Happy Halloween Cake!

Halloween-spider-cake

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love the theatre and creativity it inspires in people. Once I had kids it took on a whole new level of special. The boys love to get in costume, and it is a great excuse for me to dress up too. They’ve gone from being little toddler dinosaurs, to anything scary and repulsive as pre-teens. I hate to miss any of it, because pretty soon they will be “too old” to dress up. So it is bittersweet this year that I will be on the road for Halloween. Off I go to Portland tonight to bake pizzas for our Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day Book Tour. I hope I will see you as I travel from Portland, to Seattle and on to San Francisco to attend Foodbuzz 2011. To find out where we will be this coming week, please visit the events page.

This is a revisit of a spider cake I did a couple of years ago. I recreated it for a post on Cooking Channel and thought I would share it again with you. Here is a link to the original post, have a very happy Halloween.

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How-to Video: Piping Icing on a Cupcake 101 (Ovaltine Cupcake with Nutella Buttercream)

I was amazed recently to find Ovaltine on the shelves at the grocery store. I hadn’t had or thought about it in about 35 years. There are certain memories of childhood that hold space in the brain in a sensory way, and Ovaltine is one of them. I can’t remember an actual occasion of drinking it, but I do remember the excitement and malty flavor from way back. When I drink it now I recall our black and white television, big cars with no seat belts, sans-a-belt slacks and the Brady Bunch. These were simple days, so it seemed to a 7 year old, and Ovaltine was one of the glimmering bonuses that life had to offer. Keep in mind that my household was without Twinkies or Soda, so when Ovaltine hit the threshold it was an occasion, a glorious one at that. It was like drinking a malted milk ball and I was in heaven.

In order to make the cupcakes look as gorgeous as they taste, you’ll want to decorate them like a pro. I’ve put together a video on how to pipe on a perfect base of icing. It can be the foundation for other decorations or leave it alone and it is a classic finish. I will share some tips on how to use the pastry bag and the key to piping anything from stars to roses.

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How-to Video: Smoothly Buttercream a Cake (recipe included)

In the first two cake decorating videos I demonstrated how to cut, fill and crumb coat your cake. Now we are ready to put on the final coat of icing. I chose a very simple vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream to cover the cake. It is elegant, smooth and has a wonderfully rich flavor, but isn’t overly sweet. It can be left pure vanilla or you can easily add flavors to compliment your cake. This buttercream is wonderful for piping roses or doing basket weave as well. Before we get into the finishing touches we want to create a smooth surface, which will act as a canvas. If your cake is straight and smooth it will be stunning without any flourishes at all, but it will also show off your decorating prowess if you want to add some flowers or writing.

Also see my other How-to Cake Decorating Videos:

Part 1: Cut and Fill a Cake Like a Pro!

Part 2: Crumb Coat Your Cake

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Chocolate Blackout Cake + How to Frost a Cake Video

Over the holiday break I traveled with my family to Brooklyn to visit my mother. A little respite from the winter wonderland of Minneapolis. I packed all my on-the-town shoes, in varying degrees of heels for walking through museums, dining out and seeing shows. My husband checked and rechecked the NY forecast and weather.com promised the most we’d see was 1/2-inch of snow, which would melt before it ever hit the pavement. By the end of our first full day in NY there was a complete whiteout and some of the subways were cancelled due to the blizzard. This NEVER happens. Our second day was spent shopping for winter boots, something all Minnesotans have plenty of and do not need to spend our vacations shopping for. But, the snow was now up to the boys’ knees and my suede heels were no longer as chic. The next morning we were quite happily trapped in Brooklyn by the snow. We put on our new boots and forged our way to the only open restaurant for breakfast and then watched movies all day, it was relaxing and felt quite luxurious after working so hard these past months.

(My mom’s Brooklyn garden during our visit)

Chocolate Blackout Cake recipe and a how-to video on frosting your cake. (more…)

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Chocolate Torte for Passover!

I baked this cake for my dear friend Jen’s 40th Birthday. Just a private little torte for one, or 5 if she decided to share with her family. She’d had a lavish soiree at D’Amico Kitchen and phenomenal cupcakes from my favorite Minneapolis bakery, The Salty Tart. On the quiet Tuesday of Jen’s actual birthday she needed a cake. Her favorite sweet combination is chocolate and peanut butter. I decided to combine my devil’s food with a peanut butter buttercream icing. Because Passover is on my mind I tried my devil’s food recipe with matzo meal and it is a revelation, I may even prefer it and that is saying something! Matzo meal is something I usually only have on hand this time of year, but I may start to keep it in my pantry just for this recipe.

To get the evenly spaced stripes on the cake I used a cake decorating comb, which allows you to fancify your torte quickly and easily.

Other Favorite Passover Desserts:

Chocolate Caramel Matzo

Haystack Macaroons

Fruit Jellies

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Bûche de Noël ~ Christmas Yule Log

This is a classic French dessert that is served at Christmas time. Bûche de Noël translates as the “Christmas Log” and is meant to look like the piece of wood you are about to toss into the fireplace. It is a rather odd tradition and yet I find myself making one every year. It always reminds me of the TV station that plays Christmas music and shows nothing but a burning log in a fireplace. I thought those were just memories of my long ago childhood, but I was amazed to see that the burning log still finds its place on YouTube even today.

Despite my unglamorous association there is something quite elegant and beautiful about the Bûche de Noël. According to Larousse Gastronomique the yule log cake tradition started in the 1870s when Parisian pastry chefs decided to replace the less elaborate brioche style fruit loaf with this more festive confection. Although I am quite partial to the Panettone style breads, I can see why pastry chefs created something a little more fussy to work on, that is just how we are!

In the giving spirit of the holidays I encourage you to check out Menu for Hope 6 at Chez Pim! So many wonderful gift idea to bid on and what a wonderful cause!

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