Monday, January 31, 2011

Adventures in Cake Decorating: Day 1

I've always been fascinated by those cake shows on Food Network and TLC. The cakes on those shows are tall and pristine. Almost too beautiful to eat, almost. It's an art form this artistically challenged momma has always wanted to learn. The one thing I lacked was the motivation to get started.

Upon the eve of my little guys 6 month birthday, it's dawned on me that he'll be having a 1st birthday party in 6 months (duh)! Then I thought to myself how cool it would be if I could make his birthday cake. After the initial excitement wore off, a little knot in my stomach showed up reminding me how little artistic capacity I have. So, I have set a goal to practice 'icing art', as I like to call it, so that by next August I'll have enough skill to make a pretty (notice I didn't say beautiful) cake for my sons 1st birthday. What better way to keep track of my progress than to chronicle it on my blog! So, please grab your popcorn, sodas, pickles, whatever you'd like and enjoy the show. You're in for some highly entertaining pictures.

To begin this journey, I ventured over to to order some supplies I'd need to practice with. After comparing the different kits they offered, I finally decided on the Wilton 53 Piece Supreme Cake Decorating Set . I chose this set because it included a Beginners Guide, an offset spatula, disposable piping bags, 2 tip couplers, icing coloring, and good amount of tips. That's pretty much everything you need to decorate a cake besides the frosting.

After whipping up a batch of buttercream icing, I fitted a piping bag with a coupler, added a tip and filled that sucker up with some icing. This was my very first time ever holding a piping bag in my hand. At first I found it very awkward to hold the soft, squishy bag. Once I got used to the feel of the bag, I tried squeezing out some buttercream I made to make a ribbon. Simple, right? Well, you can see for yourself:

I tried to make a ribbon first. As you can see, my first attempt turned out a little less than pleasant. Apparently I was holding the bag so that the tip was upside down, oops. Ribbon number 2 shows the most improvement, in my opinion. Ribbon number 3 is the most eye catching out of the three. Once I was done with the ribbons, I switched tips and tried doing some rosettes. They're not the best, but not awful either. The tail end of the rosettes kept sticking up and not lying flat. That's something I'll need to work on. I think my icing was too thick, I'll have to make a thinner batch next time.

Next, I tried doing the traditional shell edge. It's a pretty basic cake decorating technique and is seen on most cakes you buy from the bakery nowadays. One thing that felt odd to me was that you start from the right  and work your way left. Obviously this went against the Western doctrine of doing everything left to right that is ingrained  in me. It started out quite well, for a beginner, but by shell number six I lost my stride.

 After the shelled edge, I tried my hand at a zigzag puff. As you can tell, that crashed and burned miserably. It was so bad, I didn't even attempt it a second time. I needed something that I could pull off somewhat decently to give me to ego boost to carry on the mission at hand. So I switched tips and tried to do a basket weave. It was surprisingly simple, even though it doesn't look that great. But hey, it's my first time. Finally, I ended with some simple dots. At least I thought they would be simple. Those little suckers look deceptively easy. One would think that piping a dot of frosting would be the simplest thing ever, right? Well, this artistically challenged momma proved that theory wrong. As you can tell, I have A LOT to learn. But it's a start. Overall I think I did well for a beginner.

For fun, I piped on a cookie I had left over for my husband. It's supposed to be a heart and arrow with 'A + N' written inside. If you look very closely, you can sort of make it out.

As you all can see I have a lot to learn in the realm of cake decorating. But this is my start and I look forward to documenting my progress. A short term goal of mine is to be able to pipe a shelled edge around the perimeter of a heart shaped cake for Valentine's Day. We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Potato Pancake Hamburger on a Biscuit Bun

This super awesome hamburger has three components that contribute to its awesomeness:
  1. The biscuit bun
  2. The potato pancake
  3. The hamburger patty
This tender, juicy hamburger patty is complimented with a cheesy biscuit bun and with a potato pancake that'll knock your socks off. It sounds like a lot of work goes into this production, but it's actually quite simple. This is one recipe I'd consider making if I were having friends over for a casual get together.

The Biscuit Bun


1 cup of biscuit mix
2/3 cup of shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend but use whatever you'd like)
2/3 cup of milk
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Sal & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Combine all ingredients until a sticky dough is formed. You may need to add extra milk if the mix isn't coming together completely, do so at a teaspoon at a time.

Spoon discs of dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Each disc should be about as big as you'd like the bun to be. The biscuits will spread out a little in the oven, but not much. Bake the biscuits for 8-7 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.

Yields 5 biscuits

The Potato Pancake

I had never made or even eaten a potato pancake before this and I have to say I was somewhat intimidated by the thought of making it. Now that I have the first batch under my belt, I can honestly say it's not that big of a deal. They're easy to put together and cook quickly.


1 medium sized red potato, peeled
¼ of a large onion
1 large egg
1/3 cup of biscuit mix

Shred the onion and potato using the shredding blade of a food processor or a box grater. Using 2 layers of paper towels, press all the liquid out of the onions and potatos. Beat the egg and stir in the biscuit mix in a medium bowl then add the shredded onion and potato. Spray a heated pan with cooking spray and spoon the potato mixture to make the potato pancakes. Allow the pancakes to cook for about 2 minutes on each side and then transfer them to a cookie sheet and bake at 450 degree for about 8 minutes. I was able to swap out the biscuits for the pancakes by the time I was ready to put the pancakes in the oven.

