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Monday, May 30, 2011

Simple Elegant Cake

Do you have one of those figural cake pans and wonder what to do with it?  Or have you avoided buying one because you didn't know when you would use it?  I have a set of silicone pans, and so I came up with this idea.  It has gone over well every time I have served it.  On Mother's Day, there weren't even any crumbs left.

Besides a pan, you will need:

A white cake mix and the ingredients to make the cake, confectioner's sugar, food coloring, and the flavoring of your choice.

A note about cake mix:  I do not think that any cake mix is better than another.  I used the Pillsbury brand this time because it was the cheapest. 

Preheat your oven and prepare the cake mix as the box directs.  I like to use the "egg-whites only" version.

I have included a brief video demonstration for separating eggs, just in case you have never done that before.  
If you have, please scroll past it!

Once you have separated the yolks and the whites, you can discard the yolks.

Mix the batter according to the directions on the box.  I usually try a higher speed on the mixer for about 20 seconds at the end to make the batter more frothy.

Make sure to spray your pan very well.  I use olive oil, but any cooking spray should work.  It is important to coat the entire pan, though.  My oil usually puddles in the petals of the flower, but I really don't want my cake to stick in the pan.

Pour the cake batter in your pan.  I fill mine about 3/4 of the way to the top.

My pan is not big enough to hold the entire batter, so I put the rest in a loaf pan and bake it alongside my flower cake.  This makes a nice snack while you wait for your guests.

A note about baking times:  The suggested baking times do not usually mention a silicone pan, or the odd ratio of sizes that I use.  I usually pick the least amount of time and check with a toothpick to see if they are done.

They're finished!

You will find that the cake rises over the top of the pan as it cooks.  You can fix this in one of two ways.  You could use a bread knife and slice off the excess.  This would work well if you have limited time and must serve your cake warm (which does taste good).  I choose to take more time and flatten mine.

While the cake is still hot, cover it with a clean dishtowel.  (A non-terry cloth one would be best.)  Then, put a plate with a flat bottom on top of the towel, and finally, something heavy, like a large glass mixing bowl.  Let the cake cool with the weight on top.

After the cake is cool and the top is flat, you could go ahead and put it on a plate.  However, I find that the cake comes out of the pan more easily if it has been refrigerated.  Cover your cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for a few hours.

Then, turn it over onto your serving dish.

Carefully remove the pan.  I must confess that this is the first time mine has ever come out with nothing stuck to the pan.  That is why I think the extra oil and refrigeration are important.  Each time I tried it that way, my cake looked nicer than my previous attempts.  If some of your petals do stick to the pan, gently pull them off and place them where they should have gone on the cake.  No one will notice, and your cake will still taste fantastic.

Now, for the best part.  The glaze will change a simple cake mix into a special dessert.  

You will need 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's sugar, and 1/3 cup of water to start.

Mix the water and sugar together until all of the sugar is dissolved.  The glaze should have a very watery consistency.  If you would like, you could add flavoring at this point.  I use almond extract, but you could try orange, strawberry, peppermint or anything else that you like.  With the almond flavoring, you need 3/4 to 1 teaspoon of flavoring, depending on how strong a taste you prefer.

Once you have stirred in your flavoring, separate three tablespoons of the glaze into a small bowl, and mix in 1 drop of yellow food coloring.

Add three drops of red to the remaining glaze and stir.

Now, spoon the yellow glaze over the center of the flower.  You will want your glaze to puddle in the indentations of the top of the cake.

Next, spoon the pink glaze over the rest of the flower.  Be careful not to get it in the yellow glaze.

If you let your cake sit for 30 minutes to an hour, the glaze will soak into the cake a little bit, and the sugar will crystalize a little bit on the top.  I prefer my cakes to look that way, but you could glaze them at the last minute if you want them to look like the picture above.

This is a view after sitting for about 40 minutes.

Of course, the best part of a cake is eating it.  ENJOY!

Editor's note:  This cake is just a suggestion.  You could experiment with any shape pan, any flavoring, and other colors.  Happy Eating!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Displaying "Stained Glass"

 This is a picture of the project from last week's post.  This week, I would like to give some suggestions on how to show off what you make!  If anyone tries these, please let me know.  I would love your feedback!

This time, you will need cardstock, photo corners (also called photo splits), and a paper cutter.  I also find the matting paper helpful.

Begin by choosing a piece of cardstock and cutting it in half.  Then, trace the outline of your acetate onto  one piece.  You should center it from side to side, and keep it at one end.

Next, make marks about 1/2 inch from the edge of the acetate.  It may be easier to just draw a second rectangle inside the first one.  I have tried it both ways, and the rectangle method, also pictured below, worked better for me.

Then, use a paper cutter or scissors to cut out the inner rectangle.

 Once you have a "window" cut into your paper, trace the cut out rectangle onto the uncut piece.  Then, trim the second rectangle.

Then, line up both rectangles and trim one end of the paper so you have an even border on all sides.

Put photo corners on each corner.  Make sure to use the side of the paper with the pencil marks on it.  That will become the inside and the marks will be hidden.  Center your acetate over the window you just cut in one of the sheets of paper.  If you drew the outer rectangle, this should be easy to line up.

Stick the acetate to the first set of photo corners and then apply a second set to the top of the acetate.

Adhere the second piece of cardstock (pencil side in) to the stack.  Now, you should have a nice frame around your work.  You can see the view from the front and the back.  

You can make a simple hanger with ribbon and photo splits.

Cut two pieces of ribbon to length, and attach photo corners to the ends.

Peel of the backing and slide the ribbon between the two halves of the frame.

Tie the ribbon in a bow and you are done!

If you would rather make a card to send to someone, try one of these ideas.

Start with a piece of cardstock and fold it in half.

Place your stained glass design on the card where you would like it to appear.  

If you have a smaller design, you will want to trim the edges off of the card, as shown.

Again, look at where you would like to place your picture, and then open the card to the inside front.  If you lay the front of the card on your table, you will be looking at your card "backwards."  Lay your acetate down where you would like it to appear on the front, and trace around it.

When you open the card, the image will be on the opposite side.

Once you have traced around the acetate, draw a second rectangle about a 1/3 of an inch inside the original box.  Then, cut along the inside rectangle.

If you do not have a paper cutter, or you cannot fit your paper easily within the dimensions of your cutter, you can use a pair of scissors.

Next, trace your folded card onto a matching piece of cardstock and cut it out.  You will only need enough to cover the inside front of your card.

As with the frame, trace and cut a matching rectangle on the new piece of cardstock.

On the inside of your card, place photo corners and attach the stained glass design.

Next, apply photo corners on top of the acetate and in the corners of the card.   Then, adhere the extra piece of cardstock that you just cut to finish it off.

To make your design stand out, cut a piece of white cardstock or photo matting paper to fit on the inside of your card.  It looks nice if you leave a border of about 1/4 inch outside the white.

Use photo corners to stick your white paper inside.

You can make a second type of card by following the same instructions as you would for the frame--except you just don't cut off the excess paper.  I did have to trim the width of mine, as the picture was small, but I left most of the length of the paper.  

When you stick on the photo corners to put the top layer of paper on, put  some extras on the sides, and an extra row of them at the bottom of your picture.

After you stick the front panel on, gently fold the bottom of the BACK panel up, making a slight crease.  Then, fold it up all the way, making it flat on the table.

When you fold the flap back down, you will have a card that stands up to display your work.

You could add a message to the front of your cards, or just write on the inside.