A couple of weeks ago I needed to bake a lot of cupcakes for a couple of different events. Because one event involved children I wasn’t sure my usual cream cheese frosting would go over so well. I asked one of my sisters and her daughter if they had any favorite frosting recipes and they each shared a winner.
My sister shared a Fluffy Vanilla Frosting recipe that worked up really well. I have to say it swirled out of the pastry bag and made the cupcakes look like something from the bakery. The frosting is less sweet than the store-bought version and very smooth. I think the secret to this recipe is all of the time spent whipping the ingredients together. I actually set the time for 4 minutes to add the sugar and then for another 5 minutes to whip up that frosting so it was light and fluffy. Who knew air could be such an important frosting ingredient?
I liked the vanilla version so much that I decided to adjust her recipe to make it chocolate rather than using my usual fudge-y recipe. I melted some bittersweet chocolate, let it cool down so it didn’t melt the butter and beat that in after combining the vanilla, salt, cream and butter. Then I increased the powdered sugar to 4 1/2 cups to make up for the added liquid of the chocolate. It was a real winner. Never have I gotten so many compliments on cupcakes I’ve made.
- 1½ C (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
- 3 T heavy Cream
- 2½ t Vanilla extract
- ¼ t salt
- 3 C confectioners sugar
- Using a stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, cream, vanilla, and salt together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to med-low, slowly add confectioners sugar, and beat until incorporated and smooth, 4 minutes.
- Increase mixer speed to med-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5 minutes.
- Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; let soften at room temperature, about 2 hours then rewhip using mixer on medium speed until smooth, 2-5 min.
- For the Chocolate Frosting variation:
- Melt 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate and set aside to cool. After the beating together the butter, cream, vanilla and salt add in the melted chocolate and beat until smooth.
- Increase the powdered sugar to 4½ C and add it slowly to the creamed mixture and then beat it for 5 minutes to finish.
For my next cupcake event I used a variation on the recipe my niece sent me. I needed a larger quantity of frosting than the recipe she sent made and in searching for bigger batches I found the recipes big sister here. This one actually makes more frosting than you need for 24 cupcakes (and you can see I was rather generous with the frosting) but leftovers are never bad, or if you have a big layer cake this would be perfect.
This frosting is super creamy and not extra sweet. Several people asked me if it was whipped cream. It has that texture but with no cream involved.
Do be sure to really follow those picky seeming directions though – slowly whisk the cold milk into the flour and go slow so there are zero lumps. Be sure to cook the mixture at least 10 minutes even if it thickens earlier so that your frosting tastes delicious and not like powdery flour (which is totally not delicious!) And whip and whip it at the end until it is really creamy and fluffy and the sugar is totally dissolved. Give it a taste and if the frosting is the littlest bit grainy keep whipping until it is completely smooth. Finally, make sure you chill it so that it pipes out perfectly with crisp edges.
Hope all your cupcakes are delicious!
– – marcella
At the beginning of this year I set two sewing goals. One was quickly discarded and the other accomplished. After all, who could resist making a quilt for this cute guy?
I used the Pow Wow pattern which went together really easily. The quilting was done in rows alternating between straight lines and a meander. The back is a cozy flannel.
Then came all the things I sewed which weren’t on the list.
I had fun making some small projects. Always nice to be able to start and actually finish something in a short span of time!
Time was also spent making progress on projects.
I got another section of that Japanese Basket Quilt completed. The borders are nearly finished and then I’ll just have the flower filled center basket to complete. I made a whole lot of rows for the Moda Trifle Dish quilt. Just two left to go. I’m having a hard time deciding what to use for the sashing fabric between the rows. Finally, I couldn’t resist Lori Holt’s instagram Christmas quilt project. I really tried to just enjoy what others were making but then this darling snowman block showed up and I was hooked. I found the book at a local quilt shop and dug out some scraps and the top is very nearly finished. I even have a backing and binding fabric ready to go.
Last but not least are a couple of unexpected projects that I didn’t expect to do but I really enjoyed.
My son was married this fall and the bride was hoping for orange napkins. We found some in the perfect color but not enough for all the guests. In order to have enough matching napkins we ended up buying lots of matching orange tablecloths and cutting them up. I got really good at pressing and hemming!
This year I decided I really just wanted a little tree in the family room rather than a huge tree. I found the perfect tree at Home Goods and wrapped it with white dew drop lights. It sat on a little table next to the fireplace. However, it really needed a tree skirt to brighten things up. I remembered that years ago I had bought a wool kit at PIQF for a wallhanging. I turned that pattern into a tree skirt and it went together much quicker than expected.
Well, I didn’t exactly work on what I thought I would this year, but I did accomplish quite a bit. Here’s to another year of quilting surprises.
