Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cherry Fudge

Easy homemade Fucge

Cherry Fudge is  a fun Valentine treat that doesn't take hours to make.  This is made in just a few minutes and tastes so creamy and delicious!  Friends and family will think you spent hours in the kitchen!

Cherry Fudge

2 1/2 cups white chocolate (I used  Ghiradelli's chips)
7 oz. jar of marshmallow cream fluff
3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
pinch salt
2 Tbsp cherry Jello
3/4 cup dried cherries
10 oz. dark choc, melted 
(Add 1 to 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil if choc. is too thick to spread)

Prepare a 9x9 baking pan with a lining of parchment paper that extends a couple inches over the sides of the pan.  When the fudge is cooled you will be able to lift it out to cut easily!
Heat butter, sugar, cream and salt together in a heavy pan over medium high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Add cherry jello and continue boiling for 5 more minutes.  Put white chocolate and marshmallow cream in a medium bowl and pour the hot mixture over it.  Whisk the ingredients until all the chocolate is melted.  Fold in the dried cherries.  Pour this mixture into the prepared pan and spread the melted dark chocolate over the top. 

 Place the pan in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.  Cut into squares.   

Hope you love it like we did!

 Recipe source: Shugary Sweets

This recipe was shared with these great sites!
The Country Cook 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Hearts

                         Chocolate Covered
                                                           Strawberry Hearts
Dipped Strawberries
             Chocolate Covered Strawberries definitely spell
Go ahead, make your sweethearts day!  These are not only decadent and delicious but they really aren't that hard to make.  Let's go through it step by step!

First make sure you have some good quality chocolate to dip the strawberries in.  Chocolate chips will do a fairly good job and some taste pretty good but this is special and I like to use  Callebaut Dark Chocolate Snaps.  You can order them here, or find your own special brand.  

Next, you will want to prepare the strawberries by washing them and removing the stems. Dry them on paper towels thoroughly so the chocolate will not get water in it and also so it will stick better. Cut each one in half and lay down side by side

 Melt the Chocolate.

 If your chocolate is not in the form of small chunks or wafers you need to chop it into small even sized chunks. The easiest way is to microwave it in a medium bowl or cup.  I like to use a glass 2 cup measuring cup because it has a narrow bottom and high sides.  Heat the chocolate on high carefully stirring in between each heating.  Stirring is very important.  Start with 30 seconds then stir, as it begins to melt use 15 second intervals. The chocolate should only be warm.   Stop heating when the chocolate still has small chunks left.  Take it out and continue to stir.  If all the chunks melt add a few more until they don't completely melt.  Take the extra chunks out and save for another time.  Now your chocolate should be tempered and it will set up quickly and it won't turn white after sitting.  

Dip the Strawberries

Take your cut strawberry pairs and set them together to look like a heart, cut side side down.  Use a toothpick to stick through the side to hold them together while they are dipped.
Lift each heart with a fork under it and lower it into the chocolate that has cooled to about 100  degrees.  Cover the strawberries and lift up out of the chocolate.  Tap lightly on the side of the bowl to release extra chocolate and then place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper or parchment.  Let them cool and set up.  Then remove the toothpicks.

diy chocolate strawberries

Now you can decorate your hearts.  I used Wilton's Red Velvet Candy Melts
Use the directions on the bag to melt and then pour into a small ziplock bag.  I use the quart size because they are stronger than the smaller size.  Cut a very small corner off of the bag.  Being careful not to apply too much pressure to the bag, squeeze the melted red chocolate out.  Use sweeping motions to cross over the hearts.

When they are dry, you are ready to surprise your sweetie with a fantastic treat!

                        If you like this recipe you might also enjoy this Valentine treat!
Find it here on Scrumptilicious 4 You!   Cherry Chocolate Cookies

                                                                          and these
                                                               Cherry Pie Cookies

This recipe has been shared with these wonderful sites:
The Country Cook 
Create With Joy 
The Sits Girls 
Pretty Pintastic Party 
memories by the mile 
Naptime Creations 
Pint Sized Baker 
Lou Lou Girls 
Retro Pin Party 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Wedding Cake 101: The Basics Day 2

DIY Wedding Cake
Day 2:  Cut & Fill, Crumb Coat

Today you will be using icing to fill the cake and also to crumb coat the cake.  If you have never done a crumb coat, it is a thin layer of icing put on the cake and allowed to set so that any stray crumbs will stick to that layer of icing and not get into you final and perfect icing layer.  Since this is a tutorial using buttercream icing, it is important to use a buttercream that will crust.  That means that after about 15 minutes of sitting after it is applied to the cake it will not be sticky anymore.  It will become a little dry on the very top so that you can smooth it and make it look very close to a fondant finish.  I really like this tutorial by Glorious Treats.  Her method is simple and easy to follow so I will give you the link here:  American Butter Cream.
 The only change I make is to substitute High Ratio Shortening for at least 1/2 of the butter.  Butter is delicious and wonderful for most cakes but it doesn't hold up well when you are stacking cakes and want a firm frosting.  High Ratio Shortening can be found at most Bakery Supply stores.  It really is a must to make really creamy icing with good mouth feel.  Crisco isn't the same as High Ratio either.  You can get it from Amazon in a pinch here High Ratio Shortening.  But it is much more expensive than if you get it locally.

