Saturday, August 7, 2010

From a Mother's Perspective...

(The following is a narrative composed by my mom about this past week's exciting events that started in the kitchen and culminated last night with the auction of the top five cakes from the contest)

Skippy's Goshen Country Fair Hershey's Cocoa Cake won first place on Thursday night.  She was all by herself in our kitchen and could actually focus without interruption.  The entry had to be an original cake, with recipe submitted... and it needed a name, so before she delivered it to the judges, one of the kids suggested Raspberry Patch (there were two round layers, split in half - one layer I think had raspberries and cream filling, the others were a ganache frosting)....but the top was covered with fresh raspberries, with fresh mint leaves from out front around the edge of the top.  The whole effect was really cool.

Friday Night at The Fair

The Winner of the bidding war with his pricey cake!

Our adorable puppy did not even place! The judges did seem partial to pugs...

The kids after an exciting night!

Goshen Country Fair 2010

You Can Almost Taste This...

Oh so yummy. The ganache did not slide off the cake (fortunately) though it was constantly in danger from the high temperature of our un-air conditioned kitchen and August humidity!

 Making sure that each raspberry is placed in the correct spot - I'm adjusting those that were too close together. The mint leaves were freshly picked from our organic vegetable/herbs garden.
I experimented with a light dusting of powdered sugar... after seeing it, I tried to remove what I could. Embellishments to this cake would have "gilded the lily" and not something I was looking for...

The Results Are In!

Yes folks, it's official... I won the 2010 Goshen Country Fair Hershey's Cocoa Baking Contest and will be heading to Harrisburg to enter the same cake (not actual cake, but the recipe I used) in the statewide contest against about 50 other tough competitors! First Prize in Harrisburg gets a check for $500... if Sarah Palin can pay for college by winning beauty contests, maybe I can earn money for school by winning baking contests...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Raspberry Patch Chocolate Cake

This is the recipe that I somewhat concocted for the Hershey's Cocoa Contest at our local Country Fair... judging is going on right now (Thursday night) and I am staying away for the time being! As I was walking my cake up to the entry booth, I received hungry stares and offers to taste test the dessert. A middle-school girl was almost visibly drooling when I heard her whisper to her friend "Oooo. That looks soooo good!" The road to the judging tent was fraught with uneven pavement, goats, running children and tussocks of grass - any of which could have tripped me and sent the lovely cake flying through the air and landing in a pile of musty straw. Fortunately, the cake was spared a fate like that!

Although I knew there would be more competitors tonight because of the extra prize of being able to compete at the State Farm Show this coming January, I was hoping not to see any other people bringing their best chocolate cakes in to be judged. When I reached the check-in desk, I got there the same time as a mother carrying a cake, with her two small children excitedly clinging to her skirt. They weren't the only ones there: among the crowds milling about were older women, seasoned veterans of many a fair, young mothers wiping beads of perspiration off their foreheads as they filled out the registration forms, and young children watching with bright eyes as the cakes were ceremoniously carried back to the judges table at the far end of the Agriculture tent (how did cakes ever end up here, I wonder?)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grad Pics

Three Layer Carrot Cake with Lemon Butter Cream Frosting

Lovely flowers - some from friends, some from strangers, and some from shops!

Family picture...
Mini cheesecakes and one of the "main" floral arrangements... Gorgeous!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Graduation Ideas...

So... in less than a fortnight, I will be graduated! It'll take some effort to get everything thing done with excellence (the way I want it), but hopefully, nothing major will pop up and change our plans.

As is tradition in my family, we have a recital/graduation (with good old Pomp and Circumstance!) and then a party afterwards. Four sisters have gone before me. All but one has had chicken salad and croissants as the main course for the reception. All have gone to the same college.

I think it's time to break with tradition.

Not completely, however. I could never get away with that.

But, as a baker who despises store bought cakes (you know, from the super-grocery-store bakeries with enough butter cream icing to make you gag) I am hopefully going to BAKE MY OWN CAKE.

Not just one, but maybe two or three.

