Sunday, December 20, 2009

Candy Cane Cakepops

I really wanted to make some of the cute character Cakepops from Bakerella's site.
- but time got the better of me, so I opted for a simple chocolate cake + chocolate frosting dipped in chocolate and covered in crushed candy canes. Still very pretty and super tasty.

I mixed it up a bit this time, and used a Italian meringue-based frosting instead of one make with powdered sugar. I like this type of frosting much better (and I was out of powdered sugar and really, really didn't want to go to the store.)

The results were very good from a taste and texture perspective. The Italian frosting is more slick than sticky, so I don't think it would be as good if you were forming the balls into shapes, but for the regular rounds I was happy.

I also used Ghiradelli baking chips instead of candy melts. The Ghiradelli chips are FABULOUS - they melt satiny-smooth and perfect for dipping without having to add Paramont Crystals or shortening, and taste so much better than Candy Melts.

I also had visions of Cakepop Dreidels and a few other ideas that will have to wait until next year. ...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We Come in Peace from Planet Cakepop

Last week was the annual Winterfaire at the boy's school - and as per usual I committed to providing treats for the bake sale.

This year's mascot was a cute little alien - and he's even cuter as a CakePop!

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Pumpkin Pops

The Mayor of Pumpkin Town approves of Pumpkin Pops

And why shouldn't he? They are delicious AND adorable! I'd planned to make black cats and ghosts as well, but the week got the better of me. I did make a whole patch of pumpkins for the Boy's class party.

Several moms asked me for the recipe - I may have created a few more CakePop converts!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Bad Things Happen to Good Cakepops

The 2nd stage of the Carnival of Wonders that is the boy's 10th birthday was the Treats for Class. I'm usually good for some pretty decent class treats, but this year's had to be a show-stopper because it's the last one. Ever. Next year he'll be starting that Carnival of Horrors that is Middle School.

So, of course, the answer is Bakerella's Cupcake Pops - adorable, easy (if time-consuming) to make, easy to transport and serve and definitely a sure-fire way for the kid to win friends and influence people.

Everything was going fine in Cakepopland, and I left the room for a sec. When I came back, the boy was giggling uncontrollably and pointing at this....

Yep, the pop has slid down the stick, leaving the mini M&M perched at the top. I said, "Well, they must have been out of the fridge too long, let's pop 'em back in."

So we did, and 10 minutes later....

Yep, TWO had slid down and leaving their M&M toppers balancing like Pillippe Petit atop yon dizzy heights. I thought Max was going to bust a gut!

Luckily, I've rescued far worse mishaps than thus (do I have to remind you about the Tempest in a Teacup?) and was able to save them with a little bit of Candy Melt and a little bit of love.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Le Petite Gateau

It was the boy's 10th birthday this week, and being what Max calls a "cake mom" I wanted to include a special treat in his lunch. My solution? A "cake" made of Oreos covered in fondant and decorated with the candy melts that keep on giving (I've already used them for Giant Cookie and teacup Cakepops) It's a great way to use up random scraps of fondant (which keep forever in the freezer)

I have to admit this wasn't a wholly original idea - I'd seen it in an American Girl book at the Scholastic Book fair a couple of years ago and had been wanting to dry it ever since.

The best part? It fits right in Max's lunch container, and because it's fondant and candy melts, it holds up really well.

And yes, the kid got a v. unhealthy lunch of a pizzadilla, Cheez-its and a mini cake for his birthday - you only turn 10 once and you don't have to eat fresh fruits and veggies if you don't want to!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Stick It To 'Em

We had a bakesale to raise money for Habitat for Humanity at work yesterday, so I made a couple of batches of biscotti - its my go-to cookie for these kinds of things: easy & cheap (like me!) and keeps well for many days (maybe not so much like me...)

Because it's been well established that I'm a big show-off AND, I wanted to offer a great presentation that would really bring in the bucks for a fabulous organization, I packaged the cookies in these cute little bags:

The bags are little cello bags I got at the Mrs. Grossman's warehouse sale. I folded over the top a couple of times, and stapled in the center.

Then I cut a piece of pattered scrapbook-type paper into a 3.5" x 3.5"-ish square and folded it in half. I put this little "tent" over the top of the folded bag, and gave it two staples on the side.

