at the Fair once in a blue moon: okay. Deep fried candy bars as a dessert option more often than a blue moon: not worth it.

Although it didn’t satisfy my tastebuds, I can say with a smile that I have made the dessert that made Scotland famous, and made it through with minimal arterial clogging.

October 21, 2009

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” -Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:09 pm by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

Italy has to be one of the most memorable places that I have ever visited. The landscape, or seascape, depending on where you are, are absolutely breathtaking. The architecture in itself is masterful, harking back to the Moorish design evident in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, to the gladiatorial arena that made Rome famous, the Colosseum. IMG_0321Alongisde the scenery, the people are fantastic and extremely gracious. While we, my aunt and I, were in Italy, we visited Florence, Venice, and finally Rome. During our stays at Florence and Venice, we stayed at two amazing Bed and Breakfasts. In Florence, we were able to stay in one of the old Medici homes, which in itself is laden in history, however it was our hostess who shined the whole time we stayed with her. She personally delivered home-made hot chocolate and other breakfast goodies to us every morning, and I distinctly remember that she loved the fact that my aunt and I called her “ma’am.” (Never underestimate the power of Southern hospitality!). Also, our hostess at the Bed and Breakfast in Venice was just a sweet, sweet woman. She was the size of a toothpick and managed to convince us that she could carry our luggage all the way up a tiny little stairway by herself. And she did. She was so kind and hospitable, and truly made our stay there memorable. She gave all of us a beautiful gift to remember Venice by, which were delicate hand-painted masks. Mine is still waiting to be put into a shadowbox, but everytime I look at it, it reminds me of Venice and the time we had there. Oh, and did I mention that I got to turn 18 while there? That in itself was amazing!

Along with all the beautiful places seen, and the great experiences I had there, it was the food that truly defined what Italy is all about. When you think Italian, you immediately think of pasta, pasta, and more pasta. And there was, but Italy hosts a variety of amazing desserts. Ranging from gelato to chocolates, I had some really amazing sweets that showed that the Italians know how to make more than just traditional pasta. Venice, in particular, stole my heart with their delectable, sugary confections. (By the way, sugar was the main ingredient in my birthday dinner…and it was worth every single calorie!). IMG_6930

Speaking of calories, one simple Italian dessert that Americans know very well, thanks to Ice Cream brands across the country, is the Neopolitan. The word actually means a “resident of Naples” (dictionary.com), however it also refers to a dish consisting of three things. Following this idea, I made a stacked dessert consisting of what I had in my freezer and kitchen. To say the least, this was my “cheat” dessert for the semester. I concocted more of a Napoleon than a Neopolitan…do you know the difference?? For those who don’t, here’s the short answer: I goofed, and made a French dessert instead! Hey, it happens…

Even so, the dessert was easy and one that could be done with the kiddos in the kitchen. All I did was dress a sheet of thawed phyllo dough in butter, granulated sugar, and a couple of dashes of cinnamon, and baked it on 400 degrees F. for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown. I also whipped together a pudding mix and threw in some mini chocolate chips for kicks and giggles. I then preceeded to configure a Napoleon: stacking phyllo dough, then pudding, phyllo dough, pudding, phyllo dough, and then topped it off with a melted chocolate drizzle. All in all, the dessert is simple and fun, and looks really fancy considering the simplicity of the dish. And for all of you who don’t particulary prefer pudding in your dessert, just eat the phyllo dough with the chocolate drizzle-it makes a great low-calorie snack!

October 12, 2009

“Lunch kills half of Paris, supper the other half.” -Charles de Montesquieu

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:52 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

But what about dessert??

