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Wednesday
Feb112015

Chocolate Ganache Petits Fours

Forget going to work today. Call in sick, and make these instead: chocolate ganache petits fours.

All of the awesomeness of ganache, delivered in adorable petit-four form--doesn't it just make your heart melt? If that doesn't, the taste will: rich, full-bodied, unforgivingly chocolate. 

Recipe here. 

Tuesday
Feb102015

Working With Chocolate in Baking

Chocolate drizzled olive oil cookies

Do you get confused about baking chocolate versus bittersweet? Are you confused by the different types of chocolate and how to work with them? 

In this post for Colavita, I strive to give a basic primer on the different types of chocolate and working with them in baking. I hope you enjoy it!

Full post here. 

Saturday
Feb072015

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

Never again do you have to decide between Pop-Tarts and candy bars for a snack. Chocolate-dipped Pop-Tarts are both. At once. And they will win the heart of any Valentine, guaranteed. 

So go ahead--throw out your chocolate torte recipe. Throw the box of chocolates right out the window. In fact, throw out everything you own, except for the following.

  • Parchment paper
  • A baking sheet
  • Pop-tarts
  • Chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • A heart shaped cookie cutter

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

Because it's time to make the best thing ever: Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts. They have all the fun of a Pop-Tart but with the added awesomeness of chocolate. Take that, chocolate covered strawberries! 

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

These chocolate-dipped Pop-tarts are what love tastes like, and it is sweet. 

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts

  • 6 Pop-Tarts, flavor of your choice
  • 6 ounces chocolate (milk, semisweet, or dark - but not baking chocolate)
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • a small heart shaped cookie cutter

Procedure

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Take the Pop-Tarts out of their packaging.
  2. Melt the chocolate, either in the top of a double boiler or in the microwave in 30 second increments until it's melty. 
  3. Position your melted chocolate near the parchment paper, and get to work.
  4. Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts
  5. I found that the best method was to hold a Pop-tart in my hand, and use a spoon or spatula to drip chocolate over half of it, rather than dipping the Pop-Tart in the bowl of melted chocolate--too much chance of dropping it!
  6. Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts
  7. Once coated, set the dipped Pop-tart on the parchment paper.
  8. Grab the heart shaped cookie cutter and place it on the chocolate portion of the Pop-Tart, while the chocolate is still soft. Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts Pour sprinkles in the cutter, then gently lift the cutter off, careful to not upset the sprinkles. Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts You can shake off excess sprinkles later, but for now leave them there.
  9. Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts Chocolate Dipped Pop-Tarts
  10. Let the decorated tarts set until the chocolate is firm, and then shake off any excess sprinkles. You are good to go, Romeo. 

What kind of Pop-Tarts would you dip in chocolate?

Saturday
Feb072015

2/7: Happy National Ice Cream For Breakfast Day

Photo via Post Foods

Did you know that February 7th is National Ice Cream for Breakfast Day? I know, I know: best holiday ever. Finally, a reason for ice cream stores to open early! Because one of my true laments in life is that ice cream stores open too late. Surely I'm not the only one who craves ice cream at 9:00 in the morning, right? 

But I digress. To celebrate this wondrous day, I'd like to present an easy way to "breakfast" up your ice cream--by adding Grape Nuts.

Believe it or not, Grape Nuts ice cream not only exists, but can be quite common in parts of New England. Weird as it might sound, it works: the ice cream basically does to grape nuts what takes milk at least 40 minutes to do: it softens it, so that you can eat and enjoy the nutty, somewhat wholesome flavor without breaking your teeth. It works very nicely as an ice cream flavor.

If you're not in New England, however, you can do it the easy DIY way, by mixing Grape-Nuts into existing vanilla ice cream. Here's how.

Easy d.i.y. Grape-Nuts Ice Cream

Adapted from Post Foods

  • 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts Cereal
  • 1 pint (2 cups) vanilla ice cream, softened 
  • Additional mix-ins of your choice: caramel, chocolate chips, etc.

