Monday, March 26, 2012

Guest Post: Heather Baird of SprinkleBakes

Have you ever fantasized about having coffee with your favorite TV/movie star, author or sports personality?  You know, where you sit across the table, casually discussing this and that, whispering sweet recipes...

I've had that fantasy, too.  I've been following a blog for a while now.  My family has heard me for months talking about her recipes.   Just when I think I know what she's capable of, I see a new post and it blows my little mind.

I think she had me with her Triple Salted Caramel Cupcakes. 

I've always loved baking and making sweet things, but somehow, this blog really inspired me.  It made me want to try things I've never tried before.  I've always loved photography, but her blog made me look at food in a whole new way.  I guess I look up to her as a wise Sugar Sister.  I "liked" her Facebook page and followed along, finding her to be one of the sweetest people around.  She answers the enthusiasts questions, takes the admiration humbly, and still makes everyone feel like she's just another enthusiast - enjoying what she does for the sheer enjoyment!

If you're a fan like me, you can imagine how I felt when I got up the nerve to ask her for a guest post and she agreed.  I literally ran to the living room and told my hubby,

It happened!  And I'm sharing it all with you.

Gosh, I've pinched myself so many times already to be sure it's for real, but please meet Heather Baird, the award-winning blogger of SprinkleBakes!

My Stunning Mentor and Sugar Sister.

She's about to become even more famous with the upcoming release of her first book, SprinkleBakes: Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist

It is due to be published on May 1st, 2012 and you CAN pre-order it here!

The cover alone makes me GIDDY!

You want exclusive?  How about a peek at the inside flap? 

You can hear me squealing, can't you?
She's here to graciously answer my starstruck questions AND share a recipe with us!  I know, I'm totally a groupie.  In a good way!  Well, let's go, shall we?

ST:  I'd  love to hear what inspired you to begin blogging about baking, how your other hobbies (food photography) and such have come to play, and mostly how has expressing yourself in this way been so satisfying?

HB:  My creative outlet has always been painting, but at the time I was having a serious case of artist’s block. I decided to take a break from art and try something new.  I have always loved to bake, but just before I started blogging I had fallen in love with decorating sugar cookies.  I even had an Etsy shop for a short period of time selling flood-icing sugar cookies.

The blog was created on a whim, mostly to share these treats (visually) with friends and family.  I soon found myself drawn to other food blogs with creative recipes and beautiful photography.  That’s when I began to develop my own recipes and study food photography techniques.  I found the process as a whole - from baking to decorating to photographing –satisfied my every need to create. 

ST:  When did you start blogging?

HB:  I started blogging in late 2009. At the time, I had no idea it would become such a source of enjoyment and creativity.

ST:  What is your favorite ingredient?

HB:  That’s a tough question!  One year ago the answer would have been matcha green tea powder.   I still love matcha, but my current favorite is Valrhona chocolate.  I love using it in chocolate cake.   

ST:  Is there anything in the baking world that you are NOT a fan of making/eating?

HB:  I love to eat petit fours and cake pops, but I’m not a fan of making them.  It’s the dipping.  I want a smooth and uniform surface but my end result is less than perfect.  They still taste good, so I’m not too mad about that.

ST:  It's clear through your blog and Facebook that you're reaching a lot of people and making a lot of fans.  What's that like?

HB:  It’s great!  I love connecting with other baking enthusiasts.  I learn so much from them.  They make me a better baker.

ST:  Is the upcoming cookbook changing the way you blog?

HB:  For the most part, no.   I’d like to think my voice and the tone of the blog is still the same, but my recipes are formatted differently.  Going through the book editing process has taught me how to more clearly articulate my recipe directions. 

ST:  What's the most rewarding thing you've made/shared and why?  

HB:  I have a few memorable treats on my list, but one that stands out is a Tiramisu made from scratch.  The mascarpone cheese, lady fingers, zabaglione, pastry cream… all from scratch.  And you could taste every ounce of care that went into it!  I thought my husband was going to faint after he took the first bite.  It was delicious.  We were both sad when it was gone.  

And I'm sad that our chat is over, Heather!  But OMG I can't wait for you book release!  Thank you, Classy Lady.  You've made my sweet dream come true!  

Special thanks for this recipe, too!  How did you know that my Sprinkle-Baker-In-Training and I LOVED Strawberries?

Photo & Recipe Courtesy Heather Baird, SprinkleBakes.