– – marcella
I’ve been having a lot of fun lately puttering around the kitchen and even in the sewing room. I’d nearly forgotten how to find the sewing room with all the wedding busy that was going on around here.
First adventure was making up some key fobs.
I had the hardware on hand and after rummaging though my scrap bag found some cute fabrics to use. These will be taken to quilt bee next week for a little holiday gift. The pattern I used is a freebie here.
After Thanksgiving we were craving some homemade soup. Nothing is better with some soup than hot homemade rolls. I’d bookmarked this recipe in Southern Living magazine.
I changed the shape a little bit – you know me, I have to change something. And we mixed the rosemary into the dough rather than into the butter that was brushed on the rolls. They were really yummy and worth the effort of a special trip to the grocery store for buttermilk and potato flakes.
Finally, I could no longer resist Lori Holt’s darn cute Christmas quilt-along that she’s been doing over on instagram – #haveyourselfaquiltylittlechristmas I’d been good. Just enjoying the blocks as they popped up and seeing all the adorable quilts being made. Then she posted a snowman block for the quilt label and I caved. I had to make a snowman!
Now she’s started a little quilt made up of nine of these guys. I’ve resisted that too. Mr. Snowman hangs alone right now on the design wall. Not sure what he’ll become, but he’s fun to look at.
Making Mr. Snowman got me in a holiday sewing mood. I dug out a wool kit that I’d bought a couple years ago. I’d seen the sample hanging at PIQF and couldn’t resist. Then I got home and opened the pattern and saw the zillion and sixty pieces to trace and cut out and packed it all back up. This time I took a good look; realized I could copy the pattern using a copy machine onto freezer paper sheets and it wouldn’t take long at all. That afternoon I’d stitched up three of the little stockings.
Two more to go and I’m done! The pattern calls for sewing them onto a larger piece of wool and framing it. I’m going to sew them onto a big circle of wool and make them into a little Christmas tree skirt. This year I’m thinking little tree on a table instead of giant tree in the living room. We’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll get energetic and we’ll have both.
Yesterday was book group and this is the one meeting with lots of treats. Everyone brings a small plate of something and we read something Christmas themed. I was craving homemade caramels so I gave this recipe a try.
They turned out really well. I do like my caramels toasty so I took the sugar fairly dark (like some recipes say “until it looks like a copper penny”) before adding in the cream and butter. The recipe says to cut them into 40 squares but that seemed too large so each square was cut in half. Now I have a TON of caramels, but that’s not such a horrible thing, is it?
What have you been making?
– – marcella
Recently I pulled out an old favorite cookbook that had been neglected too long. It’s The Simpler The Better by Leslie Revsin and it’s full of easy to make dishes that taste like they took more effort than they actually did.
I was wanting some sort of chicken but none of my usual recipes sounded like exactly what I wanted. I also wanted leftovers for lunch. The recipe in the book for Waldorf Chicken Legs filled the bill. The original recipe calls for 4 whole chicken legs but because of my need for leftovers I used 8 drumsticks instead. I am sure if you are a white meat lover you can use chicken breasts but you will have to adjust the cooking time.
Making dinner was simply a matter of mixing together some herbs and spices, rubbing them onto the chicken, adding a sprinkling of flour and roasting. I lined the baking pan with foil which makes my dish washing husband very happy at clean up time.
- 2 t paprika
- 1½ t dried oregano
- ¼ t garlic powder
- 4 large chicken legs
- 1 T worcestershire sauce
- 1 T flour
- salt & pepper
- Place an oven rack at the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking dish with foil. Mix together the paprika, oregano and garlic powder. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel.
- Arrange chicken in a single layer on baking pan. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle with the worcestershire sauce rubbing it in gently. Sprinkle seasoning mixture over chicken and pat to adhere. Sprinkle flour over chicken and pat to help adhere.
- Roast chicken 30 minutes, baste with pan juices or just turn it over once or twice while cooking until nicely brown and cooked through.
– – marcella
Two years ago we attended Kneading West and really enjoyed the whole experience. We had always planned to attend again and last week we were able to do just that. The name of the event was changed to The Grain Gathering but the chance to interact with and learn from farmers, millers, brewers, bakers and grain scientists was the same.
We met at the WSU Mount Vernon extension and research campus. Many of the classes are held outdoors under tents on a lovely lawn between the orchard and the grain fields. Really, there are so many classes offered that it can be hard at times to choose. It isn’t uncommon to see people bouncing between multiple classes during a session trying to soak in as much as possible. Luckily I bring my husband along and we are able to share with each other what we learned.
New this year was the chance to participate in some production baking. Rather than have the bakers make all the delicious breads and desserts in their shops they taught it as classes and everyone got to enjoy sampling what was learned. I spent a morning helping to mix, portion and bake cookies for some of our meals. Here are some stacked trays waiting their turn in the ovens.
