Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program. . .

I'll admit-June was out of control for me, or as I affectionately refer to it: June S*it on itself.

In a nutshell: This month, my job sort of spun out of control, and I had a ton dumped on my plate. We had a lot of stuff home-wise (my bridal shower-brought to you by Michelle of Mommy Confessions, again-the blog you've been missing in life, our yearly BBQ, me and Mr. TDWP had our engagement pictures taken, etc. etc. etc.) , and I needed to chill out and take a step back for a few. Now, before you go calling the "waaaahhh"-bulance, it's over, and that's the last you'll hear from it. Onto the update, crybaby.

The bad news? There wasn't enough wine to get me through this month.

The good news? I baked a few things, just didn't have enough time to get it all posted, and got some great ideas from some unfortunate events (The Jackson family sweet potato pie recipe, anyone? No, really. REALLY. Coming soon to a blog near you.)

I also brought a few new cookbooks to go through, including "little cakes from the whimsical bakehouse" and "500 cupcakes". Expect a review on both books and a series on cupcakes, and soon.

P.S, Still in the market for someone to make the page all super pretty and not so livejournal-tastic. I'll pay you-and in real money, not baked goods like I try to pawn off on everyone else. Interested? Let me know.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mango and spices and. . .amish. . .oh my?

I've been busy. Super busy. Super, uncomfortably busy. Supe- well, you get the point. Between working, working some more, planning a wedding, DIYing a lot of it on my own (another blog, perhaps?), volunteering, and trying to remain sane, I needed a mental vacation. 

So where does a city mouse like myself with a shopping problem and more makeup than your local drugstore go? Why, Amish country of course! For those of you who don't know what in the everloving cake i'm talking about, here's the abbreviated version:
Amish people live for the most part (around here, anyway) in Lancaster county, PA. They're of the belief that what we consider modern convenience is unnecessary, travel by horse drawn buggy and do not use electricity. I'm talking the whole deal-farm your land barefoot, raise barns, park your horse in the driveway, wear homemade clothes. *Disclaimer: If any of what I just said about the amish is untrue, my sincere apologies-but I DO know that they don't use computers- so let's be honest, they'll never know. * It's also where i've been going camping for the greater part of my life. Something about the open land, lack of smog, and genuinely friendly people make it amazing for unwinding. 

That being said, city mouse needs to shop. And while i'm sure one can never have enough bonnets, teeny tiny spoons that say Lancaster on them, and preserves (handmade with love by a wonderful spiritual amish family, naturally), I needed something else. Something that I could take back with me to my modern world. Something, like this:

In the midst of all of the bread mixes, homemade pies and jellies, and general fatty goodness, I found this little cupcake mix. It had everything I needed at that moment. Yumminess (I always need yumminess), something I could write about, something I could bake, and something that wouldn't severely mess up my kitchen while doing so (remember, we were going for stress free). All this, and super cute packaging. . .We have a winner.

It's made by Pelican Bay Ltd, and includes cupcake mix and frosting mix. I chose Ginger Spice Cupcakes with Mango frosting because i'm a sucker for all things ginger and/or mango. The other varieties included pear with caramel and lemon with raspberry. Upon going to their website (where you can order a catalog) I found some super cute stuff-if you take nothing else away from this, at least pay it a visit for the cute mixes-you might get some ideas of things you want to bake. 

All thats needed to make 12 cupcakes is the mixes, butter, cream cheese, an egg, oil and milk. Not bad. A- on ingredients, because I hate not realizing I need cream cheese for something until after i've already started- which happens a lot, and is my own fault. Remember those teachers that graded unfairly even though they knew they were in the wrong? Just like that. A-. 

Bonus points for the little silicone spatula (spoonula for you Rachel Ray people, which I am not one of-::begin rant:: JUST SAY OLIVE OIL FOR GODS SAKE!! DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO HAVE A "CUTE" ABBREVIATION?! ::end rant::) that would be great for little hands, had it not broke while I was taking it out of the wrapper:

Oh well, they tried. Bonus points anyway.

Anywho, once assembled, the cupcake batter looked and smelled promising-your typical spice cake mix, really fragrant and darker in color:

After 27 minutes, you had 12 (which is exactly what the recipe called for) nice sized cupcakes. 

