Peanut Butter Cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Baking date: April 8, 2017

On occasion, I will recognize the accomplishments of kids my boys are friends with. It has tended to be sports accomplishments, since that is something we spend a lot of time focused on in this house.

Recently on my son Nick’s lacrosse team, his friend Josh had a hat trick. For those not sports-minded, that’s scoring three goals in a single game. I asked his dad what kind of cake he might like, and his dad said peanut butter and chocolate.

I turned to Pinterest and found a recipe for peanut butter cake with chocolate buttercream frosting. Since it was a hat trick, a triple layer cake was perfect.

Except that not everything always goes as planned. While turning the cake out to go on the cooling rack, the collapsible legs actually collapsed and the cake starting sliding off the counter and toward the edge. My attempt to grab it was unsuccessful, as this was the only part left on the counter:

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Baker’s note: I’m pleased to report that Mocha and Jake — my furry sous chefs — loved the peanut butter cake, based on the samples they quickly snarfed off the floor.

I covered the cake in the chocolate buttercream. Baker’s note: the frosting recipe did not leave a lot of extra for my two-layer cake, so I would use the frosting sparingly in between cake layers if you end up making it with all three layers.

For the letters and numbers on the cake commemorating the achievement, his name, and the date, I used white vanilla candy melts.

This is a view of the top of the cake:

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And here’s a side view, showing the bursts piped at the base, with a gold sugar pearl placed in the center of each burst:

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The cake received positive reviews in terms of taste. But the best review is Josh’s smile before there was even a slice to sample — way to go bud!

Josh with Cake

Gender “Reveal” Cake

Baking date: March 25, 2017

Friends of ours are expecting their first grandchild this September. Their daughter contacted me and asked if I could make a gender reveal cake. She was finding out on a Thursday, and the family was gathering on Saturday, when the gender would be revealed.

I had found a great idea for a cake on Pinterest, however, the gender reveal was not to be. That’s because the Mimi-to-be could not wait the three days to find out. But I decided to make a gender cake anyway to help the family celebrate.

Another idea I had seen on Facebook for a gender reveal was this:Hershey Bar Blue and Pink

So I decided to make the cake to mimic the Hershey bar gender reveal.

This family has an affinity for snickerdoodle anything, so I started with a snickerdoodle cake recipe with brown sugar cinnamon buttercream frosting. I used the loaf cake pan set for the perfect rectangular shape.

For the frosting, I dyed some of it darker brown for the top and the piping at the base. For the letters, I used canned white icing, and dyed a small portion of it rose. I used a #47 basket weave tip, with the smooth side up to spell out HERSHEY’S. (Baker’s note: I have used the white icing coloring in the past, but I find it takes a lot to get even the lightest buttercream white, it has a taste I do not like and also it changes the texture of the icing. That’s why I go for the canned white frosting when a pure white frosting is the goal).

For the bursts around the top, I added pink sugar pearls in the middle of each burst and a smaller burst row inside in leftover rose icing. At the base, I made brown dyed icing bursts, with more of the mini-bursts in rose in the center.

Here’s a top view of the cake:

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And a view from the side so you can see the base: IMG_0134

Here’s the inspiration photo with the cake:

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Congrats Kaitlyn and Kevin on your exciting news!

Cake with Frozen Buttercream Transfer

Baking date: November 19, 2016

A former colleague of mine Jennifer celebrated a fun family accomplishment recently – her husband Sean, and their two kids Caeley and Seamus published their first children’s book. It was written and illustrated by Sean and the kids.

Here’s a synopsis of the book Little Robin: Flying South for the Winter:

In this lovable adventure, we fly away on Little Robin’s journey to meet up with his friends and fly south for the winter. Little Robin is in danger of missing the trip when he is faced with the important decision of whether to help others in need. As the air turns cold, in a moment of fright and worry, Robin teaches us how to stay calm and not give up hope.

The family had a book publishing party with friends and family. I decided to make a cake to help them celebrate. I used the 16″ pan from the Wilton performance pans square set for the cake. I used a French vanilla box mix for the cake and wedding buttercream icing to ice the cake and make the buttercream transfer.