Strawberry Cream Cake
Yield: one triple-layer 8-inch cake, or one double layer 9-inch cake

2 cups granulated sugar
3 oz.  package strawberry flavored gelatin
1 cup butter, softened
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease three 8-inch round cake pans (or two 9-inch) with shortening and line with parchment. Grease parchment; set aside.
  2. Cream together the sugar, strawberry gelatin and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time.  Whisk together flour and baking powder in a separate bowl; stir into the batter alternately with the milk.  Add vanilla extract and strawberry puree; mix until incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.  Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting/ garnish:
8 oz.  package cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tbsp. strawberry flavored gelatin
3 ½ cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
½ cup fresh strawberry puree
1 1/2 pints whole strawberries
1 cup white chocolate shavings
  1. Combine the cream cheese, butter and gelatin in a medium bowl; beat together on high speed with an electric mixer.  When well combined, add the powdered sugar; blend on low until the sugar has been incorporated.  Add strawberry puree.  Mix again on low; when fully incorporated, increase the speed to medium-high and beat the frosting until lightened and well combined.   
  2. Frost cooled cakes using an off-set spatula.  Press white chocolate shavings into the sides of the cake.  Refrigerate cake if not serving immediately.  Bring refrigerated cake to room temperature before serving.  
  3. Rinse and pat dry whole strawberries.  Just before serving, place the strawberries (stemmed or unstemmed, your choice) upright around the top edge of the cake. 
Note:  Leftover frosting can be stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.  Use it within 8 days – it is delicious and very pretty on vanilla cupcakes.

Photo Courtesy Heather Baird, SprinkleBakes


Thursday, March 22, 2012


Click for Photo Courtesy & Big Hint
Could there be anything more perfect than those first lovely strawberries in the spring?


My next guest post.  

It takes the cake.  And makes it, too.  Don't forget the sprinkles....

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Honesty of Petal Cake

She's the girl at the prom with the great dress, pretty hair and a huge butt.

I fell in love with Petal Cake over at Main Street Cupcakes.  Had never heard of it before.  The name was intriguing.  And then I tasted it.  Divinely delicate in every way.  The texture, the flavor, just downright dainty. 

I had to have it, er, well, I had to MAKE it.  I found this recipe here - one of the only ones I could find that described what I remembered eating.  I vowed to make it.  I admit, I have never made a cake from scratch before.  EVA. 

And then it snoozed in my recipe box for about 9 months. 

This early spring weather we're having had me purging for ideas and there it was.  Springtime?  Flowers blooming?  Bring on the Petal Cake!

For all her loveliness in my photos, I must be honest.  I am quite disappointed in my cake.  I did everything right.  The batter looked like silk.  Baked beautifully.  Texture looked grand.  And then,

It was dry.  Why, I ask you?

I used cake flour in the proportions described to replace AP flour.  I sifted.  I used the shortening despite the cake flour box recommending NOT to use shortening in place of butter or margarine.  I stayed true to the recipe as written.

I did not use the recipe for the buttercream that came with the cake recipe.  I went for a standard frosting recipe and added a little orange and almond extracts to heighten the cake flavors.  I also tinted it a pale peach color for some contrast.  It was too sweet.


I guess this is one of those times where it just didn't work as hoped.  But don't get me wrong, we're eating it.  Placing a scoop of Mango Sorbet beside it really helps cut the sweet frosting and does not at all hide the delicate orange/almond in the cake.  The melt-y sorbet probably saves your mouth from becoming a cake desert.

I learned a lot from this experience, but I want to learn more.  SO...

PLEASE comment on this post.  If you know anything about cake, take a look at this recipe and let me know what you think might cause this to be so dry.  Or if you have an outstanding recipe for Petal Cake that you will share.

2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk less one tablespoon
1/2 cup water less 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon orange extract
2/3 cup shortening
5 egg whites, unbeaten
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Sift first four ingredients into bowl. Add water, milk and flavorings. Drop in shortening and beat three minutes. Add egg whites and beat three minutes. Bake at 375 degrees until it tests done.
You can use two 9-inch round pans for 25 to 30 minutes, or a 13-by-9-inch pan or cupcake pan.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bailey's Irish Tower

May your cake rise up to meet you...

Castle in Ireland?  Nah.  My stone patio.

Well, I made it. I met my personal deadline to put out a St. Patrick's Day-worthy dessert today.  I'm not calling it perfect, but I'm liking a LOT of things about it.  I pulled out some old (easy) favorites and combined them with some new and experimental features.

Everyone is doing shamrocks.  I just can't do it, guys.  I wanted my dessert to reflect what I think of as Ireland.  A little stout.  A little rustic.  Simple, rich, and a touch of mystic.  Sometimes NOT for children.  And so, you have:

The Bailey's Irish Tower

Bailey's Irish Cream Cake + Spring Strawberry Filling + Irish Buttercream +
Gilded Chocolate Coin

I've been making the cake now for at least 5 years that I can remember, probably longer.  I love the recipe for this type of application because it's really simple, it uses a lot of shortcuts, and you can use it straight (say, a bundt cake dusted with powdered sugar) or in something a wee bit dandy, don't ya know.  For the purists, I apologize.  This cake starts with a box.  I make the rules here, so box is ok this time.  I could have covered this cake in ganache before stacking it, but that's not the Ireland I was going for today.  I wanted the craggy exposed cake edges - the cliff of my tower, if you will.