Using this shortening also helps you keep you icing whiter than with butter.  I still use 1/4 to 1/2 of the recipe with butter because the flavor is so much better.  I still need to experiment more with colorless butter flavor to see if it will improve the flavor of using all shortening for a really white icing.  When I used butter in my icing I also used Wilton's "white white" coloring to improve the whiteness of the icing. Find it in a craft store or here Wilton's White White.

Make your icing now following the instructions with the least amount of milk.  You will want the icing stiff to make a dam for  the filling and then you can add more milk to make the icing thin to do your crumb coat.  The amount of icing you need for this step will of course vary  depending on the size of your layers.  I found that 2 recipes of icing made a dam for the 10" and 12" centers and also made a thinned layer for the crumb coat for both filled layers with 1/2 left over.  Be sure to cover the icing bowl with a damp towel while you prepare your cake.  The icing will stay nice and creamy with the moist air from the towel and will not dry out and become crusty.

After cakes have set in the fridge overnight they will be cold, firm, and easier to work with. Take cake layers out of the fridge.  Prepare one cardboard cake round to go under each layer. It should be a couple of inches larger than the cake layer at this point.  We will cut it later to exactly fit the cake.  To do this, add a layer of wax paper to the round either using double stick tape or a thin layer of hot glue to the cardboard.  Stick the wax paper to the board and then cut it to the exact size of the cardboard. To see how this is done look here This helps keep the board from absorbing moisture from the cake and icing.  

 Remove the plastic wrap layers, (I save mine to wrap them with after the crumb coat) and  set the cake layer on the cake circle.  To make sure the cake stays in place, first put some icing on the cake round and then set the cake on that. Now place the cake layer on your turntable (also use some icing underneath the cardboard to hold it on if it doesn't feel secure).  Mine has a rubber surface that holds pretty well or you can also add some rubber nonstick rug mesh to hold it in place. 

If your cake top is rounded, you will need to level it by cutting the rounded part off.  Hopefully if you have followed the steps in Day 1 your cake will be quite flat on top. 
If you plan to use a filling in your cake, you need to cut the layers in half horizontally.  This may seem a little scary at first but if you use this method and have a serrated knife with a long blade on it, it is pretty easy.  First, take some toothpicks and mark halfway up the side of the cake at intervals around the cake like this:
how to fill a cake
I pretty much eyeball this and when they are all in place I change any that look out of place.
Then I use my long bladed knife to begin cutting. 

 As you put pressure on the knife to cut, turn the table and slowly inch towards the center.  Turning the table as you go will let you keep the knife level and even.  When you reach the center, you can feel the cake top release and you're done!
Now you can use a metal lifter like this one or even another cake circle to lift the top off and move it to the side to allow you to fill the cake.

 Now you are ready to fill your cake.  With medium stiff icing in a piping bag and a large tip (I used a #21 (starish looking one) for the lemon filling  but changed to a #303 round for the last layer and liked it better.  Pipe a 5/8 dam around the edge of the layer.  If the icing breaks go ahead and push the icing together until it seals together to form a complete circle.

cake dam
On this second layer, I came in about 1/4 inch to give the icing room to spread a little when the top is put on. 

Now fill the center with cake filling.  I made the lemon with the recipe on the Wilton site which is quite easy to make and delicious.  The raspberry filling I used on the other layer was some I purchased from my local bakery store called Baker's Cash and Carry.  It was nice not to have to worry about making the filling when timing is important.

Now replace the top layer.

Take your remaining icing and add milk or cream to make it a thin consistency.    With an offset spatula, ice your cake with a thin layer all around the sides and then on the top.  Let this coat sit for about 15 minutes to crust and then wrap it again in the plastic wrap the same as before and place it in the fridge overnight.  See you tomorrow for Day #3!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Wedding Cake 101: The Basics Tutorial

How to make a Wedding Cake Tutorial
So you think you want to make a wedding cake?  Ever since I started decorating cakes way back in high school, I think I dreamed of making a honest to goodness wedding cake.  They are so beautiful and the pictures in the decorating books make it look so easy.  A couple of years ago I finally got my chance when a neighbor was getting married and knew of my inexperience but trusted me anyway to make theirs.  They wanted it to be quite simple and were not high pressure so I decided to accept!  

The next 6 weeks leading up to the important occasion were filled with studying and practicing and sometimes tears.  I always thought Wedding Cakes were grossly over priced but after what I went through to make even a simple one I fully understood why they cost so much and mine wasn't even a cake with fondant or gorgeous piping on it.  (I do want to learn more about that!)