The "main" cake will be a large carrot cake with lemon cream cheese icing, (I can't decide to double or triple the recipe... should it be two layers, or three?, and then I will make two two-layer chocolate round cakes... and maybe a cheesecake with raspberries.

If I could, I would just have a dessert extravaganza instead of a buffet of chicken salad. I mean, wouldn't it be elegant to serve lovely desserts and strawberries with lemonade and tea?

Well, that's my humble opinion.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Finally, a beautiful weekend for Easter! It seems that almost every year, there is a freeze just before Resurrection Sunday, that not only dampens our spirits and makes us bring out the winter coats again, but also kills the buds on all the beautiful flowering trees.

But this year, it is just the opposite! The forecast is predicting 70's and sunshine for Sunday, which means we shouldn't have to bundle up for the sunrise service in Rittenhouse Square. Daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips are in full bloom, along with magnolias, weeping cherry trees and forsythia... absolutely gorgeous!

You might think that with it being a holiday weekend, things would get a little more relaxed (especially with Spring break), but a certain conductor is helping us prepare for our 2nd concert at the Kimmel Center (Verizon Hall) next Sunday, and the music needs some work. So instead of giving us off tomorrow, we are starting a half hour early. But to bring some cheer to my friends, I decided to make some Cinnamon Rolls tonight as a treat for the break. (Our church is having a Good Friday concert tonight, but since I couldn't go, I am watching it online while the dough rises).

This recipe came in on a mom's email list, and it is one of the best! It is so easy but yet can be a show-stopper... especially if you make the Icing and spoon it on top while the rolls are still warm!

Cinnamon Rolls

1 Tbsp. dry-active yeast
1 cup warm whole milk

1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
4 cups flour

1/4 cup butter, softened
3 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar

Dissolve yeast in milk (make sure the milk is not too warm, or it will kill the yeast).

Add the rest of the ingredients - do not mix the eggs and the melted butter when it is hot, or the eggs will cook. Mix well and then knead into a ball. Let double in size (at least one hour in a warm place).

When ready, roll out to about 1/4 inch thick - it should be rectangular. Preheat oven to 400F.

Spread with filling... first butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar evenly over the dough. I usually add more butter as needed.

Roll dough up. Slice into 1 inch pieces, and place in a greased pan. Let rise again until doubled. Bake for 10 minutes (I find that they take about 12-15 minutes).

Icing for the Cinnamon Rolls

1/2 cup of butter, softened
2 Tbsp. whipping cream
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 oz. cream cheese
pinch of salt

Beat until fluffy.

Can it get any easier?

Enjoy! I'll post pictures later when the rolls are done... Happy Easter!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blueberry Scones - America's Test Kitchen

We all have a little weakness for something... it could be indulging in 70% cocoa dark chocolate (a little too dark for me), an expensive steak, or even something as simple as a cup of tea! When I get the chance, I love brewing a quick pot of Earl Grey to share with a sister either before the start of a busy day, or while we unwind and discuss bits of news before bed (yes, we do talk a lot!). But one day, I am going to have a real tea - not just a grab and go, but sit down and have scones, fruit, and maybe even cake!

Here is an interesting video/recipe for Blueberry Scones... I like how they have lots of berries and the texture is light and fluffy, almost like a croissant...

America's Test Kitchen Blueberry Scones


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Today I am very happy... my sweet oldest sister was in a second-hand shop, browsing through stacks of books when she came across Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Not just the original, but also the 2nd volume! She promptly bought the books and came home and surprised me with them. To say the least, I am thrilled!

Although I have no plans at present to attempt every recipe in those wonderful volumes (priceless treasures to me!), I am excited to have them as part of my growing cookbook collection. In order to use some of the recipes, I'll have to find a substitute for wine... any ideas?

Anyway, I am very excited and grateful to Susanna for thinking of me!

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ice Box Cake

The recipe for the Ice Box Cake is very simple, except finding the correct Chocolate wafers - by Nabisco. This is a favorite around here, and it always a hit whenever we serve it, whether at birthdays or having international students for dinner!