That's them, cooling on my stove-hint: not necessary to invest in an overpriced three tier cooling rack if your stove grates come up high enough off of the actual burner. My stove leaves plenty of room for air to circulate under and around the cupcakes, and the burner itself isn't in that consistent state of warm that a lot of stoves do. Now, go spend that extra money on a new shirt. 

On to the icing:

The icing mix ingredients included powdered sugar and artificial mango flavoring.  Don't ask me why I didn't think of this earlier, considering I HATE really artificially flavored things. Did I think there were mangos inside the little box? Maybe seeds to plant my own mango tree? I don't know what I thought, but whatever-it was could not prepare me for this:

Happy Halloween! Really though, this is pretty accurate to the real-life color of the frosting. It was very. . .orange. Like, crayola orange. Artificial, crayola-like, unappealing orange. I have expected it to taste like carrots. I'm willing to look past it though and taste it, in the name of, um, research. Or severe hunger. 

When I taste, I taste separately, and then together. I eat the cake on its own, the frosting on its own, then altogether. The cake seriously gets an A. It was a really nicely spiced cake, and tasted very homemade-and this is coming from someone who isn't super crazy about spice cakes. The frosting? Big fat F. It tasted like fake. I can't describe it, but it was super fake. Now mind you, that's why there are other people are here-to counterbalance my opinion. So, what do you think, oh esteemed panel of judges?

Yes, second one down is a sideways thumb-thats code for "the cake is good but I don't like the icing". Which is what I would have given this, had I been in charge of giving a thumb gesture vote. However, the completely enthusiastic third thumb might out rule this, since she's never been so excited about a cupcake in my entire life. The final creation? 

And the clean up? Judge for yourself:

Minimal, if i've ever seen it. So, the final verdict? B. I have to trust others' opinions on this one, since I was pretty much overruled. I think it's worth a try, maybe worth your own icing added to it. Like I mentioned before, at least take a trip over to the website and get some ideas!

Next up, and just in time for putting on your bathing suit and regretting supersizing your number four: Low fat cake!

I'm hungry. . . shouldn't you be blogging?

Okay, looking back at the date of the last post, I realize a couple of things.
1. I'm slacking on my baking responsibilities
2. I need to have less on my plate (plate as in things to do, and plate as in this white cheddar popcorn I can't put down).
3. I have no concept of time whatsoever, and should invest in a comprehensive calendar/organizational system

So what's a girl to do?
  •  First, bake up a storm-there will be this weeks regular post, a special *bonus* (read: there's a lot of extra eggs in the house) three day weekend post, and plans for the next 65-yes, you read that correctly, 65- posts. 
  • Second, prioritize-Laundry, or cupcakes? Vacuum, or blog? It's obvious from my lack of clean work shirts and 3 gained pounds that we know who's going to win this one.
  • Finally, well, nothing. I've never been good with a planner- I write a bunch of stuff down in it and never refer to it-only to find out two weeks too late that I really did make that doctors appointment, I missed three birthdays, a lunch date, and work last Thursday. 
All of this, coupled with the fact that every time people I know get hungry, they go "I could really use a cake *cough cough*" or, "When was the last time you blogged? *ahem*" gives me writers guilt. To make up for it, I give you my adventures in the kitchen this past week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Southern Living

As you've read because you're religiously following me  most likely stumbled upon, I'm on the lookout for the best cake recipe out there. So, while standing in front of the magazines at work  working really really hard, I noticed this: 

An edition of Southern Living magazine, promising me the "10 easiest layer cakes ever". Ever? Ever is a really long time. This better be good. $4.99 ($6.99 for my sisters to the north). Well worth it-I should never have to look for another recipe again. Southern living, you're on.

Not to be a negative Nancy here, but as soon as I turned to page I knew there would be issues. There's only two cake recipes here. Granted, there's variations for sheet cakes and "petit fours", but really there's only a recipe for vanilla and a recipe for chocolate. So how do you get all of these recipes, you ask? Because there's about 8 icing recipes when you flip the page. So they're asking you to mix and match. Mind you, that's more than 10. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt-they're bakers, not mathematicians. On to the recipe, Nancy. . . .


