Applelicious Cupcakes

Applelicious Cupcakes

Channeling June Cleaver

Channeling June Cleaver

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Let them eat Chocolate cake!!

Not much I can do in the garden with this heat and humidity. I just came in from about an hour of pruning and I was dripping so my thoughts turned to baking. I do love to cook but I am passionate about baking. Once I start I can't stop. At Christmas time I am a cookie making machine, I just can't make enough. And I always think that I haven't made many cookies until I start pulling out all my storage tubs filled with cookies, but that is a later blog.
Right now I want to talk about chocolate cake. I do love to bake a good chocolate cake and the choices are endless. I do have a few favorite recipes that I make over and over.  My favorite birthday cake growing up that my mother always made for me was a Chocolate Coconut Cake. I could never get enough of this cake.That stared my love affair with chocolate cake!  I haven't make this cake in years and I don't remember why I stopped. If you like coconut this is the cake for you.

Birthday Chocolate Coconut Cake
1 egg white                             
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups (7 oz pkg) fine grated coconut
1 Tbs flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
3/4 cup hot coffee
3 eggs, separated
1 tsp soda
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease the bottom of a 10 inch tube pan
Beat egg white with 1 tsp vanilla until soft mounds form. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually beating until stiff peaks form. Stir in coconut and 1 Tbs flour. Set aside.
Dissolve cocoa in hot coffee.  Beat 3 egg whites until soft mounds form. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually beating until meringue stands in stiff peaks. Set aside.  Add soda to sour cream. Set aside. In a large bowl beat 1 1/4 cup sugar, shortening, 3 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp vanilla and half of cocoa mixture until light and creamy,  about  4 minutes.  On a low speed stir in 2 cups flour, the sour cream mixture and remaining cocoa/coffee, blend well. Fold in egg whites. Pour 1/3 of chocolate cake batter into prepared tube pan. Place 1/2 coconut mixture on cake batter, then pour 1/2 of the remaining chocolate cake batter over coconut mixture. Continue with the remaining coconut mixture and top with the of the cake batter. Make sure that the cake batter covers all the coconut mixture. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. Cool completely before removing from pan. Frost top and side with Chocolate Cream Frosting.

Chocolate Fudge  Frosting
1 pkg( 6 oz) Semi Sweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup light cream
1 cup butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cup  powdered sugar.

In a medium sauce pan combine chocolate, cream, butter and stir over medium heat until smooth. Remove from heat.  Put powder sugar in large bowl. Stir in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Beat with a wooden spoon until spreadable. To hasten thickening, put bowl in a pan of ice and water while stirring or refrigerate frosting until  begins to thicken.

This cake might seem to have a lot of steps but if you just take time and follow the steps it is well work the effort! I forgot how good this cake is until I looked again at the recipe. I definitely going to make this cake soon!

My mother calls this cake just a basic Chocolate cake. We've been making this cake in one form or another for more years that I'd like to think about.

Just Chocolate Cake with Chocolate fudge frosting and whipped cream filling

1 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups boiling water
2 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

In a medium bowl, combine cocoa with boiling water, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth,   cool completely. Soft four with soda and baking powder. Preheat oven 350. Grease well and lightly flour three 9 1/2 inch layer-cake pans.
In large bowl with electric mixer at high speed, beat butter, sugar. eggs and vanilla until light, about 5 minutes. At low speed, beat in flour mixture in fourths) alternating with cocoa mixture(in thirds) beginning and ending with flour mixture. do not over beat. Divide evenly into pans, smooth top. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until surface springs back when pressed gently with fingertips. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Carefully loosen sides with spatula, remove from pans: cool on rack.

Whipped Cream filling: Whip one cup of chilled heavy cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and one teaspoon vanilla. Refrigerate until use.

To assemble cake  on cake stand place a layer, top side down. Then spread half of cream filling. Place a second layer , top side down and spread rest of cream. Place third layer top side up. Some times I slice strawberries and put a layer of strawberries then the whipped cream and continue layering the cake. Or you can brush the cake with a good preserve and then add the whipped cream. And for the adult version you can brush the cake with a rum or liqueur. With spatula, frost side first, covering whipped cream. Use rest of the frosting on top. Refrigerate at least one hour.

This chocolate cake is just so good that you can combine with any frosting and filling that you choice.