The cute cut-out on the top is a Mrs. Grossman's Slice of Life: Homemade Cardstock Sticker. When I worked at Mrs. Grossman's, I learned that if you put a little baby powder on the back of a sticker - it takes away the stick and you can pop them off the edge - fun!

This is a short video that show other ways you can use this powdering technique for stickers:

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Pat's PB Pie

My KGO Colleague Pat Thurston is an inspiration on many levels. She's a proud armed forces vet, intelligent and entertaining talk show host, a tireless and loving mother to triplets (that's right, triplets) she had in her 40s, and a talented and generous baker.

On the occasions I get to work with Pat I get to enjoy not only her lovely company - but a home made treat like lemon bars, brownies or this insane Peanut Butter Pie.

When Pat serves it, she says, "You HAVE to put whipped cream and chocolate sauce on it otherwise you can't have any."

Now THAT's a rule I can live with!

Pat's PB Pie
(with a little adaptation by Lara)

For Crust

11 whole graham crackers (one of the three packs in the box)
6 T butter, melted
1 T sugar

Preheat oven to 350

Grind the crackers in a food processor until fine. Add the melted butter & sugar and pulse to combine and get all of the crumbs wet
(for my money the smell of melted butter and graham cracker is one of the best in the world)

Dump the crumb mixture into a 9" pie pan, press it down and up the sides with a wooden spoon.

Bake for 6-8 minutes to set the crust, then let it cool while you make the ganache.

For Ganache

3 oz bittersweet chocolate (1/2 cup chocolate chips)*
1/2 cup whipping cream

Heat the cream in a small pan over medium-low heat until its just bubbling on the edges. Add the chocolate, stir a few time, then put the lid on the pot & let the mixture set for about 5-10 miniutes. Then stir until smooth. Spread the mixture over the graham cracker crust.

Cool the coated crust in the fridge while you make the filling.

For Filling:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

2 T melted butter

1 cup whipping cream

1 T vanilla

Beat cream cheese until fluffy, slowly add sugar, peanut butter and melted butter and beat until blended and fluffy.

Whip the 1 cup cream in a separate bowl. Add vanilla. Fold the whipped cream into the PB mixture until it is blended in - no white streaks showing. Pour it into the pie shell and chill for about 3 hours. You can pop it in the freezer to speed up the chilling.

Whip the 1/2 cup cream you'll have left after making the ganache and the filling and use it to decorate the top of the pie - pipe it with a pastry bag if you're feelin' fancy, schmear it with a spatula if you're not.

*In the spirit of full disclosure, when I made this particular pie I messed up and made the ganache with unsweetended chocolate (It was TJ's brand and I guess my brain associated that wrapping with their "Pound Plus" bars) I added some sugar and a little butter and it tasted fine. A little grainy, but had a good dark chocolate flavor that was a nice contrast to the sweet, fluffy filling.

Also, the pie is super easy to make, but does mess up a lot of dishes (two big bowls, a pan, the food processor, etc) so promise to make it for your family if someone else promises to do the dishes - it worked for me :)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Love, Loss and What I Baked: Tempest in a Teacup

This was circa 1995 I think, and the blurry photo above was taken with a film camera in our sunny kitchen in San Francisco.

As soon as I saw the chef on the series Cooking Secrets of the CIA making Chocolate Tea Cups with Tuile Spoons I NEW I had to make them.

What you do is melt chocolate, dip in a 3/4 blown balloon - water balloon size - and then let the chocolate harden. Once it does, you poke the balloon with a pin right near the knot and let the air slowly come out. Voila! You've got a chocolate cup. Pipe a "C"-shaped handle and attach it with melted chocolate.

Sounds easy right? It is... until....

Until you have a balloon with a weak spot or chocolate with a hot spot or a deadly combination of the two.

As my husband describes it, "There she was in the kitchen, happy as a clam dipping her balloons. I leave the room for a sec and hear a loud, 'Oh !@#$%^&*!!!!!!'. I go back into the kitchen and it looks like a chocolate crime scene."

Yes, one of my balloons POPPED a couple of inches above the bowl. It looked like a crazy person had splattered chocolate all over the place. I was cleaning chocolate for months and months. It was under the chairs, behind the shelves, on top of the fridge....

But isn't the cup the cutest thing???? I filled it with coffee mouse and topped that with whipped cream and a Tuile Spoon to our friends Beth and Scott - who not only got a yummy dessert, but a funny story.

