Monday, January 25, 2010

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows, Dulce De Leche Sandwich Cookies and Linzer cookies

Almost catching up on blog posts!

2009 has been a special year for me. Work's been great, friends, family, and more wonderful people have become an important part of my life. And I was fortunate enough to launch Cakes by Ji. Thanks everybody for your support!

Awhile back, I read an article in Bon Appetit magazine on homemade marshmallows. The author, Molly says in this article that "Homemade marshmallows are impossibly delicious -- and making them for someone special could possibly change your life". I had never been a huge fan of marshmallow (except for in S'more and cereal treats) because of its styrofoamy, dry texture. But after reading this intriguing article, I absolutely had to try making marshmallows myself. I had been procrastinating, busy baking cakes instead, but this holiday season was the perfect opportunity to give it a shot -- thanking those special people around me with homemade marshmallows!

So I decided to make marshmallows with toasted coconut for some crunch and cookies with fruit fillings and homemade dulce de leche for something extra.

Making marshmallow was just like how Molly describes in her article. I ended up with sticky white clumps in my hair, my shirt, on the kitchen counter and all over the mixer. And she was even more spot on with what homemade marshmallows taste like -- absolutely delicious. They were nothing like the store bought ones and now I'm officially in love with marshmallows.

For the cookies, homemade dulce de leche, which turned out to be a lot easier to make than I had anticipated, was sandwiched between two sugar cookies. Sticky luscious dulce de leche oozing out on the side made these cookies wonderfully mouthwatering. To satiate the fruity, tangy craving, some cookies were filled with apricot, bluebeery, and raspberry jam.

May all your 2010 be filled with joy!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red velvet cake has got to be one of the most festive looking cakes with its bright red color accompanied by snow white frosting. For my friend Heesun and Jenny's Christmas party at their place (I know my post is very delayed...), I decided to bring something little to provide people with a bit of tasty sugar rush to get the party going.

I made mini red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting flavored with a hint of vanilla. To jazz up their looks, they were simply decorated with mini M&Ms. I almost ate the entire bag of them while trying to decorate the cupcakes by the way. Dangerous stuff.

I was happy to see the cupcakes disappear quickly and of course, everyone seemed to be having a blast at the party. Happy 2010 everybody!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Carrot Cake and Pina Colada Cupcakes

More overdue posts!

My coworker Russ who had ordered the South Park cake for his son Alexander's birthday came back to order some more cake and this time for his wife Donna's surprise birthday (Thanks Russ!). The party was for about 30-40 people so one round cake was not gong to be enough. With some helpful suggestions from Donna's close friends and Russ, we decided to go with a carrot cake, one of Donna's favorite, and pina colada cupcakes seen in my earlier cake posts.

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting may just be one of my favorite cakes. There are a lot of carrot cake recipes out there that call for crushed pineapple, but they tend to result in overly sweet carrot cakes that hide the subtle carrot flavor. I like my carrot cake with spices, lots of carrots for texture and natural sweetness, and chopped walnuts for extra crunch and nuttiness.

This 9" round carrot cake is a four layer cake. The carrot cake layer itself was extremely moist and light and held the body quite well to be stacked into a multi-layer cake. In between the cake layers was the sweet vanilla flavored cream cheese frosting with a hint of tanginess from the cheese.

And some golden and dark raisins that have been plumped up to be juicy and soft were sprinkled on the frosting. I wanted to keep the raisins out of the cake batter and include them in the frosting instead just in case the non-raisins fans wanted to pick them out.

I had a lot of fun decorating this cake. I didn't want it to look like any other carrot cakes out there -- usually with chopped walnuts around the side and maybe some orange and green frosting piped to look like little carrots. I wanted to make it look like one of a kind.

The cake was finished with more cream cheese frosting then piped with some frosting tinted with an orange coloring and adorned with white chocolate decorations with a teensy bit of green color. This was my take on those mini frosted carrots commonly found on carrot cakes. Finally, the cake was topped with homemade candied walnuts and raisins for more color and textural contrast.

As for the cupcakes, rather than using rum flavored cream cheese frosting as I did previously, I decided to frost them with coconut buttercream with a hint of rum flavoring. Since the carrot cake had cream cheese frosting, I wanted to keep the cupcakes different. The fluffy melt-in-your-mouth frosting and the creamy pineapple custard filling proved to be a perfect combination.

Another change I made to these cupcakes was that I put some fresh lime zest into the pineapple custard filling. This added a whole other dimension of freshness to the sweet tangy filling that made these pina colada cupcakes taste like the real thing -- or actually better!

Thanks Irene and Lisa for all your helpful inputs and Russ for ordering once again!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle

With holidays and the end-of-the-year craze and all, I am finally getting around to posting my Thanksgiving blog. I am going to be posting a bunch of overdue ones in the next few days hopefully so stay tuned!

Trifle is one of my favorite things to make for dessert -- It's easy to make, quite fool-proof, and very festive and pretty with all the visible layers. I also love anything pumpkin-y. I've only made berry trifles in the past with fresh summer berries and simple vanilla sponge cake. But this time, I wanted to try something different and something with a more holiday feel to it. So I decided to make a Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle to bring to my boyfriend's family's Thanksgiving dinner I was invited to.

Being able to see the different layers and seeing them build up as you fill the trifle bowl is extremely satisfying. Generous layers of velvety, sweet pumpkin mousse and cinnamon whipped cream were spread between three layers of spiced gingerbread cake.

The last layer of pumpkin mousse was topped with more whipped cream, toasted pumpkin seeds for some texture, decorations of sugar cookies, and finally a light sprinkle of cinnamon.

This one is a definite keeper - all the holiday goodness in one giant pretty bowl!