Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Smores birthday cake

Did you know Monday was Hans' birthday? Hope you called him. I think we can officially call him "late 20s" now, though he's still arguing "mid to late."
After spending far too many hours last year making his iPhone birthday cake, I decided I just wanted something tasty this year and didn't care too much how it looked.

Mission accomplished. Taste? Amazing. Incredible. Mouthwatering. Look? Eh. Who cares. It tastes good. Mostly the frosting. I'm not usually all about frosting - gimme the cake. But I wanted to stick my face in this marshmallow frosting.

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
3/4 stick butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
Dash of salt

Combine all the ingredients until the crumbs aren't dry anymore. Press the mixture into two buttered cake pans (8" or 9")

For the cake:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup milk (I used skim and that worked)
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup melted butter
4 tablespoons sour cream

Beat together eggs and sugar. Add in vanilla, milk, cream and butter. Beat well. Add in the sour cream. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add all at once to the wet ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Split evenly between the two cake pans (on top of the graham mixture).

Bake at 350 for about 35-40 minutes.

Fill with marshmallow frosting and more graham cracker crumbs.

(Both of the above loosely adapted from How Sweet it Is)

For the glorious frosting:
8 egg whites
2 cups sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Get a mixing bowl. Set it on top of a small pot with water in it, and put both on the stove. With the water in the pot simmering, stir the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar together. Heat until the combination is warm and the sugar dissolved. Transfer the mixing bowl to a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium for 5-7 minutes or until stiff peaks start to form. Stir in the vanilla. Use immediately.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Newspaper Prom

The Beehives were in charge of this week's joint mutual activity and when they told me what they wanted to do, I was a little skeptical. In fact, I was skeptical right up until about 15 minutes into it when normal Wednesday chaos quieted down a bit and they really dove into it.

What you need:
As much old newspaper as you can find (Being a former paper employee helps - Thanks, Danny!)
Duck tape in fun colors and designs

We had the Laurels and Priests pair off - we had two groups of Priest/Laurel and one group of three Laurels (with the Bishop's daughter offering to dress as the boy). Where were all our Priests?

Then each of the three groups got to choose their teams from the Mia Maids, Beehives, Teachers, and Deacons. The teams could do whatever they wanted to dress their Priest/Laurel, as long as it was modest.

We ended up not only with some cute dresses, but coordinating zebra print ties, a sword, and a cape. It was a nice activity for the leaders to sit back and enjoy while the kids went nuts with creativity.

Didn't they do a nice job?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Weekend with the fam

Hans' parents and niece came to visit last weekend. His parents are retiring to Panama and leave on Feb. 29 so this was their good-bye visit. That, and it's his birthday next week so they took us out to dinner to celebrate.

We had some tasty burgers and hot dogs off of Hans' pretty new grill.

And then we needed some froyo.

We went to Wimberly to visit with some of Karin's old friends.

Then we saw the Muppet movie, which we all really enjoyed. It was much funnier than we expected.

We ate a delicious dinner at PF Changs

And, of course, plenty of time lounging around the house :)

Friday, February 10, 2012

New beginnings

Last night we had Young Women's New Beginnings. Since this year's theme is "Arise and Shine Forth," we went with a sunshine theme.

The cookie cutter came from Amazon. I used my favorite sugar cookie and royal icing recipes from Bake at 350.

The cupcake wrappers were cut out of yellow scrapbook paper using this template. I used my favorite chocolate cupcake recipe (shown back here) and used chocolate chips instead of snickers. The recipe is kinda oily, I guess, because the wrappers had oil spots on them after just a few hours.

And congrats to Lise for finishing her YW Medallion! We're so glad to have had you the past year.
(stolen from Bro. Whiting's facebook....)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More cake pics! (and WASC recipe)

Because I forgot to take some of the inside and my co-host graciously supplied these.

Pretty, no?

The recipe is called WASC (white almond sour cream cake) and I've seen it all over these cake boards I frequent, so I had to give it a try. It's good and sturdy for stacking and holding up fondant, but yet still moist. And it bakes lovely - not very crumbly, very even. Taste is pretty basic, maybe a touch on the sweet side. Hans says I used too much almond. Could be. I filled with a basic buttercream but I think it would have tasted even better with raspberry or lemon curd filling.

What you need:
2 boxes white cake mix (I think I used Betty Crocker, but I've heard Duncan Hines is good)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
6 whole eggs
2 2/3 cups water
4 T. vegetable oil
2 cups sour cream
1 T. vanilla flavor
1 T. almond extract

In a stand mixer (or large bowl if you're hand mixing), combine the eggs, water, oil, sour cream, vanilla and almond. In a separate bowl, mix together the cake mix, flour, sugar and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two additions, blending well in between. Beat on medium speed for two minutes.

Decide how many layers you want. I wanted five. I ended up scrapping one of the layers cuz it was just too tall. So let's say four. Divide the batter evenly between four bowls. Add the same color food coloring to each of the bowls, but increase the amount for the bowls. I left one undyed, used one drop, two and four (I think - it was late!).