But when it was finished and looked so pretty sitting at the reception I was so relieved and proud and happy that it was all worth it!  That is why I want to share the things I learned with you.  Maybe it will help you to get from point A (how do I?) to point B (finished cake) faster and easier than it was for me.

I realize that I am a detail person.  I like to spell out every move to make. So just take what you want from the lists and I wish you much success!  

First, you need to check to make sure you have the right equipment.  Good quality pans, spatulas, and a decent turn table

are important.  You don't have to spend a fortune though.  I bought my Wilton pan set found here: pan set at Micheal's

Craft with a 50% off coupon very reasonably.  It was pretty much the same with all my other supplies.  An offset spatula and a Wilton turntable like this:Wilton Turntable  was all I needed.  there are much more expensive ones out there but this worked for me. The other supplies you will want to have on hand are:  offset spatula, Cardboard Cake Circles in all the sizes you need, wax paper and hot glue or double stick tape, piping bags and tips, fondant smoother (this is not a fondant cake but the smoother comes in handy, viva paper towels, cake board or heavy duty plate or stand.  

Let's get started!

First you need a great recipe to make the cake.  You want one that is Wedding Worthy.  There are many gourmet recipes  out there but unless you have a tried and true recipe or a lot of time on your hands to test new recipes, you may want to use the recipe that many professionals use.  This one is easy, reliable, and delicious.  It is called The White Almond Sour Cream Cake or the WASC cake for short.  Yes, it does contain a cake mix but in my opinion the added ingredients make it just the rich and denser texture you want in a wedding cake.

     As a side note, A few years ago all the cake mix companies decided to change their mixes at the same time.  they decreased the box size from 18.25 to 16.25 and changed the formula also.  It threw many cake makers into a frenzy wondering how this new cake mix formula would work in the WASC cake recipe.  I was in the midst of making my 1st wedding cake and had to drop everything to figure out what was going to work.  I began testing different brands and found that some fell and some were dry.  The brand that still did the best job for me was Duncan Hines Classic White.  It worked like a charm and so I always stick with that now.  (This works for my altitude and oven so you may want to test it out first for your situation).
     Making a wedding cake is best done on 3 different days.  You can spread it out more but less would be quite stressful and may not leave enough time to fix problems or allow the cake to cool properly.  

Here is Day 1 of my schedule:

     Make cakes. This is the WASC recipe link and below are some of my tips on how to help it come our perfectly.
Here is the link (different name same recipe): 

 White Almond Wedding Cake

1-  Prepare pans for batter by using this Pan Release recipe.  It works so beautifully.  Just make sure to completely cover the pan and don't leave any bare spots.

2.  Fill pans 1/2 full.  This helps you get an even flat topped cake.  I measure the side of the pan (i.e. 2 inches), then mark a toothpick at the 1/2 way mark (i.e. 1 inch).  then I pour the batter in until it looks 1/2 full.  Then test it with the toothpick.  If the mark on the toothpick goes into the batter, take some out.  Add some if you need more to reach the mark.

3. After the batter is in the pan, tap them several times on the counter to release the air bubbles trapped in the batter. They will begin rising to the top.
4.  Use bake even strips.  You can find them at most craft stores or online here.   
 They come in different sizes so make sure you have enough to cover your largest pan. Follow the directions they give you to soak them and remove a little water before placing them on the pan.

5.  For large size pans you need to use something in the center of the batter to help it cook.  If you don't the outside will be over done and the inside of your cake pan will be undercooked and fall.  You can buy something called a heating core found here.  

     You can also use a #7 cake decorators rose nail.  Insert it into the batter centered in the pan with the large end resting on the bottom of the pan.  In cakes larger than 12 inches I would use 3 of these nails in a triangle formation close to the center. 
     When these are placed in the center, the cake bakes evenly and then they can be removed when the cake is taken out of the pan soon after baking is finished.

6.  Take bake even strips off immediately after baking to allow pan to cool.

7.  When cake has cooled for only 15 minutes, place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the pan that is about 3x's more than the pan size in width.
wrappping a cake to cool

learn to make a wedding cake

Place a rack or plate over the wrap and invert the cake onto the plate/wrap.  This is where you will be glad you used the pan release.  The cake will slip out of the pan without any sticking.  Wrap the cake completely in plastic and then repeat the process with more plastic wrap.  The second time I use a cardboard cake round a little bigger than the cake to support it and then place the wrapped cake into a large bag (a store bag or a purchased turkey baking bag works well)  and place in fridge or freezer to "mature" over night.  Many bakers swear by the freezing method saying that it improves the flavor and moistness of the cake.  I personally have not tried it and I only have mine in the fridge overnight. If you freeze your cake be sure to allow time for it to defrost before icing it.

This ends the first days work. It feels good to see all of the cakes lined up, perfectly formed, wrapped, and in the fridge.  You're on your way!  

Next post will be day 2!
Please send me your questions below...
This post was shared with these fine blogs!
Create with Joy
Pint Sized Baker 
Lou Lou Girls 
Memories by the Mile 
Nap time Creations 
A Dish of Daily Life 
The Country Cook