And I confess that I am more than a little addicted to these coconut macaroons. They are so crispy and chewy and not too sweet. It was happy times when these showed up at the dessert table after meals.
We also get to geek out on the science of baking. This was from the natural leavening class. We heard from both Andrew Ross a cereal scientist and Debra Wink a microbiologist. They were followed by one of the bread lab bakers sharing some of his insights working with starters and sharing bread made from starters at differing hydrations and made from either white or whole wheat flours.
Pizza with amazing combinations like peaches and bacon or apples and sausage for dinner. And bread, always loaves of bread from different classes. All this in addition to what gets passed around in class or on trays afterwards among the crowds. Followed by an hour of sampling locally made products like crackers and cheeses just before dinner in case we hadn’t had quite enough to eat.
I was able to attend classes on braiding breads, breads and toppings for toast, a grain tasting, lecture and workshops on milling grains and the make up of oats. It was enough to keep my head spinning with information.
I even got to learn about cooking in a tandoor oven and try making a naan. It was really cool how the bread stuck to the side of the oven and then with two long metal skewers we’d peel them off the side once they were cooked.
Out in the field they fired up a thresher and showed us how that worked.
Now to read through my notes and all the recipes collected and decide what to bake next.
– – marcella
Until I downloaded the pictures from my phone I didn’t realize how much I had been cooking lately. Sure, it’s felt like all I’ve been doing is cleaning up the kitchen, but we’ve actually had some good treats that went with all the scrubbing.
For the warm weather some ice cream was necessary. There was a big bunch of mint in the fridge so I tried out the mint ice cream from Jenis Spendid Ice Cream and added in the chips from another recipe in the book and ended up with something pretty darn tasty.
Nearly every week we’ve been buying a big bag of peaches at the farmer’s market. They’ve just been eaten fresh but it seemed like a little baking was in order so I tried this recipe from the latest Bon Appetité magazine.
I did peel the peaches though and tossed in a few fresh raspberries we had in the fridge. The almond paste really adds something special to this cobbler.
Then I got a little panicky about the end of peach season being so close so I bought a really big bag of peaches and dehydrated them all for later snacking.
Then last lazy weekend I saw a magazine article on doughnuts and it sounded good to both of us. I cannot remember the last time we ate doughnuts let alone made them at home. I pulled out this old recipe I’d been meaning to try forever and as luck would have it we had all the ingredients on hand.
These are a cake doughnut. Some of them got dipped in sugar, some in cinnamon sugar and a few were glazed. I had scribbled down the recipe from a cookbook I’d borrowed from the library long ago but I found a close version online here. My notes had much less flour so the dough was quite sticky and also called for less butter. The nice thing about cake doughnuts is you don’t have to wait for them to rise.
This week jam making for the wedding began. I started with a single batch just to see if I could get the commercial one piece lids to work since I’ve never used them before. With that success I planned a jam making afternoon and made an additional 35 jars.
Instead of having a second jam day this week I took a break for apples. Gravensteins are just coming into season and our local CSA was offering them in 10 pound bags so I bought two. I spent the morning peeling and slicing and filling the dehydrator for more winter fruit snacks.
I put the sliced fruit in a big bowl of pineapple juice which keeps the fruit from browning without affecting the flavor as much as lemon juice and water does. The slices get laid out onto trays and I give them a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar before loading them into the dehydrator. Right now my garage smells like apple pie!
And now I realize why it feels like I’ve been mopping the sticky kitchen floor an awful lot. It’s because I have!
– – marcella
I’ve been working on this quilt for a long while and it’s nice to have a finish!
A friend had sent me a stack of 8 fat quarters thinking they would make something nice for my new great nephew. I immediately thought of the Pow Wow pattern that I had purchased but hadn’t yet used. It seemed like a good pattern for a boy.
The top went together really well. I do, however, have a zillion and three leftover half square triangles. The pattern gives suggestions on how to use them, but I think they will be put aside for a way in the future project.
The quilting was simple. I did rows of straight lines in one row of blocks and alternated with a stipple in the other rows. It was fairly quick and looks nice I think. I backed it with a herringbone flannel which has a similar shape to the pieced blocks.
Not being a fan of labels – I know, heresy – I did do a little embroidery on the binding.
When I took over the quilt I did get a big smile from my nephew. I’d like to claim it was because he liked his new quilt, however he’s just really a happy little guy and always has a ready smile.
A bit of a crooked picture, but that’s what I get for giving away the quilt before I check my photos. Oh well, at least you can see all the colors.
So nice to have a finish!
– – marcella
I’ve managed to make it into my sewing room a bit lately. While I had intentions to actually finish the quilt I’ve been working on, that hasn’t actually happened.
I spotted on the Moda Bakeshop blog a row quilt, and the patterns are so cute I couldn’t resist. Instead of finishing something, I started something new. Out came the scrap box and I started cutting away.