OK, OK I can hear what your thinking these cakes take a lot of time and work!! Plus they make many dirty pans, beaters, bowls etc. This is true but worth the effort and work.  But!!!!  I am going to share with you a wonderfully easy cake that starts with a box cake mix, yes I said a box cake mix and it's a delicious , decadent cake when you get done. I found this cake years ago in Southern Living Magazine. Over the years Southern living is one of my favorite sources for recipes. So if you a little bakeaphobic, try this cake first and then move up to a more challenging cake once your comfort level is higher.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

***  I have added a step to making this cake and suggestions for making this cake!  After you make the peanut butter mousse filling  I found even after it is cooled for 25 minutes it oozes out of the cake when you put the layers together. I make the filling first and chill for 1 to 2 hours. The filling will be thick so work in batches to spread over cake layer making sure to gently spread over the entire cake layer but not over the sides of the cake. You will have a high layer of filling. In the recipe it says pour glace over cake. Don't just pour, you'll end up with the glaze dripping down the cake and ending on the plate. Just take some time and spread the glaze over the cake, top and sides. Also I usually chill this cake and then serve.  Make these few changes and this cake is a comes out perfect and tastes wonderful.
That's what I mean about recipes missing steps. The first time I make this cake as soon as I put the second cake layer on top, the filling ran out.(I was forced to each much of the mousse filling that landed on the cake dish)  I was so disappointed but my family said they loved the taste of cake. I thought about it an realized  that when you make any mousse you need to chill so it becomes firmer and that's what I did. And now I have a wonderful, easy cake to make for my family or company.
I could go on and on about wonderful chocolate cake recipes and I still have a few more that I will share later. I think I gained some weight just writing about these cakes but they are so good!!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Cocktails at Joann's

I had the pleasure of visiting my friend Joann at her gorgeous summer home located in a beautiful Massachusetts beach community. Joann's home is beautiful and reflects her wonderful decorating style that is causal and chic at the same time. Her attention to every detail in decorating her home is inspiring. After a wonderful lunch at the club house and dip in the pool and then the beach, Joann served us delectable cocktails on her terrace overlooking her lushly landscaped back yard. Along with the cocktails she served an assortment of finger foods that captured the essence of summer eating.  Joann's delicious feats included an assortment of cheese with crackers, grilled clams with Tomato Bruschetta and slice fresh fruit. Who could ask for more after a relaxing day by the water. Joann was happy to share her recipe with us.

Grilled Clams with Tomato Bruschetta:

Combine: 3/4 cup dry while wine, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, 1/4 cup fresh parsley, 2 tomatoes finely chopped, 1 large onion finely chopped, 5 garlic cloves finely chopped, 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger grated. Place disposable roasting pan on high heat over grill until liquid comes to boil. Stir in 3 dozen scrubbed littleneck clams. Cover with a sheet pan(such as a cookie sheet). Grill 8-10 minutes or until clams open. Serve immediate. (Joann suggest to remove calms to serving plate as they open so they don't get rubbery) Poor remaining juice from pan over clams.

Tomato Bruschetta:  Combine 4 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped, 3 green onions, thinly sliced, 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro, one garlic clove minced, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Diagonally slice french bread, brush both sides with extra virgin olive oil.  Grill lover high heat. Spoon tomato mixture over grilled bread and serve. You can make the tomato mixture a head of time and chill in refrigerator.

I will definitely make Joann's recipe and serve with cocktail or as a appetizer before a meal.

Thanks Joann for sharing!


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Alfresco Birthday Dinner

Finally I can finish this post that I started a few weeks ago. I have been away from my blog and I've missed writing. I think by now you know that I love to cook and entertain. I just enjoy all aspects of entertaining, planning the menu, choosing the theme, decorating, everything. I recently threw a birthday dinner for my twins. You are never too old to celebrate your birthday in our family. Over the years I've collected outdoor entertaining pieces. I personally like to use real plates, glasses, table cloths and silverware outside and I use as little plastic or paper as possible. You can get these items on sale and in the long run save money and the environment.
I planned a family barbecue for the birthday dinner. About a month before the dinner I started planning the menu, I like to try new recipes and mix them with old favorites, Some say that you should try the recipes before you make them for company but I just try out a recipe on company, remember no fear. Just have fun and enjoy preparing the meal. The dinner was a causal get together on our deck. I started with fun summer drinks, dips and then followed with the meal and dessert. Every year for my twins' birthday I make a cake, decorated with both names, this year I did something different. I made my daughter red velvet cupcakes, her favorite and my son a blueberry pie, which he loves.(though he told me a decadent cake would be greatly appreciated next year!) I find that when I try new recipes I always have one or two that are a keeper and crowd pleaser. And this time was not different. The menu follows:

Raspberry Lime Rickey's
Buffalo Chicken Dip
Caponata with Flat bread*
Assorted olives, cheese/crackers  
Spicy Grilled Shrimp* 
Grilled Buttermilk Chicken*
Red Bliss potatoes salad
Layered Tabbouleh
Bobbie's Asian Coleslaw
Summer Salad with berries       
Red velvet Cupcakes    
Blueberry Pie with vanilla ice cream

* These are new recipes that I haven't made before. I found them in June 2010 Martha Stewart Living. For me I will only make the shrimp again. Everyone loved this shrimp dish. I am including the recipes that I will make again . The red bliss potato salad is mine own creation, all the other recipes are from other sources and some I've modified over the years.
As you can see I love to serve a lot of food. You don't need two entrees and all the side dishes. I like left overs the next day!!
Elaine's Birthday dinner for Twelve
Raspberry Lime Rickey
8 oz vodka
3 oz lime juice
2 oz Chambord 
12 fresh raspberries                        
plus 4 for garnish
fresh lime for garnish
club soda

Muddle the raspberries in the bottom of a pitcher(I used a martini pitcher). Fill with ice and add remaining ingredients. Stir well and pour into 4 tall glasses. Top with club soda and garnish with lime wedges and fresh raspberries.

Buffalo Chicken Dip- My version of an old favorite
2 packages of cooked chicken strips (I used short cuts) cut into bite size pieces
2 packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup ranch dressing
3/4 cup pepper sauce( I used Frank's Red Hot)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar Cheese

Heat chicken and hot sauce in a skillet over medium heat, until heated through. Stir in cream cheese and ranch dressing. Cook, stirring until well blended and warm. Mix in half of the shredded cheese and transfer the mixture to a baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve with celery sticks and cracker

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

Layered Tabbouleh salad

Red Bliss Potato Salad
2 1/4 lb. Red Bliss potatoes 
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fig balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup sliced kalamata olives sliced ( I use pitted)
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Scrub potatoes and cut into bite size pieces. Cook until almost tender.Drain. Rinse with cold water and drain again. Put potatoes in bowl. Combine next three ingredients, shake well. Toss over potatoes. Add olives and feta cheese and toss again lightly.
Serve at room temperature or chilled

Summer salad with strawberries, blueberries with Poppy seed dressing
1 package of spring mix salad or greens of your choice
2 cups of blueberries
1 cup strawberries cut in fourths
1 can mandarin oranges drained
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Clean and dry greens. Toss with all the ingredients and serve with Poppy seed dressing.

Poppy seed dressing
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated onion
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 cup oil
1 teaspoon salt  
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 teaspoon ground mustard

Combine all sugar, vinegar, salt. mustard, and onion in blender for 20 seconds. Gradually add in oil. Stir in poppy seeds.

Bobbi's Cole Slaw

1/2 head cabbage( I used Dole 24 oz bag of classic Cole slaw)
3 tsp. sesame seeds
3 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
6-8 scallions, chopped
3 Tbsp. silvered toasted almonds
1 pkg Ramen noodles(chicken or vegetable flavor), uncooked, crumbled
1/2 cup oil
3 Tbsp, sugar
1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper
4-5 Tbsp. white vinegar
1/2 pkg of seasoning from the noodles
Mix together dressing ingredients(it works well in a jar with a lid, so you can shake it up and store until needed). Toast sesame, sunflower seeds and almonds lightly. Add remaining ingredients and coat with dressing just before serving.

Red Velvet Cup Cakes  I am still perfecting the Red Velvet Cup Cakes made with beets or beet juice not red food coloring.. I made a recipe that called for beet juice and unprocessed light cocoa. Everyone loved the cup cakes but the cup cakes did not have the deep red coloring normally associated with Red Velvet Cup Cakes. Once I perfect or find a really good dye free cup cake I will post the recipe.