I had watched a video tutorial on frozen buttercream transfers on the Wilton channel on YouTube. Here’s the image after I had piped on the white outline, white/black eyes of robin, green leaves, the red robin, and black feet. As you can see, it’s not easy to pipe on small details – I smudged some of the buttercream in the lower right side of the image and had to fix it. After piping on the blue and brown, I let it set an hour. I then added plain buttercream over all of it and put it back in the freezer for another hour to help it set even better.img_2006

Here’s how the cake turned out once I piped on the names of the authors and added a border of blue bursts around the base. Because the transfer image sits higher on the cake, the next time I try this, I’ll add a decorative border around the image to that it looks more seamless:

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And here’s the book cover next to the cake – not a bad likeness!

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Congrats Sean, Caeley, and Seamus!

Hot Chocolate Cake

Baking date: October 15, 2016

My college roommate at Towson State University (as it was known at the time) was a gal from an area of Maryland, equally as rural as the place in Maryland where I grew up. Funny story – I ended up moving to the small town where she grew up to raise my family. She also lives close by, but in another school district. Over the years we have remained good friends – we have sons that were born one day apart.

Alex and Kendall are both athletic.  In middle school, both boys made the elite basketball team for their respective schools and were often on the court up against one another. Kendall excels at basketball and soccer. Alex has found his home behind the plate as catcher and on the football field. It’s a bit sad that we won’t see Alex and Kendall go up against one another any more as they head into high school.

So, it was great news to hear that as a freshman, Kendall had made the varsity soccer team for his high school. But it was terrible news to hear that Kendall had injured his knee before the first game of the season and would require surgery to reconstruct his ACL.

The day after his surgery, I arrived at their home to provide wishes for a speedy recovery in the form of a hot chocolate cake. The first recipe I found called for a now discontinued International Delights frozen hot chocolate, so I had to find another recipe. This is the recipe I eventually decided on, which includes the cake, chocolate frosting and marshmallow buttercream.

I made the cake in two 9″ layers. Note that the butter needs to be room temperature, along with the eggs, so allow time for that. When it came to icing the cake, I didn’t use the “nesting” technique described in the recipe because I wanted to write a message on top of the cake. In between the two layers was the chocolate buttercream, but I also swirled on marshmallow buttercream.

Here’s how my cake turned out, with the marshmallow buttercream piped on for the message:

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And a view from the side. I piped the marshmallow buttercream up the side in lines and added mini-marshmallows around the base of the cake, anchored with a layer of the marshmallow buttercream.

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Kendall said it definitely tasted like hot chocolate and assured me it would help with the healing process.

It must have worked because his surgery went well and he’s now on the mend. Heal fast and get back out on the field and court soon, Kendall!

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Brace off less than 2 weeks after surgery!

Field Hockey Cakes

Baking date: October 9, 2016

I was commissioned by a mom to make a cake for the high school field hockey team to celebrate senior night during the last home game of the season. There were no specific instructions other than it needed to feed about 40, but I knew I wanted it to include a special nod to the seniors in the school colors.

I started with a French vanilla cake mix. I always add a tablespoon of vanilla to any box mix, and if the recipe calls for vegetable oil, I used canola oil. I find that canola oil makes cakes a bit lighter/”fluffier”.

For the cake shape, I used the 8″ and 12″ squares from the performance pans square set. For the icing, I used my go-to buttercream recipe. I dyed some of the buttercream using royal blue, kelly green, and golden yellow icing colors.

To personalize it, I made yellow candy melt stars and piped on the girls names using the royal blue frosting. I started using a #1 tip, but the frosting was not going through the tip well (too thick), so I switched to a #3 tip. You can see the difference in the lettering (next time, I’ll use a small amount of the buttercream that is thinned a bit when I pipe with a #1 tip). I was able to script the name with the #1 tip, but the thickness of the frosting was an issue. With the #3 tip, I didn’t have as much room to script the letters because of the thickness of the piping.  I also made royal blue candy melts smaller stars, and using the golden yellow icing, piped the number of each player on the star with the #3 tip.  I also added a “bead” border between the top and base layer, using royal blue candy melts in the large size bead mold.

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I placed the stars with the players names on the base layer, pushing them against the top layer to anchor them. For the stars with the player numbers, I used a 3 tip to make a burst on the top layer above the corresponding player name star and anchored the number stars there.