Procedure

  1. Mix the cereal and softened ice cream in freezer proof bowl until the cereal is equally dispersed; cover.
  2. Freeze until firm.
  3. Store leftovers in freezer.

What flavor will you have for breakfast on National Ice Cream for Breakfast day?

Friday
Feb062015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Champagne flute

For the love...of champagne flutes! Check out this sweet post by my friend. (Jameson Fink)

Can you refrigerate buttercream? Plus more buttercream FAQs. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Awesome cookie dough truffles made with olive oil. Really! (Colavita)

I can deal with "healthified" cinnamon rolls because it means you're still eating cinnamon rolls. (Crazy for Crust)

Eat on up: banana bread nutella bars. (Heather's French Press)

Because I already miss North Carolina: a roundup of all of the delicious things I ate in Asheville. (CakeSpy)

One of the most interesting obits: David Dalquist, who invented a baking pan we all know and love. (NY Times)

Good question: what is cocoa butter? (Baking Bites)

Impossibly cute: chocolate cherry blossom cookies. (Sally's Baking Addiction)

Think pavlova is great? Give double chocolate pavlova a try, yo. (Epicuricloud)

Don't have separation anxiety: check out creative cake separator ideas. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

East 62nd Street Cake. It looks like it's stuffed with sunshine. (Shauna Sever)

How to draw instruments. A sweet (but not to eat, or even play) tutorial! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

I love eating avocado creatively. This avocado breakfast bowl has me intrigued. (Sun Diego Eats)

Agar extender. (TIC Gums)

Book of the week: Cut Out and Keep: Around the USA in 50 Craft Projects. I've been a huge fan of the website Cut Out + Keep for years, and this innovative book features craft ideas from all around the USA. I think you'll enjoy the clever yet beautiful crafts from the book, ranging from hollywood-inspired lampshades to beautiful foliage-inspired napkins. 

Thursday
Feb052015

Mini Peanut Butter Baked Alaskas

I will have you know, fine people, that I made mini peanut butter baked Alaskas for one of my favorite companies ever, Peanut Butter and Company. It was an honor!

Baked Alaska, to the uninitiated, is not only dessert, but SCIENCE. Cold ice cream sits atop a cake (or in my recipe, a cookie) base, and is coated all over with a meringue mixture. The meringue totally seals the ice cream in, and allows the whole thing to be popped in a very hot oven long enough to crisp the meringue, making for an improbable and impressive dessert that is hot and cold all at once.

And this version is even better because it features delicious peanut butter. And because it's served in mini portions (no sharing!).

For the recipe and more, click here.

Thursday
Feb052015

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Buttercream

Can you refrigerate buttercream? Can you use salted instead of unsalted butter to make buttercream? If you're out of confectioners' sugar, can you use granulated?

These are just some of the questions you may have regarding buttercream--find out the answers to these and more buttercream questions, here.

Monday
Feb022015

What is Baking Chocolate?

It looks like chocolate. It smells like chocolate. But if you've ever tried to take a big bite of so-called "baking chocolate", you know that it is not suitable for out of hand eating, and is not to be treated as a snack. So what is the point of baking chocolate, anyway? 

Let's discuss. 

What is baking chocolate?

Baker's Chocolate

Photo via Flickr member eggplant

This type of chocolate comes in bars, but not the kind that you’d like to eat as a snack. The reason is that baking chocolate, which also goes by “unsweetened chocolate” or “bitter chocolate”, does not contain sugar. It’s solidified 100 percent chocolate liquor (the center of cocoa beans ground to a liquid), but without the frills--sweeteners, emulsifiers, flavorings--that make chocolate a sweet eating delight.

Once that chocolate liquor has been fancied up a little bit with cocoa butter, sugar, emulsifiers, and maybe some flavoring, it becomes dark chocolate. It retains a high percentage of cacao. What most people think of “dark chocolate” is 65% to as high as 99%. The higher the number, the less sweet the chocolate.