Makes about 6 cups


  • 2  cups  sugar
  • 1  cup  butter, softened
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  almond extract
  • 3  cups  cake flour
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  buttermilk
  • (Southern Living Magazine, March 2009)

The ingredients look pretty basic. Sugar, Butter, Vanilla, etc. But wait-what's this? Cake flour and Buttermilk? I'm going to have to deduct some points from the "everyday ingredients" scale for that. Not everyone has buttermilk on their shopping lists. Not that it would be an issue to get it, but if we're talking easy, we're talking stuff from the pantry. Not to be confused with stuff from the panty, which is what I originally typed. So here's my ingredients all laid out:

Not bad. If I wouldn't have made everything all laid out and pretty, the mess would be minimal. Bonus points awarded for little clean up. On a side note, maybe I haven't purchased vanilla extract in a while, because when I bought it I noticed it has a flip top? 

Which isn't exciting to most of you, i'm sure, but for anyone who has fought with a leaking lid of vanilla in your bag to transport to cake class, this is a godsend. It's also made out of plastic. How do I know this?

I dropped it. Actually, this picture is a re-take. I dropped it, HARD, and as I was picking it up, realized how awesome it was that it didn't break-so I threw it back on the ground, and took a picture-which must of looked pretty strange to Mr. TDWP, who promptly asked me what the hell I was doing.

 The recipe starts by telling me to cream my butter and sugar in my heavy-duty electric stand mixer for 5 minutes. Loss of more points due to the fact that not everyone owns a stand mixer. My grandma made cakes for years with a pair of electric beaters, as do many home cooks. Recipes should be friendly to both. After making the recipe, I did find that with REALLY soft butter and a lot of patience, you could make this with a pair of electric beaters. So, we're beating together the butter and sugar, and it should look like this:

After adding the eggs one at a time (tip: crack the eggs into a separate bowl first to avoid extra special shells in your cake), the extracts, and alternating my wet and dry ingredients, you get something that looks like this:

Which is thick, just as the recipe says. Notice the bottle behind the cutting board? That's tonic, which I have a sneaking suspicion that and vodka contributed to one persons vote at the tasting. More on that later. So, what was missing from the recipe? Hmm, how about baking times and temps? It's over on the other side of the page, in a section called "pick a pan", with different times and temps, and cooling directions. I'm guessing that's part of the "mix and match" appeal. Anywho, I picked two 9-in rounds, for 32-36 minutes. It told me to cool as directed, but then I wasn't directed in this recipe to cool anything, so I guess if i'm being absolutely literal, I should be eating this hot. Here's the one (or two) substitution I did make:

Looking past the fact that I apparently thought I was a hand model (is this the price is right? are we bidding on that bottle? what was I doing?) in the top picture, that's a bottle of Wiltons Cake Release. Amazing. Amazing amazing. It's greasing and flouring in one step, in any pan. It's pam on steroids, without that whole spraying it on the floor and slipping on it thing. I use it on anything. You can buy it at the craft store, and with the 50% off coupons, you can't beat the price. This paragraph was not brought to you by Wilton, I really have like 4 bottles of the stuff. 

In the second picture you'll find disposable pans, because I originally intended to make the chocolate cake recipe also, and wasn't in the mood to wash more pans. 

So, after 33 minutes, this is what you get when your toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean:

Looks promising. This is after the cooling stage, which I did anyway, seeing as I didn't think they wanted me to eat burning hot cake and i'm assuming that was a typo leaving it out. On to the judging:

Texture-The texture of this cake was very good-moist and dense but light. If that makes any sense. However, when I cut the cake, crumbs were EVERYWHERE. I've never seen so many crumbs come off of a piece of cake in my life. However, there's more to life than crumbs. There's also dishes:

Which were minimal. Therefore, prior to tasting, I give this recipe a B-. Easy to make, minimal ingredients, and little clean up, but points lost for unconventional ingredients, the stand mixer thing, and lots of crumbs. On to our expert panel of judges.


1st-Code name: Meat. (can you tell everyone came up with their own?)- Also known as Mr. TDWP, Meat is a foodie at heart, with a heart of gold-poor thing will eat anything at all that I come up with in the kitchen, for the simple fact that I made it-even if he ends up with food poisoning. *swoon*
2nd-Code name: Dorothy (we're really stretching with these names, people)- Also known as The mother figure, she wanted no parts of the mess in the kitchen or of having her picture taken.
3rd-Code name: Tonic - a killer sweet tooth and also an apparent ability to drink in copious amounts prior to judging, while still maintaining the ability to make sense with his review. 