I’ve managed to finish row 1
And row 3
Row 2 is cut out and ready to appliqué. Because I want to do this row by hand it will take a while.
Naturally, I have to change something. I can’t seem to do a project without some sort of adjustment. I turned row 2 into 8 blocks with four pieces to appliqué rather than 32 little blocks sewn into 8 blocks. Easier to cut 8 1/2″ squares and place the four pieces then do it in smaller sections I think.
Oh, and I think I’ll do something different for row 4. Sorry, but those look nothing like strawberries. I’m thinking of swapping out this pattern instead, but I’ll have to play with the math a little.
It’s been a fun diversion in my spare minutes. Not too many spare minutes this week as I get ready for scout camp.
Sewing today was scout neckerchiefs…no quilting time for me.
What are you working on?
– – marcella
While I haven’t been doing as much on my “to do” list as I would like, I have been keeping busy with all sorts of random things around here.
Not too much gardening going on this year. The lone strawberry plant in a pot that hadn’t been dug up and eaten by squirrels had lots of baby plants and I’ve had two bowls like this of strawberries to enjoy. Yes, I hogged them all for myself and didn’t share.
Then I actually won something! I read a lot of blogs and every week there are all sorts of contests and giveaways of cookbooks or kitchen gadgets or fabric or quilt patterns or something. I comment and mostly forget about it. On occasion though, I’ll open my e-mail and see that I actually won something. It’s very, very exciting when that happens. Not long ago Sherri from A Quilting Life shared her adventures at spring quilt market and gave away some quilting goodies she had picked up there. I was lucky winner 2 and won some low volume fat quarters to play with.
My husband loves to collect e-book cookbooks. He finds all sorts of interesting ones and they appear on my kindle. Recently he got me a copy of Nathalie Dupree’s “Southern Biscuits” and we decided we had to try a new recipe. We decided to make “Big Nasty Biscuits” because they sounded rich and delicious and unlike the ones we usually make were nestled close in a pan to bake up softer. Even the leftovers were yummy and usually day old biscuits are nothing to get excited about.
It’s county fair week here. A friend and I again sponsored a special quilting award and it’s always fun to get to go see the quilts early and choose the winner. This year the award was for Best Two Color Quilt. There were nearly 30 quilts to choose from and we had a tough time picking a winner after narrowing it down to our top three. We finally decided on this pretty red and white star quilt.
This year I only entered two kinds of jam into the fair. I had made the Blueberry Lime jam from Saving the Season and the Lemon Vanilla Marmalade from Epicurious. Both won 2nd place which was pretty exciting.
While at my sisters house I saw that she had a big pan of plums on her counter. Since she’s still hobbling around on crutches I decided to steal her plums (because she couldn’t catch me) no really it was to be nice and turn them in to jam for her so she wouldn’t try to do it herself.
Super easy and basic recipe. The plums she had were Santa Rosa plums which have a lovely color and make the prettiest jam, I think. Just wash them and chop them up (no peeling required) and measure out 5 1/2 cups of plums. Cook them in a heavy pan with about 3 cups of sugar (these were tart and I ended up using 3 1/2 cups of sugar) and cook about 20 minutes until it all jells. I like to check by temperature and cook the jam to 220 degrees. Two batches and nine bottles of jam later I was done. Too bad the biscuits were all gone. Guess I should make some more.
And yes, I did take her jars of the finished jam to enjoy. I can be a nice sister, sometimes.
I ended the week by going ollalieberry picking. It was not a banner year for berries – they were pretty sparse on the bushes and much smaller than usual. I did manage to fill one box with just over ten pounds of berries that are now in the freezer until the next time I’m in a jam making mood.
– – marcella
When I was a kid I loved to watch Mr. Rogers especially when you got to watch a film of a factory tour. I still remember watching crayons being made and thinking it was the coolest thing. Even now, put a factory tour in front of me and I am ready to go.
Today I got to tour a local bakery with my baking group. We headed over to Alameda to visit this place:
In the lobby was a collection of awards and articles, their original mixer, oven, and bread slicer along with these pretty loaves:
After a brief introduction we all donned very fashionable hair nets and got to go tour the production floor. While they didn’t allow any pictures, they do have this very nice video where you can see some of their delicious baked goods being made.
Honestly, watching those bakers braid that challah was amazing. Their hands were just a blur they moved so quickly.
At the end of the tour we each got a goodie bag. I was very excited to see two of my very favorite things they make in my bag – the seeded baguette and the croutons.
There is also a loaf of challah, a croissant and some biscotti to enjoy. Whomever packed the bags was very clever as they even thought to include napkins in case we couldn’t wait to get home to eat. Tucked in the bottom were two Semifreddi’s tattoos – not sure when I might use those. Maybe if I put one on my bread shaping skills will improve.
– – marcella