Tuile Cookies
Recipe from: Your Place or Mine

Tuile means "tile" in French, and is a classic, old-fashioned cookie. The traditional shapes are usually a shaped oval (almost like a Pringle) or rolled into a "cigarette." It's fun to play around with different shapes.

Makes about 24

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

  • 3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • whites of 3 eggs

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

  2. In a bowl, cream the butter, sugar, and vanilla together. Gradually beat in the egg white, then fold in the flour until you have a smooth paste. Chill for about 2 hours.

  3. Place small spoonfuls of the mixture about 4 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet, then spread these out into rounds with a spatula.

  4. Bake for about 4 minutes until the mixture is just beginning to color (keep checking).

  5. Remove from the oven and leave to cool very slightly until you can handle them. Shape the rounds by draping them over the length of a rolling pin or as described below. Leave until completely cool and set, then lift off gently. you can keep the tuiles in an airtight container for up to a week.

Other Shapes:

Depending on the size you want, drape your warm rounds of baked tuile over the top of a clean bottle or gently press them inside a tea or custard cup and leave until cool.

Take a piece of clean cardboard and cut out the shapes you want: say, flowers or leaves. Lay the cardboard stencil on your baking sheet and spread the mixture over the top. Lift off the cardboard carefully before baking.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

More Cakes I Didn't Make (But Wish I Had)

Threadless is a well-cool web site where you can upload your well-cool designs and have them printed on T-shirts. Cool!

For the past three years they've been holding Threadcakes, a contest for cake decorators to submit photos of cakes inspired by their favorite T-shirt designs. The results are beyond amazing! When I'm asked why I don't make cakes professionally, the answer is right here. Just look a what a real pro can do:

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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Pie Pops

I didn't make these, someone else did. Some who should be given a McArthur grant for the pure genius that is Pie Pops.

Wanna know how to make 'em? Go HERE. Even if you don't think you'll ever make them, go HERE, the photography is beautiful.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Bacio con Biscotti

The bad news is, I've had to give up teaching Wilton Cake Decorating classes at Michael's. I've loved meeting so many amazing women, learning new things myself, and kvelling with pride as each student has mastered buttercream roses.

The good news is, I have a new, full-time job at Chronicle Books, a fabulous local publisher of stunning books on art, design, cooking, craft, entertainment parenting, and amazing books for children. Also games, kits and fantastic stationery. I'm thrilled!

The best way I know of to make an impression (and OK, I'm not proud, kiss up) to my new co-workers is to bring in a basket of homemade bakies. So at the end of my first week, I came to the office bearing a couple of batches of biscotti.

These crunchy little cookies are not too sweet, and are cheap and easy to make. Almond Biscotti is my go-to recipe, but I only had enough for one batch. I had lots of cashews in the freezer leftover from a recent pesto project, so I threw in those with some lemon zest (love having a lemon tree in the backyard!) and pumpkin pie spice (I would have used ginger if I'd had it, but I didn't...)


2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a baking sheet with foil and grease well, or use a silpat.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until pale, about 2 minutes.

Beat in the flour and baking soda and continue beating until blended. Mix in the

With floured hands, form half of the dough into a 12-inch log. Place on
the baking sheet and press down to flatten to a width of about 3 inches. Repeat
with the remaining dough.

Bake the cookie loaves for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, leaving the oven
on. Let the loaves cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove them to a cutting board.

Slice each loaf diagonally with a serrated bread knife into 12 slices.

Put the slices back on the cookie sheet, laying them on their sides. Return them to
the oven and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.

Cookies will keep for about a week in an airtight container, or for up to 3 months
in the freezer.

Makes 24 cookies.

Cashew Lemon Spice Variation

Add the zest of 1 lemon with the eggs and sugar
Replace the almonds with 3/4c. toasted, unsalted cashews
Add 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or pumpkin pie spice with the flour

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Friday, July 17, 2009

We all scream...

... when we try to make Ice Cream Cupcakes. At least I do. Until now.

I've made these a couple of times with mixed results. The come out top-heavy, the cone gets soggy, and they're really hard to transport from home to a party. Turns out I was doing it ALL WRONG!

You DON'T bake the batter in the cone, you bake the cupcake separately and pop it into a cone. And you fill the bottom of the cone with candy or gumballs to keep the little yummies from toppling over - brilliant. You can also add a mini cupcake on top for a tall, soft-serve look. Yum!

