November 20, 2013

Buttercream Play Dates

I choose making cake from scratch over making it pretty any day, and all previous decorating attempts have been pretty major failures. But in the spirit of trying new things, I found myself spending Sunday afternoons this fall with a professional cake decorator and two fellow students of confection in a very nice teaching kitchen at Samford.

Our book taught us how to ice and also how to spend a fortune on Wilton cake decorating equipment. But here's what I concluded:

1. Decorating is tedious and laborious. See that cookie? It wasn't so bad. But once we got to cakes, that meant baking cakes, whipping up icing, coloring it drop by drop, coloring another color and another, cutting icing bags, filling bags, putting tips on... and that's all before the decorating starts. And you gotta reverse it all to clean-up at the end.

Basic Sugar Cookies from Martha

2. I hate Crisco, hate it very much. One night after I thought I had cleaned all my icing instruments, my roommate ventured to our kitchen sink to find a greasy soap bottle, greasy dish brush, grease, grease everywhere. I blamed the Crisco. Seriously, it's way worse to clean than butter. And it doesn't taste like butter, just GREASE. I'm sure it helps the shape of my icing and all, but I had a hard time cheating on my true love (butter, right after chocolate) to follow class icing  recipe directions.

Yellow Cake (Smitten Kitchen) with Wilton Class Buttercream of the Almond Variety

3. Flowers aren't that scary to make. They just take about 10 years to bring to life, and then you eat them and they are gone.

4. I could write with icing for hours on end. When penmanship met confection, I had this ah-ha moment: "This is what I was made for writing words with sugar!" My wax paper-on-kitchen-counter canvas brought me back to my sixth grade and all of a sudden I doodling my name and my friends' (now, roommates') names and random greetings. I did stop before getting to adding last names of whatever boy we would like to marry at the given moment.

5.  With writing, I can add all a new dimension to make cakes, one of thoughts and ideas I usually reserve for paper. I was hosting Monday Night Bible study dinner, so I whipped out our "theme line" courtesy of All Sons and Daughters.

(More) Yellow Cake with Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Icing
 6. The best way to bake a cake is to bake it, brainstorm a design with a friend with more artistic talent, do all the prep work yourself and then let her do the hard part where the icing actually comes out of the tip. And then you end up with something like this beauty below, pretty much a masterpiece minus my handwriting. She even created the "Appalachian Trail," albeit unintentionally.

November 6, 2013

Reese's Brownie Bites

For full disclosure...

Melted butter and chocolate chips erupted in my kitchen mid-afternoon one Sunday.

They were supposed to combine with peanut butter cup splendor and make it to Best Wurst Fest (think urban hipster church backyard version of a church supper with much sausage grilling).

This sequence of events did in fact happen. Like much of life, it did not happen as planned.

My Reese's babes did not want to come out of their little muffin tins until they were fully cooled.  
Cooling was taking about 10 years per brownie.
Three batches remained to be cooked.
I called in the assistance of a less cooperative nonstick tin.
 I was scooping batter. 
I was unwrapping gold foil.
 I was delicately hacking at the edges of cooked brownies only for them to melt into an ugly blob. 
I needed to shower before re-entering public. 
It was time to go.

In the end, I was clean and had half of my baked goodies to take and share. 

The kitchen was not clean. The other half of the brownies were in multiple tins, on a rack, in a container, smeared on the counter.

But my house had peanut butter chocolate decadence to keep us sane for the next few days, says the sweet-obsessed optimist in me.

This post is brought to you by Madoline's efforts to slash the idea that all things online are perfect and pretty. She knows baked goods make messes and result in imperfection. And she reminds herself that in real life marriages, children, vacations and all instagrammed and facebooked and blog prettiness are, in fact, messy, too. Oh, the lies to the contrary she subconsciously believes!