In buttered and floured (or parchment-lined) pans, bake at 300 for about 20 minutes, then rotate once and increase temp. to 325 for another 20 minutes (based on 6" pans). Try not to open the oven too soon or the middle will cave in.

This recipe made a LOT of cake for me - nine 6" layers (that were really thick!) I've heard that it makes four 8" rounds or two 9"x13", but I haven't tested those amounts. I think it was about 14-15 cups of batter.

This recipe also keeps really well when wrapped in the freezer (two layers of plastic, one of foil). I made the cake more than a week before the shower. I used four layers for a test cake and froze the other four for a week before thawing and frosting as normal. I couldn't taste a difference :) But make sure you thaw completely so you don't encounter any cold cake issues...

Monday, February 6, 2012

Baby shower and Super Bowl

We had an eventful weekend. It involved a fair amount of baking, a lot of eating, and some freezing cold.

First up - My lovely visiting teach-ee Janell is having her first child next month so we had a baby shower for her at my house. Now, I should point out that it was merely at my house. Her friend Elizabeth did almost the entire thing by herself and she did an amazing job. I felt bad because people kept telling me what a wonderful shower it was and really all I did was provide a room.

I did, however, make a cake.
Ah, the cake. It was such a disaster. I'm still not sure how it went so horribly wrong. I'm pretty sure the culprit was a cold cake. After I put the buttercream on, I put it in the fridge to firm up the icing. I think it was too long and the cake was too cold because the fondant went on fine, but shortly after started bubbling up. It was like air was being released from the cake and had no where to go, so it just started forming bubbles. Then the cake looked like it was sweating and dripping down the sides. I think condensation was forming inside and made the fondant wet and runny. I tried for hours (probably three) to salvage it, poking holes to release air, smoothing with more cornstarch, trying to cover up the mess with more fondant bubbles. After several tears and frustrations, I just left it. This is not my best work, but I figured I may as well show the ugly and bad as well as the good.

I felt like I got to redeem myself a little bit on Sunday. Our friend Tim (who is also Hans' boss and our home teacher) and his wife, Kelsey, had some people over to watch the super bowl and have dinner. They asked guests to bring desserts and I made these super bowl cupcakes. They are one of my favorite, tasty Dr. Pepper recipes, topped with green icing, green sprinkles, and goal posts made from chocolate melting chips. They didn't take long to make and weren't nearly as frustrating as the previous days' cake.

Check out how awesome their back patio is. In addition to a fire pit and an outdoor kitchen with a huge grill, they also have four tvs - it's better than any sports bar I've seen.

And this is why I don't wear hats. I look extra Asian and kind of like a cancer patient. But it was freezing so there you have it.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dark chocolate peanut butter whoopie pies

Dark Chocolate. Peanut Butter. Whoopie Pies.

Oh, yes.

They are decadent. Today at work we welcomed new intern, Sarah. To celebrate her first day on the team, I made these whoopie pies. Okay, so maybe I've been looking for *any* excuse to make them.

Here's what you need:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
2 oz. bittersweet baking chocolate

In a microwave-safe bowl, microwave the baking chocolate in 30 second intervals, stopping to stir between, until completely melted. Allow to cool a little bit while you do the next steps.

Cream together the brown sugar and butter. I did this in my kitchenaid for about 3-4 minutes on a medium speed. It would probably take a little longer with a handmixer.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl or cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.

After the butter/sugar mixture is light and fluffy, add in the melted chocolate and beat well to combine. With your mixer speed on low, alternate adding the dry ingredients and the buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry mix (I did three dry additions, two milk additions).

Scoop batter (2 inch scoop is good!) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake at 350 for about 11 minutes. Allow to cool

For the amazing icing!
What you need:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Beat together the powdered sugar, butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt. Once it's combined, add creamy slowly to reach desired consistency. 1/3 is an approximation... you may need more or less depending on how thick you want the frosting.

I used an icing bag to pipe the frosting onto the cookies because it helps distribute it a little more evenly, but you could just as easily use a knife. I match the cookies up before hand so I make sure I don't end up with a teeny top and giant bottom cookie.

This recipe makes 12-14, depending on the size.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Easy {and delicious!} Banana Nut Muffins

For the past few days, there have been a bunch of nearly black bananas glaring at me from my kitchen counter, cursing their lack of use. I didn't want to waste them, so I figured some banana muffins were in order.

I found this recipe from Baked Bree, but some of the measurements seemed off so I did some tweaking. They came out delicious - moist, but not too sticky, and neither too sweet nor too banana-y. I think the only thing I would change would be to add a dash of cinnamon. Enjoy!
What you need:
3 very ripe bananas (the almost-black kind are perfect for this)
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup walnuts (other nuts would probably be good too, or maybe chocolate chips?)

Mash the bananas up on a bowl. Add in the eggs, sugar, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Beat on low until well incorporated. Then add in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix until just blended - don't overbeat! Stir in the nuts. Separate into muffin tins (or bread pans, if you want to go that route). Bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes (45-50 for bread).