Cake Decorating 101

Last night was my first cake decorating class.

Our instructor is a wonderful Greek lady named Mata. She’s a professional European pastry chef. One of the first things she said was that this class is not meant to be stressful. “You’re supposed to come here to relax.” Sweet.

The first  thing we learned was the proper technique for using the star tip.  We practiced on some sugar cookies.

It was pretty fun! I’ve never taking a culinary class before, and I’ve always wanted to. Working with icing and cookies, it wasn’t long before all my work stress evaporated.

My mom and I are taking it together. I’m a baker and she’s an artist, so perhaps together we could make some spectacular cakes. That is the goal, anyways. It was my mom’s idea for us to take the class, and I’m very glad she pushed for it. I would never have done it otherwise. I can’t wait to do my homework!

Cupcakes Revisited

For years, I have had a serious beef with cupcakes. Especially cupcakes at weddings. What started out as a cute idea to make an economical replacement for a wedding cake quickly became a ridiculous fad that was equaly expensive as a tiered masterpiece.

As a bride on a serious budget, I understand why someone would want to go cheaper, especially if they never had any desire for a cake in the first place. But cupcakes? They can be even more labor intensive than an actual cake, and when you eat one, it’s all crust! I’ve always hated making cupcakes, for that reason. Still, I have to admit, they’re cute. Just not when they pretend to be a wedding cake and end up costing the bride more money.

This was my background going into this week’s cupcake experiment.

I decided to make mini stawberry cupcakes with fluffy vanilla buttercream, and actually enjoy making them. And, I’m happy to say that the trial run was a success! The secret? DO NOT use a knife.

I made a delicious vanilla buttercream replacing milk with whipping cream, and putting the icing into a ziploc freezer bag, cutting the corner, and piping it onto the cupcakes. Real simple. Real easy. Real Quick.

I think I’ll do it again once Lent is over. 🙂

Holiday Baking Weekend

This past weekend, my soon-to-be mother-in-law let me use her kitchen to make Christmas cookies. I was so excited!! It was the first time in over a year that I had a kitchen to myself.

In the midst of all the excitement, I bit off WAY more than I could chew. I bought ingredients for 5 or 6 different Christmas cookies, forgetting that I had other things to do this weekend besides bake. Luckily my fiancé and my mom both stepped in to tell me to can it and just enjoy myself on Sunday. I did make some fabulous items, though. Ever had Oatmeal Cream Cheese Butterscotch Bars? I found the recipe on foodnetwork.com and they were AMAZING! Very labor intensive but worth it if you like cheesecake and butterscotch.

I had a lot of fun baking this weekend, but I’m very glad I’m not doing anymore for a while. I’m really looking forward to seeing James tonight and just relaxing!

CA’s Famous Veggie Pizza Recipe

As promised, here is the recipe to the veggie pizza everyone loves:

Ingredients

1 package pizza crust mix (I use Pillsbury hot roll mix)

1 tbsp olive oil (vegetable oil is fine too)

1 can pizza sauce (Don Peppino’s is the best)

2 cups (or more) shredded mozzarella

1 red pepper, cut into 1-2 inch strips

1/2 red onion,  cut into 1-2 inch strips

1 package sliced cremini mushrooms

1 small can sliced black olives

1 clove chopped garlic (optional)

Directions:

Make crust according to package directions. Working gently with your fingers, spread dough into pizza pan (I use a full cookie sheet). Using pastry brush, spread oil over dough. Next, using a spoon, spread sauce over dough, leaving room for crust (I use about 1/2 a can for a full cookie sheet pizza, less than 1/2 if the pizza is smaller). Sprinkle about 1 and 1/2 cups of the mozzarella on pizza and reserve the last 1/4 cup.

Spread all the toppings around on the pizza. If using garlic, make sure it’s TINY pieces in TINY amounts and spread FAR apart. Nobody wants a full mouth of garlic, trust me. Put remaining cheese on top of toppings.

Bake according to package directions, or 425F for 10-15 minutes.

Also, it’s ok if all the toppings look like they’re overcrowding the pizza. The mushrooms shrink significantly when cooked, so an overcrowded pizza looks normal after cooking. If you decide to include meat, pepperoni slices shrink as well.