Paris is known for its atmosphere of love and romance, and also for its decadent desserts. Some of the best pastry chefs in the world are French, but even if they’re not, if they’re smart, they’ll go to France to study with the masters. Thus, it is from France that I get my latest dessert…an Apple Tart Tatin. But first, a little bit about my adventures in Paris…

Our second stop in our European travels led my aunt and I to the City of Light on a rather dim and depressing day. Unlike London, which was unnaturally hot and humid, Paris was cold and rainy. (Not exactly the atmosphere you’d expect when visiting this renowned city. But alas, Paris has turbulent weather like the rest of the world). However, after high-tailing it through the rain with luggage that I promise you got heavier by the second, we finally made it to our extremely welcoming hotel…The Hilton. All I can say is FABULOUS!! Thanks to my aunt, we were able to get our room for free. Did you get that people-we stayed at a Hilton for free! I bask in that moment because frankly, it will never happen again.

One of the “best” experiences we had at the hotel was the morning when taking in the beautiful view from our window, what better scene to greet us than the Hazmat people pulling up outside the hotel. By the time we made our way downstairs into the Lobby, a whole kabootle of them were inside going about their business in their yellow bodysuits. It was quite disturbing, but to say the least, Angel and I survived with no physical harm from speculative substances that could have been released in the building.

The View from our Hotel in Paris

The View from our Hotel in Paris

Outside of our Hilton adventures, we visited many wonderful sites including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Le Louvre, Le Opera Garnier (the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera), Notre Dame, Le Musee D’Orsay, and many wonderful little bakeries along the way. It was a wonderful experience and a place that I pray I will be able to visit again someday.

But now, to the food. The French, as I said earlier, are notorious for making fabulous pastries, and quite frankly they can be extremely complicated to make. However, the recipe I chose to represent France is relatively easy to prepare and one that is comparable in taste to an Apple Pie.

The recipe I followed came from http://www.famousfrenchdesserts.com/tarte-tatin-recipes.html, but there are tons of sites online, accessable from Google and especially FoodNetwork.com, to choose from. The recipe itself was easy to follow, but it was time consuming. The preparation of the crust and the prep of the apples are the two steps that take the longest to complete. Also, and let me warn you, this recipe requires from-scratch caramel. Now, some of you are probably wonderful at burning sugar, but I am paranoid that I am going to totally destroy my bakeware and/or waste precious ingredients, which are costing more and more by the day. Needless to say, I had to redo the caramel at least twice, and the final time I just went with what I had. But, it ended up coming out alright in the end. Most recipes suggest that you have a candy thermometer on hand to make sure the sugar is at the proper temperature, but if you’re like me, just watch until the sugar turns a pale yellow/brown and then remove it from the heat. Do not let the sugar burn (more than it needs to)! Trying to scrape that stuff out of your pots is a pain in the rear. IMG_6928

The crust was fairly easy to make, but it can get messy with the amount of flour that you use to ensure that the dough doesn’t stick to the board/countertop on which you’re kneading it. So, be prepared to seriously clean your kitchen after this recipe. (Or maybe I was just messy…regardless, you’ve been warned).

Disclaimer: This recipe requires the tart to be flipped once it’s cooled. If you need assistance in doing this, please call for your boyfriend/girlfriend/brave father/mama, etc. The last thing you want after baking this thing for over an hour is for your masterpiece to be thrown across your kitchen.

In the end, the Tart was a lot better than what I thought it would be. The crust was good, but I guess I rolled it too thin, and thus it turned out a little harder than it should’ve been, but it still had good flavor and added a nice texture contrast to the caramelized apples. The overall look of the Tart was beautiful. It’s a good dessert to bake to impress guests. (I actually served it to my In-Laws). It’ll earn you brownie points for making a gorgeous dessert, and the taste isn’t too shabby either.

September 15, 2009

“It’s elementary, my dear Watson…”

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:49 am by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

IMG_0149Congratulations! You’ve all made it to the fist of many destinations, and the beginning of our culinary expedition! The first European city that I visited on my travels was none other than the historically rich hub of civilization that is London, England. (Hopefully the clues from the first post are now fitting together).

I was blessed to have travelled with my aunt Angel to London in the summer of 2005, and enjoyed all of the typical tourist spots in this wonderful city. One cannot go to London without visiting the big stops: Big Ben, The Tower of London, Windsor, and Buckingham Palace; all of which we saw and enjoyed in their architectural glory. In short words, it was a fabulous experience!