Using a #17 and a #18 tip, I added yellow bursts with blue on top on the corners of the top layer. I did the reverse for the border of the top layer. In the corner bursts, I added white sugar pearls. I piped on grass along the base cake border using a #233 tip in the kelly green frosting, and added more of the white sugar pearls in the “grass”.

On the base layer of the cake, blue bursts with yellow on top were placed in the corners, and yellow bursts were placed along the border.

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I felt like the cake needed something more,  so using the blue and golden yellow icing, I piped on bursts in the shape of field hockey sticks, with a sugar pearl in the curve at the base of the stick.

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Now the cake was complete!

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I wasn’t done there, tho. As a bonus, I decided to use a round/sports ball cake pan to make a field hockey ball.

Prior to placing the cake on the cake board, I cut off part of one side so that the base would be flat and more stable. I covered the cake in the buttercream frosting, and added the “grass” at the base of the cake. On top of the grass, I added alternating blue and golden yellow bursts.  Finally, I added the same style of field hockey sticks on top of the ball that I had put on the top of the other cake, again with a white sugar pearl in the curve of the stick.

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I’d say the cakes were a big success!

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And as a reminder, it takes a village to honor kids and make things special for them. Cake was only one element of the celebration.

My pricing philosophy:

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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Baking date: August 14, 2016

In the local sports association football program my boys have played in, they have weight limits for age groups. If you are over the designated top weight for your age group prior to the first game, you must either sit out games (and be re-weighed a few weeks later), or play up in the next age division.

Our oldest son was always close to the top of the weight each year. And his second-to-the-last year of playing, he was over and had to work real hard to make weight to play with his friends, rather than sit out or play up with older kids. Helping growing boys make weight – it’s awful. I even blogged about the experience.

When one of the young kids was faced with a similar battle this year, his mom asked for ways to help Jonny drop the weight in advance of the official weigh in. Many people chimed in with advice; parents and his teammates offered to run extra laps and work out with him more.

I offered inspiration as well – sharing some of the things we had Alex do that week before weigh-ins. I also offered this:

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I know it seems counter-intuitive to offer someone baked goods for losing weight. But so what – motivation comes in many forms!

After a lot of hard work, sacrifice, and self-discipline, Jonny made weight. His mom let me know he liked red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.

I used a box cake for red velvet – I haven’t found a scratch recipe I like yet. For the icing, I used a classic cream cheese frosting recipe.  The recipe made plenty of frosting and I used the leftovers to frost some banana bread later.

To make the cake extra special, I added the letters WEIGH TO GO JONNY using royal blue candy melts. I included chocolate candy melt footballs, with some of the extra cream cheese frosting piped on for the laces. I also included royal and yellow Lion paw candy melts. Here is a view of the cake from the top:

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And from the side, because I piped bursts along the lower edge, and added in alternating blue and gold sugar pearls:img_1737

Let’s just say that Jonny thought all the work was worth the weight:

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Bullseye Cake

Baking date: June 24, 2016

During the year-end league tournament for my son Alex’s team, one of the players was hit by pitches three times. Someone joked that he should be wearing a target on his uniform. And someone else looked at me and said, he needs a target cake.

I made the cake from my go-to box recipe – triple chocolate fudge mix. Baker’s note: I always add a tablespoon of vanilla to any box mix for a more “homemade” taste.

I used the Wilton Easy Layers 6 inch cake pan set.  Baker’s note: be sure to level off each layer or you may end up with the leaning tower of cake!

Using buttercream icing in royal blue, I outlined a coffee cup for the outer layer of the bulls-eye and a shot glass for the center. I then filled in the blue areas, and using classic white canned frosting, filled in the alternate ring of the target, as well as the sides. I had also used the classic white in between the layers. Finally, I added bursts along the bottom edge in the royal blue buttercream.

I wanted to add a special message on the cake, so using white and royal blue candy melts, I spelled out HIT ME HERE and placed the letters on the top of the cake.

Here’s the cake from the top:IMG_1454

And from the side:

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I started to make the ME in royal blue candy melts, but had to scrap that because it wouldn’t have stood out against the royal blue icing. The H’s were a pain – I went through a number of attempts before I got two of them out of the mold without breaking:

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Ultimately, the cake was a big hit. No pun intended, Brett!

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