The strawberry filling is your basic alchemy of pulling out last spring's frozen berries from the freezer, thawing them, pureeing and boiling with a bit of sugar and cornstarch.  That's it.  Seriously.  But I must tell you, berries and Bailey's are an unbeatable combination.  The simple filling plays a huge role here, folks.

The buttercream.  Well, it's not buttercream, but it's better.  I looked to one of Ina Garten's awesome recipes for Mocha Icebox Cake and changed things up to my specifications.  I really didn't want to add coffee to this, although I think you could.  I'd rather be drinking it along side what I've done here.  And I shall.

The gilded coin?  This has been in my head since I started planning this post.  Thanks to a lovely lady in Quebec named Lili, I was able to obtain the darling "Celtic knot" mold and brainstorm how to use it.  She's been so helpful to me that I'd like to give her a mention here.  If you are interested in her molds and how to use them, drop by and see what she's got!  I'll give you a quick peek here, too.

It starts here:  use your favorite brand, but I cannot deny Bailey's Irish Cream.

The countryside in Ireland?  Nah.  My backyard.
The cake.  I've had this recipe so long, forgive me if I cannot remember where it came from.  Likely the internet, early 2000's.

18 1/4 oz pkg yellow cake mix
4 oz instant chocolate pudding
3/4 c oil
1/8 c water
1/4 c vodka
3/8 c Bailey's Irish Cream
4 eggs.

Throw it all together in your mixer and beat till smooth.  Today I poured it into a greased & floured jellyroll pan and baked it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.  You could do cupcakes, a bundt, the possibilities are endless.  Let it cool.  Wanna build a tower?  Cut out into circles (or shamrocks if you're obvious.)

The Strawberry Filling Simple.  Don't use nasty frozen berries.  It matters.

10 oz frozen strawberries, thawed
1/4 c sugar
1 T cornstarch

Puree the berries and heat them in a small saucepan with sugar and cornstarch until just boiling, stirring constantly.  This mixture should thicken quickly. Let it cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

Irish Whipped Cream  My husband tasted this and was speechless.  If you know him, you understand the importance of that statement.

2 c cold heavy cream
12 oz Italian Mascarpone cheese (OK, OK the Irish don't make anything close, sorry)
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c Bailey's Irish Cream
2 T unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

In an electric mixer with a whisk attachment, combine all of the above on low speed, then slowly raise the speed until it forms stiff peaks.  Then stand back and be a goddess.

Gilded Chocolate Coins  I love this little mold from Lili.  I really do.
Mine is yellow.  So many possibilities!
 I was going to temper some chocolate and make coins that way, but with one little mold at a time?  Nah.  I chatted with Lili and she agreed modelling chocolate would not only work, but work well.  Thanks, Lili!

8 oz dark chocolate
3 1/2 oz corn syrup
cocoa powder for dusting/anti-sticking

Melt the chocolate in the microwave or double boiler as usual.  Cool till it's feels cool but it's still fluid.  Heat the corn syrup JUST until it starts to boil. Add the heated corn syrup to the melted chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until it forms a smooth paste.  It comes together, really it does!  Like a sticky dough.  Wrap in  plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour until it's firm.

It will feel like a ROCK but when you are ready to model, just snap off little pieces and knead a bit with hands and fingers.  I rolled mine into balls and used a bit of cocoa powder to keep them stiff enough to release from the mold.  * I dusted the details of my mold with edible gold pearl dust using a little brush.  Then I pressed my little rolled ball into the mold and carefully released it.  The gold relief was just enough sparkle.  You could go completely crazy with this stuff.  And I will, because I have a nice big block stored in my fridge that will keep for 8 months now.  I let my coins air-dry and they stay pretty stiff but not hard or snappy at all.  I love that little bite of chocolate picking up the other cocoa notes in this tower cake.

I was all out of four-leaf clovers so I garnished with mint.

The cake as shown is one disk of cake covered in the strawberry filling, letting some ooze out over the sides.  I piped some of the cream atop to give a platform to stack the second cake disk and just piped my swirls atop and along the base.  This would NOT be the same without that lucky bit o'gold on top.

I wish you could taste this, you guys.  "What butter and whiskey won't cure, there is no cure for."

Happy St. Patrick's Day!