In regards to food however, the London culinary scene was not my cup of tea. Fish and Chips abound throughout the city pubs and restaurants, but being me, that was not the first dish I would choose to spend my money on in one of the most expensive cities in all of Europe. However, my aunt had no complaints and in the end Fish and Chips seemed the better food choice than my roast beef sandwich I ended up eating…and then praying that I had not contracted Mad Cow, since that epidemic had just taken off back home in the States. I was more than a little paranoid about the possiblity of impulsive mooing resulting from my lunch, but I digress…

In response to all of that food talk, I wanted to introduce y’all to a dessert that I did not get to try when I was there, but had I known of its existence, I definately would’ve placed my order. Now, to all of the parents reading this, be advised: THIS DESSERT IS X-RATED…in name that is. The dessert that I chose to represent London…drum roll please…is Spotted Dick.

IMG_6909For those whose mouths have dropped to the floor, no I did not fabricate the name, and no, this is in no way related to anything porn. This dessert has actually been around, name and all, since 1847. The history of the name is a prime example of linguistic “evolution”. The dessert would’ve started out simply identified as a “pudding”, however the title eventually became “puddink”, then “puddick” and culminated in “dick”. The “spotted” portion of the title comes from the currants, which look like spots when the dessert is cooked.

It is traditionally a steamed or boiled bread-pudding-like dessert that typically contains suet, the actual fat that surrounds the kidneys in beef (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)-yumm-and currants, as mentioned above. Golden raisins are also incorporated into the dough, adding to the “spotted” portion of the confection.

I found my recipe for Spotted Dick on Epicurious.com, and quickly realized that with what equipment, and ingredients I possessed in my kitchen, making this recipe would require a few tweeks on my part. In regards to the ingredients, instead of the suet, which was just too gross for me to even consider, I substituted frozen butter for fat. Also, in a moment of my shopping incompetance, I bought regular raisins instead of the traditional golden ones. (It worked just fine, by the way).

[Epicurious.com recipes: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Spotted-Dick-103210; http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Suet-Pastry-Dough-103215].

For cooking: The dessert is typically steamed, but not possessing a stove-top steamer, nor being able to put my glass ramicans on my stovetop, I chose to bake the dessert as I would a souffle. All I did was fill a cake pan (13×9 in) with about an inch and half of water and then proceeded to put my ramicans in the pan. I baked the dough for the Spotted Dick for about an hour at 375/400F. The result was a flaky, buttery confection, slightly sweet and filled with juicy, plump dried fruit. I also made a vanilla custard, which acts as an accompaniment, following a recipe featured on Paula Deen’s webpage.

(Custard Recipe: http://recipes.pauladeen.com/index.php/recipes/view/fresh_fruit_salad_with_creamy_custard/).

Overall, my first experience with Spotted Dick was a success, with both my fiance and my brother, my taste testers, actually loving it. So, the next time you’re feeling brave, and want to experience a dessert that’s captured the attention of people all over the world, make this English treat and offer your friends some “dick”, Spotted Dick that is.

August 29, 2009

A Note to My Readers…

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:41 pm by Punkin's Cake Shoppe

Hi everyone!

First of all, a huge ‘Thank you’ to everybody who is reading my blog! You guys are awesome and I look forward to the comments and advice! Due to some confusion, I felt it was necessary to let you all know that this will be a weekly blog. (I apologize for not specifying that beforehand). My goal is to make, from scratch, a different dessert every week and fill all of you in on the history, process, and end-result through each of my posts. In order to do that, however, I have to have money in my account, and due to the cost of weddings these days, my cash supply is suffering immensly. So, I’m having to bake, and therefore post, weekly when I actually have the funds to buy all of the ingredients. The alternate option is for you lovely readers to contribute monetary donations made out to Yours Truly.

Any takers??…

While waiting on your checks, I’m planning on the next post, with the first secret location and dessert revealed, to be up by the end of this week! I hope that clears up any confusion!

Thanks again and I look forward to hearing from all of you!

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