Blueberry Pie   I love blueberries just plain or in a pie.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup soft shortening
1/3 cup butter, but into pieces
7 Tbs. cold water
6 cups blueberries, rinsed
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
4 1/2 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbs butter
1 egg yolk
1 tsp whipping cream

Pastry: In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. With pastry blender cut in shortening and butter until mixture resembles coarse corn meal. Sprinkle the water over top and work mixture together with pastry blender or fingers until it comes together to form dough. Shape the dough into a ball. Place into plastic bag and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.(If I am in a hurry I have used the Pillsbury pie crust in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.)
Filling: Place rack in lower third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Empty the blueberries into a large bowl. In another bowl combine brown sugar, sugar, cornstarch and allspice. Add the sugar mixture to the blueberries and mix gently.
Divide pastry in half. On a floured surface roll one half into 13 inch round. Fit into a 10 inch pie plate, letting the pastry hang over the edge. Fill with blueberry mixture. Dot with butter. On a floured surface roll remaining pastry into a 13 inch round. Place over pie. Seal edges and crimp to form a decorative rim.
Glaze: In a small cup wish egg yolk and cream. Brush top of pie with mixture. Cut vents on the top. You can use mini cookie cutters to make a decorative top.
Bake pie 10 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake pie 35-40 minute longer or until nicely glazed, Cool on rack.

Well I think that I've included everything that I made. What I also try to do is keep a record of  what I made at different celebrations so I can find the recipes again. I learned the hard way!! I am still looking for the exact Health bar cake recipe that my twins say is the best.

Enjoy and share any of your favorite recipes with me!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happily ever after...

My oldest son is getting married and I was fortunate to be involved in planning the bridal shower. I had so much fun letting my creatively run wild and I do mean wild. I sometimes go over board well maybe all the time. It's just that I loved everything that when into planning the shower the invitation, favors, centerpieces, cake, just everything!
First I decided what I wanted to do for the shower and six months in advance I booked a restaurant for a lovely champagne brunch. From that start everything just fell into place. The feel of the shower was important to me so I chose everything to compliment the wedding theme and color. I wanted the look and feel of the shower to be simply elegant and most of all special for the bride.
First I started to look for invitations. I knew that I was going to do something more than just basic invitations and I was so lucky to find the most wonderful blank invitation with beautiful art work depicting three different style bridal shoes. Now did I say that I love shoes and I mean love and the bride loves shoes so these were the perfect invitations. The invitations are from a company called Four Seasons Designs. I just fell in love with all their invitations. The art work is wonderful, different and so unique. When I went to order the invitation I was sad to find out that the company is no longer offering their invitations, just their collection of calendars, because the owner is semi-retiring. I bought the last of the bridal shoe invitations, just enough for the shower.
Did I say I like to go over board, well just printing these beautiful invitations wasn't enough, I embellished each shoe. I attached pearls to the shoe with a pearl decoration, I sparkled the shoe with a rhinestone buckle and I added a ribbon bow to the shoe with a bow. And I made custom paper lined envelopes. I even matched up the address label and my return label. I forgot to mention that I am addicted to The Paper Source I purchased all my supplies from this store and I can't speak highly enough of the expert sales people who assisted me each step of the way. The finished invitations are just simply elegant. I had so much fun working on these invitations that I almost didn't want to be finished with the project.

After mailing out the invitations I started thinking about what I wanted to do for favors. Back to The Paper Source for more inspiration and help from my new friends at the store. The Paper Source has wonderful favor boxes in different shapes, colors and sizes that you can decorate in all fun ways to make the favors very personalized. I choice the pocket book style(Oh by the way in addition to loving shoes, handbags come in a close second!) in cream and I used the decorative paper from the invitations to decorate. I also made a ribbon handle and my personal favorite, I stamped on each pocket book "happily ever after" in gold ink. No I wasn't finished decorating yet, I used a paper flower with a pearl center as a seal for the pocket book. Each pocket book was filled with chocolate.

We decorated each table with the bride's grandmother's English bone tea cups and filled the tea cups with the traditional wedding almonds. I finished the table with a simple glass vase filled with ornamental grass and three blue hydrangeas from my garden. My friend who is an expert flower arranger share with me the tip to condition the hydrangeas before making the centerpieces. Conditioning prevents the hydrangeas from dropping their head. The easiest way to condition hydrangeas from your garden is to cut your flowers and put right them into water.(I bring a tub or bucket outside with me) Bring the flowers inside make a fresh cut on stem and immediately plunge the stem into boiling water for 10 seconds. Then, immediately plunge into cool water, all the way up to the neck and leave the flowers in the water over night. The reason is to force the air out of the stem which prevents the flowers from taking up more water than they are giving off. This really works. I wouldn't believe it unless I tried it on my hydrangeas.

I worked with the bakery to carry the color and tea cup theme and a beautiful cake was created complete with a tea cup that was filled with almonds.

The day of the shower was a beautiful perfect summer day. The bride-to-be was thrilled with the lovely shower.