Dark chocolate varieties also include semisweet and bittersweet chocolate. They contain less chocolate liquor--a minimum of 35 percent--bittersweet often carrying more cacao than semisweet. And they contain sugar. It’s a variation sugar-to-cocao ratio that differentiates the two. Because of its sweeter flavor, semi-sweet is more commonly used in baking, and it’s the go-to chocolate type for chocolate chip cookies. 

Working with baking chocolate 

These crinkle cookies are made with unsweetened chocolate in the batter.

If baking chocolate has no sugar, what's the point?

Baking chocolate is not the best choice for out of hand eating, but it's a great component to mix with other ingredients to make a recipe. 

Typically, baking chocolate will be mixed into batter when baking, and the sweetness comes from elsewhere in the recipe, bringing out the flavor of the chocolate. It’s not suggested that you use baking chocolate as a substitute for chocolate morsels in cookies or as a candy coating.

Not to confuse you, but...

bakers chocolate

Photo via Flickr member zanastardust

One of the most famous brands offering baking chocolate is Baker's Chocolate, America's oldest continually run chocolate company. Often, people will refer to baking chocolate as "baker's chocolate", possibly because of the association of this company with producing the unsweetened stuff.

However, the Baker's chocolate brand also offers a variety of sweetened chocolate products, including German's sweet chocolate (an innovation by a gentleman named Samuel German, and where German chocolate cake gets its name), white chocolate, and semisweet chocolate. So while Baker's offers baking chocolate, not all chocolate by Baker's is baking chocolate. Got it? Good. 

Can I substitute another type of chocolate?

Well, I'm not going to flat out reject you here, but I am going to give you some considerations to think about if you want to substitute, say, dark chocolate for baking chocolate.

If your chocolate has sugar added, it may slightly alter the chemistry of the recipe. For instance, if your recipe calls for 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate and you use 4 ounces of sweetened chocolate, you're adding extra sugar to the recipe, and you can't be quite sure how much. The recipe might come out just fine, or the added sugar might affect the texture or bake time. Or it might just make the recipe too sweet. Is it worth the risk? Up to you.

I hope I've given you a helpful little primer here--feel free to chime in with any questions about baking chocolate and I can add to this article to make it even more helpful. Oh, and if you liked this post, check out the more comprehensive posts on the types of chocolate for baking.

How do you use baking chocolate?

Sunday
Feb012015

Bookmark This Now: 19 Awesome Baking Hacks

Cutting cheesecake with dental floss. A magic trick with water to remove errant bits of eggshell. How to get the most juice out of your citrus with the...microwave? And who knew that bubble wrap could create chocolate garnishes?

These and more amazing baking hacks which will save you time and money. Read more!

Friday
Jan302015

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Pop-Hearts, not Pop-Tarts. Because Valentine's Day is coming! (CakeSpy for Serious Eats)

I NEED ALL OF THIS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY. (ThinkGeek)

How to choose typefaces to match your artwork. (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Ever heard of the Sky Bar? It used to be one of the nation's most popular. (Candy Blog)

Conversation heart Nanaimo bars. Because, well, tis the season. (Serious Eats)

Ever tried a dessert made with black eyed peas? Go for it --> (Fork Fingers Chopsticks)

Oven-dried strawberry slices. I'm into it. (Frugality Gal)

Banana bread: I'm not into it unless it has chocolate chips. There, I said it. (CakeSpy)

Roccos. I'm into it, even if they don't have gluten. (Yummy Beet)

Elegant piped chocolate garnishes. Easy and delicious! (CakeSpy for Craftsy)

Buckeye graham crackers. Ohio meets after school treat. (Gold Lining Girl)

Yumz: Fluffy potato rolls. (Crazy for Crust)

Beer battered sweet potatoes. Not dessert sweet, but I'm totally into it. (Mess Makes Food)

Book of the week: The Potato Cookbook. First and foremost, I'm happy that it exists, period. But even more, that it has desserts. Potato-infused black forest cake, anyone? 

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