Monday, January 23, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

red bean french macarons

For Chinese New Year I wanted to make something a little different and special. I decided to make red and white french macarons with Chinese characters on them and fill them with red bean buttercream. My mom helped me write the Chinese characters.  She was so fast and writes so well, probably because I can't read or write...just decent at copying. The characters on the red macarons (from up, down, left, right) say "Sun Nin Fay Lok" (Happy New Year) and "Gung Hay Fat Choy" (Best wishes and Congratulations. Have a prosperous and good year). The characters on the white macarons say "Fook" (Happiness). 

Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing everyone good health, peace, and happiness in the new year.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Baby Elephant Cake

front side view

top view

fondant elephant and balloon

My friend asked if I could make a baby cake for her son's first birthday...and of course I accepted! The theme was baby elephants and the colors were blue and grey. I based the design on the invitations which had a little elephant holding a balloon with a "j" for Jacob on it and a poka dot background. I thought it was so cute and it'd be perfect to try to mimick onto the cake.

First I wanted to make a cake that was baby friendly and found this vanilla cake recipe from "Momtastic's Wholesome Baby Food" website. I used two mini 3.5" springform pans to make the cakes, trimming off the tops to make the top flat. For the elephant I rolled out blue fondant and used the mini elephant cookie cutter from the Wilton Noah's Ark set I had (see the "Animal Cookies" post).  For the ear I just used the back side of the cookie cutter to cut a little ear and used a knife to cut a small thin tail. For the balloon I rolled out green fondant and used the back end of a piping tip to get a nice little circle.

I made vanilla buttercream frosting and frosted the entire cake with a thin crumb layer to set overnight before I put the final coat of buttercream on.  This keeps the cake moist and makes it so much easier to get a nice smooth finish. Using a size 1 wilton round tip I piped the string to the balloon and a "1" on the balloon. I decided to put a "1" on the balloon instead of the "j" since I'd be putting his name on the cake. Using a size 10 wilton round tip I piped dots around the bottom of the cake to make it look more finished and adding a decorative touch. I then tinted the buttercream grey (using a little black food coloring) and piped "happy birthday jacob" on it. 

The cake turned out so cute and my friend really enjoyed it...Jacob enjoyed destroying it too!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fruit Tart

strawberry & kiwi fruit tart

For Christmas I wanted to make something different because I figured we'd have plenty of cookies and pies. I decided to make a fruit tart with strawberries and kiwi for the festive red and green colors...just wish the strawberries were more red. It's tough this time of year.

I used Martha Stewart's strawberry tart recipe but added chocolate ganache as a bottom layer before adding the cream cheese filling.  I've used this recipe before and I just love it.  The crust is lovely, buttery, and shortbread like.  I thought the chocolate would add another little something special, because who doesn't love chocolate.  But, as it turned out, the chocolate ganache ended up taking over the cream cheese and fruit flavors.  I think I made the mistake of using dark chocolate and maybe using too much ganache. Next time I'll try using semi-sweet chocolate and just a thin layer of the ganache.  Overall though, everyone seemed to enjoy it. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Go Ducks!

UofO french macarons

Happy New Year everyone!

Today the (University of Oregon) Ducks are playing against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.  For the big game I wanted to make a special little treat.  At Christmas I made the peppermint macarons (see the "Christmas Macarons" post) and my dad had the great idea of making them yellow and green for the Ducks! There are quite a few Ducks in our family and my parents were heading down to Pasadena for the game.  So, I thought I'd make these macarons for them to take down for the game. 

I used the same recipe I've been using for the macarons and just like the peppermint and snowmen macarons I divided the batter and colored one batch yellow and the other green. Using green edible marker I drew an "O" on the yellow macarons. For the green ones I used black edible marker and wrote "Go! Ducks" on them.  All the macarons are filled with dark chocolate ganache. These were really fun to make and I hope everyone enjoys them.

Go Ducks!

Update: The Ducks pulled through today! It was a tough game but in the end we "won the day". It's a good day to be a DUCK!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Reindeer Cookies

  peanut butter reindeer cookies

ingredients for reindeer assembly

I saw these really cute reindeer cookies from the bakergirl blog (via pinterest) and just had to try and make them.  But I do have a confession, I didn't use her recipe. I used bettty crocker's packaged peanut butter mix (semi-homemade for a girl with time constraints).  Next time I will try her recipe though because I found the cookies didn't hold their shape as nicely as hers and weren't as smooth.  Nevertheless, they tasted just fine.

To make the faces I rolled the dough into approxiately 1" balls, pinched the bottom half of the dough ball and then flattened it a little with the palm of my hand.  I baked them according to the package directions and once I pulled them out of the oven (while they're still warm) I assembled the antlers and face.  I had some trouble finding the mini m&m's but found a bottle at Walgreen's.  The only problem was when I opened the bottle it was all red and green mini m&m's.  I needed mini brown ones for the eyes, but I was able to use the regular sized ones. I bought the larger bag of m&m's but there were only 9 red ones in the whole package, so there were a few with green noses. I did run out of brown ones too, but luckily I still had some reese's pieces from when I made the turkey cupcakes (see the "Happy Thanksgiving!" post).  The reese's pieces are a shade lighter than the brown m&m's but probably only I could tell the difference.