Yielded 3 pancakes.

The Hamburger Patty

I don’t like to fuss over the patties when I’m making hamburgers. I believe that the less seasonings and kneading you do to the meat, the more tender the meat will be.

To create my hamburger patty, I took ¼ of a pound of ground beef, formed it into disc and seasoned the top with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. I cooked the patty in a hot pan coated with cooking spray for 2 minutes on each side. IMPORTANT: Only flip your meat patty ONCE. If you flip it over and over again, the meat could fall apart or could dry out, and nobody likes a dry hamburger. After the patty has cooked on both sides, let it sit for a few minutes so the meat can absorb its own juices.

Now that all three components of the recipe are ready to party together, you’ll want to slice one of the biscuits in half with a serrated edged knife then stack your hamburger patty and pancake and viola! The best burger you’ve ever had. I added a slice of tomato and some fresh lettuce. Don’t bother with mustard or ketchup, this burger is delish the way it is.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Moist Apple Spice Bread

This apple bread is perfect for someone who doesn't like an overpowering sweet taste in their quick breads. I enjoyed this wonderfully moist bread with my morning coffee during Christmas. I used Gala apples, but you can use whatever brand is on sale in your store. This recipe comes from the blog. 

The batter will fill up the bread pan (see picture above), but don't worry, this bread doesn't rise much so you don't have to worry about it overflowing. To be safe, I placed the bread pan onto a cookie sheet just in case. Also, the original recipe called for a spice called Cardamom but I omitted it since it was so pricey. If you have Cardamom in your pantry already or if you don't mind the price, go ahead and add 1/2 teaspoon. While we're on the topic of spices, you can play with the spices to fit your pallet and make this delicious bread your own.


  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded apples (about 2 apples)
  • 3/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir flour, salt, sugar, baking powder and all spices in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together butter, eggs, milk and vanilla in a separate bowl.
  4. Once combined, pour butter mixture into flour and stir until partially combined.
  5. Stir in shredded apples and pecans until the batter is well combined.
  6. Pour batter into a a greased and floured loaf pan and bake for about an 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
  7. Allow the pan to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then turn bread out of pan and allow to cool completely on the wire rack.
This recipe makes 1 delicious loaf.

Peruvian Brownies

Brownies is a food that will melt away all your worries with a single bite. I found the recipe for these delectable little treats on the Peruvian cooking website My husband described these as 'the best brownies ever', I think he may be a little partical considering he is Peruvian and all. However, I am not Peruvian so I can tell you that these, unbiasedly, are the most delicous brownies I've ever tasted in my life! I immediately packed up and froze half the batch otherwide my husband and I would devour them all with in a couple of days! Hello, my name is Nicole and I am a sweets-a-holic. Is there a 12 step program for a problem like this?

This recipe is very simple to make and requires very basic ingredients. I believe you'll thoroughly enjoy these.


  • 1 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 9 oz Butter
  • 3 cups Sugar
  • 2 cups Flour
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • Powdered Sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan or double broiler on medium low heat. Remove from heat once completely melted.
  3. Mix in cocoa powder with melted butter until smooth.
  4. Once cocoa is completely incorporated, mix in sugar.
  5. Transfer the sugar mixture to a large bowl and mix in eggs.
  6. Sift flour and salt into sugar mixture and combine completely.
  7. Place batter in a rectandular baking dish (I used an 11 in x 7 in pan) that's been buttered and floured.
  8. Bake brownies for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
I like my brownies very soft and gooey but if you prefer a firmer brownie, bake them for 10 to 15 minutes more, checking on them every 5 minutes or so.

You can jazz up your brownies any way you'd like. A few ideas that immediately come to mind are:
  • Vanilla extract
  • Chocolate chips
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • 1 tsp of instant coffee mix
Feel free to make this recipe your own! These are officially my favorite brownie recipe ever!

This recipe yeilded me 24 1 inch square brownies that were quite thick. You could use a larger baking pan and get more, thinner brownies if you'd like. Just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don't overbake.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

I wanted to include something in my Christmas goodie baskets that would warm my family up. What else does the trick better than a nice warm cup of hot chocolate? I made this recipe that I found on The Confections of a Foodie Bride blog. This recipe makes a ton of hot chocolate mix, so if you're just making this for yourself, you could easily cut the recipe in half and have enough to last you for a long time. The original recipe called for 2 things that I couldn't find, vanilla beans and dutch process cocoa powder, so I improvised and used plain Hershey brand cocoa and left out the vanilla entirely. The hot chocolate still turned out delicious! This recipe is so easy to make, it'll knock your socks off!

  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 24 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 9 oz dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups cocoa powder
1. In a blender or food processor with a metal blade, process both chocolates until finely ground using short pulses (3-4 seconds). I did mine in batches in the blender and one thing I noticed is that i needed to let the blender blades cool down after each batch otherwise the heat from the blade would melt the chocolate. Just something to keep in mind.

2. Add ground chocolate and cocoa powder to sugar in a large blow. There can be unmixed cocoa or sugar at the bottom of the bowl so be sure to combine completely.

That's it! So simple yet so delectable. This mix can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months. I divided it into 9 1 cup services in cellophane bags. I included a tag on each bag that instructed the recipient to make mix 2 tablespoons of mix in with 8 ounces of hot milk. You could top this with whipped cream if you're feeling extra jazzy. I liked to mix a sprinkle of cinnamon in mine.