So everyone eats the cake (myself included). We're smelling, we're tasting, we're chewing. . .and then nobody can swallow. This cake is DENSE. Like, trying to swallow a wad of tissues dense. It was as if while in your mouth, it multiplied into 7 pieces of cake, and you were trying to swallow them all at one time. Okay, the cake is Dense, Nancy. We get it. What about the taste? to quote the judges 
"This sucks", "I can't swallow it", "What's that taste?", "Next" ,"Maybe if we put chocolate syrup on it?". 

It was very. . .odd. So odd, that I checked the expiration dates on my milk and eggs. Not that it tasted Bad, per se, but it just didn't taste like vanilla cake. Mind you, we didn't taste with frosting-that's another search altogether, but still. Dorothy referred to it as "an angel food cake gone bad", and decided to do this to hers:

after which she said it tasted a lot better. So, the votes?

As you can see, Mr. TDWP gave it a sideways thumb, which apparently in his world means it's "so so". Which I have to agree with-if you hadn't told me it was a easy vanilla cake, and told me it was maybe a almond-sour cream pound cake, I would say it was an adequate rendition of one. But, that's not what it was. Next!  C+

Next time on The Cake Chronicles: Martha Stewarts Wedding cakes!

The Cake Chronicles

I have a confession to make. 

I used box cake mix. There, I said it. It feels good. They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right? Now, don't get me wrong-there's nothing wrong with cake mix. Me and Betty Crocker have had some really good times. In fact, some of peoples favorite cakes are the super yummy doctored cake mixes that I make (*see below). However, being in the field of cake, the times I do use a mix I feel like I'm "cheating". I lecture my students on how to make their cakes the best, solve all of their problems, and on my way home pick up a box of Super Moist (my pick, btw-french vanilla is yummy).  Why do I do it, then? Because I can count the number of homemade cake mixes that I enjoy on one hand. And I don't need to use all of my fingers to do it. 

I'm still on my search for the ever elusive "perfect" cake recipe. It's moist, it's flavorful, it has amazing texture, and it's easy to make. Basically, it's right over there next to the fountain of youth, easily accessible by unicorn or flying pig. So I bring to you, the Cake Chronicles-my search for the best cake recipe. Vanilla or Chocolate. Tres Leche or Black Forest. If they tell me it's going to be the best, i'll try it. Have a recipe that you think looks good but are afraid to try? Send away.

Cakes will be judged/reviewed in two ways-First, i'll make the cakes exactly as stated-no substitutions or tricks that I may have. The only substitution that i'll make is for pans-shape or disposable if I have a lot of cake to make that day. I'll document the entire process, then i'll review and judge based on taste, ease of preparation, and if the cake delivers on it's promise- "easiest" better be easy, etc. Second, there will be a taste test by a panel of expert chefs with impeccable palettes  people who really like cake. The cake then gets an overall "yay" or "nay" based on the above, and I give you the recipe in case you'd like to try. Sounds easy enough, right? RIGHT?                  

(A note on doctoring cake mixes-For every box mix, add ingredients as directed, +1 extra egg and a packet of the pudding mix of your choice.)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

. . .and then there was blog.

Welcome! I'd like to introduce you to my blog, The Devil Wears Pastry.

Either you've been linked here by my twitterific sister Michelle of (insert shameless plug here) Mommy Confessions-quite possibly THE Best mom blog on the face of planet earth-which you should visit, since it's everything you've been missing in life-or you've stumbled your way around the web until you found me. Either way, I'm glad you're here.

This blog will be full of my adventures in the kitchen, as a self taught baker, pseudo chef, cake decorating instructor, and general Martha Stewart wannabe. We'll bake, we'll review products, we'll hold recipe contests. . .and we'll most likely make a giant mess of my kitchen and gain a pound or four.

I have to give a whole 'lotta bloggy love to Maggie of Maternal Dementia for helping me to name my blog. After a ton of great entries, a whole lot of debate, and some furious games of rock paper scissors, she came through as the unanimous winner. She is the recipient of a fabulous Brownie Fun prize pack courtesy of myself and the people at Wilton. So please, head on over to Maternal Dementia and check out her awesomeness. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll bookmark it. 

Finally, check back soon and often-there's going to be a whole lot going on around here once I get myself all moved in and the flour settles. 

Something you want to see tested? Recipe you've been searching for? Feel free to contact me at TheDevilWearsPastry@gmail.com