Ice Box Cake

I quart Heavy Whipping Cream, chilled

1/2 cup Powdered Sugar

2 boxes chocolate wafers

Strawberries to garnish if desired

Whip the cream with an electric beater, and add in the sugar to sweeten. Keep whipping till soft peaks form. Should be between 5-8 minutes depending on the temperature of the cream and the speed of the beater...

Put a dollop of the cream onto the cake plate to help the 1st layer stick... place one wafer in the middle of the plate, then put 6 in a circle around it. Put 1/2 cup to 3/4 whipped cream over the wafers and spread to the sides evenly.

Repeat until you run out of whipped cream or wafers... whichever happens first! I like to try and arrange the ascending layers so that they don't match up and so it is easier to slice... the second layer should have the wafers rotated so they overlap the layer below - in other words, stagger the layers.

If you are out of the wafers and have cream left, you can "ice" the sides and make it smooth all around.

Chill at least an hour before serving. You can arrange strawberries around the base of the cake or on top of the cake...

Yes, I did get a little carried away with the strawberries! This was a cake to serve 18 at my brother's birthday in February. I apologize for the quality of the pictures... a disposable camera was the only thing on hand.

It can be messy to slice, so just have something to scrape the cake cutter on to get the blade clean...

Yum, yum!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Can Anyone Tell Me What I Did Wrong Here?

The buttercream frosting came out very stiff, with many air pockets and just wouldn't be SMOOTH!

Can anyone give me a clue as to my mistake here?

I am thinking I put in too much powdered sugar, but wasn't sure if I was on the right trail.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pictures From My Sister's Birthday Cake

Pink icing in January.

We didn't want a red and green cake (like mine), and we had been enjoying many different rich foods, so the usual chocolate-on-chocolate birthday cake was a no-no. I didn't want to make a carrot cake, and a cheesecake would be a little heavy. We decided for something on the lighter side - not a cake with at least a dozen egg whites, but something that wouldn't hit our stomachs (or the bathroom scale) like a ton of bricks.

So I ended up modifying the yellow cake recipe that I had made for my birthday, and was going to do a frosting with coconut on top. It sounded good, and in my imaginative mind was taking on the shape of a blizzard in Florida (I was going to add lemon and orange zest to the cake batter) when I found out that the birthday girl didn't like coconut.

What would you do?

The batter had already been "enhanced" and there was no turning back. Something had to be made... I stuck with the plan to have a citrus-y flavor, but then did a simple buttercream frosting. I'll be posting my version of the recipe soon (I hope) but for now, I only have pictures.

Since I am still in school, many things are demanding my full attention. Although I'd like to wear my chef's hat more, I am sticking with my roles as a Mock Trial Attorney, musician in several orchestras, and on the side political cheerleader (Whatever happened in Massachusetts?).

That's all for now!


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Pictures...

For my birthday (which falls on Christmas every year), I made a simple yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting.

To decorate it, I attempted to create holly leaves and berries. You can see the green and red frosting, but as for beautiful holly scattered across the cake, all there is are blobs of buttercream. I think I need some more practice!

The finished product had some semi-sweet chocolate drizzled to make "twigs" for the "holly," and was dusted with powdered sugar for a snowy effect. Yum!

Thanks, Mom, for taking the pictures!

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year Resolution...

I can hardly believe that 2010 (Twenty-Ten) is well underway!

Sweet Talk has been horribly neglected (my apologies), and one of my Resolutions for this new year is to post more regularly... and frequently. I can't really put a definite commitment down, but the very least I'd like to do is have two recipes a month. A few thigs have been holding me back from blogging. One of my problems is not having a way to convey nice pictures... I always enjoy looking at the process and then the finished product on other cooking blogs, but the cameras in my family are not the best. here's an idea: maybe I can have some friends over when I cook who have really nice cameras and lenses, and trade cookies for pictures!

Sure, I know that popular cooking blogs have something new almost every day (it seems), but I am juggling a few very different things, and it's hard enough to find time to even check my email! Expect a new recipe by January 15th... with a sister's birthday, I should come up with something!