Check out this short, helpful video from Betty Crocker:

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Love, Loss and What I Baked: Rice Krispie Wedding Cake

My mom never made Rice Krispies Treats (RKTs) when I was a kid (she doesn't like them) and it never occurred to me to make them until I the boy was around 5 or 6. And now, I kind of can't stop. They're so much fun! You can color them, shape them, mold them, put them on a stick, add M&Ms or peanut butter - or both!

The idea of a tiered RKT cake had been playing around in my head for a while, and when I was invited to a friend's informal BBQ wedding reception in a park, I not only RSVP'd, but offered to bring an RKT cake that would feed the crowd.

The cake had a 12", 9" and 6" layers and took a LOT of cereal and marshmallows (and real butter, natch) I don't remember how much, but there were several trips to the store. I piped a simple design of vines, leaves and a star border with buttercream, but if I had to do it again I'd use royal icing. I also studded it with gold dragees from my contraband stash.

I've since learned that these are a pretty popular wedding cake option - and have been featured on the Today Show and Martha Stewart. Oh well, so I didn't invent the RKT Wedding Cake, but I'm happy with my version.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Marla Can't Be Stopped (Yay!)

Marla was one of the first students to take my classes back in April. At the time she was a novice baker - she didn't even own a mixer! Now just look at the lovely cakes she's making. I'm so proud :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

And the winner is...

.... me!

I got first place at the Marin County Fair! I'd like to thank the the fine folks at Wilton for the tools, techniques and access to cheap styrofoam, Silke and Local Flora for the inspiration and John & Max Starr for giving me the psychic and physical space to work on the cake.

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Baskets of Flowers

The ladies completed their Course 2 "Finale" cakes last week - and the results were beautiful!

Unlike Course 1 where the students complete 3 cakes over four weeks, in Course 2 students make lots of different flowers that are used to complete one, grand, beautiful cake on the last night of class.

Magaly and Susana work on their basketweaving

Made-ahead royal icing flowers are added to the cakes

Justifiability proud - the cakes are beautiful!

Susana made my heart sing when she said, "When class started and I looked at the cake we were supposed to make I said, 'Yeah, right' but look at this!"

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Monday, June 29, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Days 4 & 5

Day 4 & 5: Finishing Touches and Delivery
Hours: Oh heck, I've totally lost track, 3? 4? more?

The middle layer looked like is was wanting something, so I took Silke's brilliant suggestion and added butterflies.

I cut hearts from fondant, then trimmed off the bottoms. I rolled one of these triangles into the bodies for each of the butterflies.

Then I sponged pink and purple food coloring to the edges, and piped pink and purple dots and the feelers.

Once that was done, the top layer started to look a like it wanted something, so I added two rows of pink beads.

I mushed leftover fondant together and used it to cover the cake circles

And finally - it's done!

Overall I'm very happy with how it looks, and it was great fun to make and learn more about working with fondant - such as the color will really, really fade if it's exposed to sun. Live and learn.

Now it's up to the judges!

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marin County Fair Cake: Day 3

Day 3: Royal Icing Flowers and Decorations
Hours: 4

Royal Icing is super easy to make and fun to worth with. It's not the best-tasting stuff in the world, but the decorations dry rock-hand and keep forever - and cleaning up is a dream because there's no grease or butter.

Royal Icing

4 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites

Mix the egg whites into the sugar at low speed until incorporated, then increase the mixer speed to med-high and beat for 5-7 minutes. Icing will be very stiff, and can be thinned with a little water as needed. Store airtight, and keep bowls covered with a damp cloth or paper towel, the icing hardens very quickly.

Once I had the icing made, I colored it as close as I could to the fondant colors

For the top layer, I made about 16 daffodils to arrange around the pink band in the center. The middle layer was decorated with a row of lilies of the valley. For the bottom layer, I piped a pattern of leaves and flowers, and then used a brush embroidery technique.

I made also made the "Local Flora" letters for the topper pieces. I printed out a photo of the sign at the size I needed and laid a sheet of wax paper over it. I outlined the letters in purple with a #1 tip, then filled it in with thinned-out white royal icing. Once they're dry, they can be attached to the pieces with royal icing "glue."

Other than being a little bummed that the pink fondant really, really faded (not sure why... I need to investigate this.....) I'm v. happy with how things are stacking up.