Friday, February 28, 2014

Re-Invent the Lamington Contest 2014 Entries--If You Know Me, You Won't Be Surprised.

This blog has been poorly neglected. I could go into all the details about why I haven't posted in over a year, but I don't have time. I'm in a major rush at the moment, and I'm a man on a mission.

It's the annual Re-Invent the Lamington Contest sponsored by Mr. P on his fun baking blog Delicious Delicious Delicious! The deadline to enter is only minutes away. Therefore, I will not have time to do a good proofread, so please excuse any typos and bad grammar. This is the only baking contest I have ever entered. Why? I don't know other than it just sounds fun to me.Click here to read the story behind the contest.

What is a Lamington?

Well, let me tell you. It's a dessert of Australian origin consisting of two cake halves held together with layer of jam or cream. They are then dipped in chocolate and covered in desiccated coconut. (For Americans, desiccated coconut is more finely shredded than what you can find here.)

For the contest, you can be as creative as you want. You can see what I've entered in the past by clicking here, here, and here.

When I found out about this year's contest, I decided I wanted to do something on a theme, and it only took a couple of seconds for me to come up with one. But, it does require some back story.

Let's go back in time to 1983. I was a senior in high school. One day, I was watching MTV on our old TV that had seen better days and was only working in black and white. On came a new video that had me completely hooked from the beginning synthesizer riff. The video was the most amazing thing I had ever seen, and I had to own the song immediately. I ran outside, hopped in my car, and drove straight to the mall. At the music store, I asked if they had heard of the song, and the lady said, "You mean the lady with the crazy orange hair?" I didn't know what she was talking about because I had only seen the video in black and white. The clerk found the cassette tape for me, and yep, the woman from the video did have the brightest orange buzz cut I had ever seen. I virtually ran to my car to pop it into the cassette deck. It was one of those albums where I loved every single song. About a month later, I finally saw the video in color, and it was another amazing experience.

I became obsessed.

If you haven't guessed yet, the group is the Eurythmics and the singer is Annie Lennox. I am one of their biggest fans. I know ALL their music by heart, and I've seen them multiple times in concert. I listen to Annie almost every day, follow her in social media, and even sat through that interminable Lord of the Rings III in a theater just to hear Annie's song at the end. Yep, I'm certifiable. Fortunately, I have a great family who puts up with it.

So, back to Lamingtons. The theme this year is the Eurythmics.

I take my inspiration for my first entry from the video that started it all. Take a look.

Even though that video is 30 years old, I still love it. Hence, I give you the Sweet Dreams Are Made of This Lamington.

The Lamington is covered in white chocolate and broken up Oreo cookies. This, naturally, pays homage to one of my favorite parts of the video--the cow walking around the board room. And now to view the inside.

Of course, it's orange. Could it be anything else? This is an orange pound cake with a vanilla cream center. I added orange food coloring to match Annie's shocking shade.

The reviews from the family were unanimous. These are downright fantastic! You have to be careful though. Because they're bite-sized, you can go through a mound of them in a hurry.

Now, for to my second Lamington entry...

This is also inspired by a Eurythmics video. Please enjoy "There Must Be an Angel (Playing with my Heart)."

The There Must Be An Angel Lamingtons are covered in toasted meringue. Once again, I wanted to match Annie's hair. I did this with the caramelized sugar drizzled on top.

For the cake, there really was only one choice. It had to be angel food cake, am I right? But I must confess... Angel food cake is probably the only cake where I use a box mix. They are too much of a hassle when the mix tastes just as good.

I struggled with what to put on the inside. I wanted the Lamingtons to be mostly white and gold in color. As I perused the grocery aisles searching for something to use for the filling, I had a eureka moment. Biscoff Spread! This product is fairly new to our area. It's kind of a golden brown and is definitely one heavenly treat. It turned out to be the perfect inside for these Lamingtons.

These were light, fluffy, and oh so tasty. The family also gave these their overwhelming stamp of approval.

So, there you have it--my entries for the 2014 Re-invent the Lamington contest. I actually have many more ideas for Lamingtons inspired by Eurythmic and Annie Lennox videos, but they will have to wait. First of all, I have to finish this blog post, and secondly, I have completely destroyed the kitchen.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Funfetti Cake from Scratch

It's Chloe's birthday. She turned 19 and will soon be leaving to serve an LDS mission in Birmingham, Alabama—Spanish speaking. We are very proud of her and are excited to hear her adventures and all about the great things she'll be doing.

I asked Chloe what kind of cake she wanted me to make for her. She called my cell phone (from downstairs in her bedroom) to place her order. She requested a Funfetti cake. My initial reaction was, "You can't be serious!" I am not a big fan of cake mixes, and I have always thought the Funfetti cake was the worst of the worst. Chloe, however, has always loved it. How could Chloe, whose parents both love to bake, prefer a boxed cake mix with those nasty sprinkles. I just plain don't get it. Anyway, Chloe went on to clarify that she wanted a Funfetti cake made from scratch. Since it was her birthday, I was willing to compromise. Plus, she'll be far away next year.

For the Funfetti cake from scratch, I decided to make just a basic white cake and throw in a bunch of sprinkles. To frost the cake, I made a vanilla buttercream and threw on a bunch more sprinkles (And when I say "threw on," I mean it. Those little things were everywhere.) I added 19 colorful, curly candles, and the party was on.

The result? Chloe and the family really liked it. It was a little on the sweet side for me—but so is the cake mix version. I would recommend small slices of cake served with a simple flavor of ice cream. Next time, I think I'll try a cream cheese frosting, a strawberry butter cream, or find a white frosting that's a little less sweet. But still, it was a good cake, and I even liked it better the next day.

Happy birthday, Chloe!

I was very happy with how it turned out. This cake says, "Party!"

It was pretty a lit up, too.

This was the perfect size slice. Otherwise, it would be sugar overload.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Gourmet Hostess Cupcakes (and Homemade Twinkies)

OK, I think I'm starting to catch up and can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm only a couple months behind.

It was about two months ago that the big headlining news was that Hostess was going out of business. All of America was in a panic. There was a run on all Hostess products at the grocery store, and people were selling Twinkies on Ebay for ridiculous amounts.

I think I fell into the same category as most Americans. I hadn't eaten a Twinkie, Cupcake, or Zinger in years, but now that they would be no more, I was upset. They were definitely a part of my growing up. Every day at school for years, I could count on some sort of Hostess product in my lunchbox. And, I have many memories associated with them. Katie and I called the raspberry filled powdered sugar donuts "Temple Donuts" because we would pick up a package for the car trip to the LDS temple when we were newlyweds. Ding Dongs and Chocodiles were also some of my favorite Hostess treats. I even remember when they came out with special orange flavored Ding Dongs.

I'm not too worried though. My bet is that some company will by Hostess, and they'll return soon.

In the meantime, I've made my own Twinkies and Cupcakes. I had planned to bring in some of both to work for Ellie's birthday. But, only the Cupcakes made it. The recipe for the Twinkies didn't make enough, and once everyone in the family tried one, or two, there weren't many left.

For the Twinkies, I used the Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes version. I didn't have a Twinkie pan, so I watched his video on how to make Twinkie molds from tinfoil. Most of the Twinkies turned out well, but a few were oddly shaped. However, they all tasted remarkably like the real thing.

Next time I try making them, I plan to make them completely from scratch. Todd Wilbur's recipe uses a cake mix. I want to see if I can kick the "gourmet" level of the Twinkies up a notch.

Yep, they look like the real thing.

I actually think this cream center is better than what you actually find in a Twinkie.
So for Ellie's birthday, I decided to make my own gourmet version of the famous Hostess Cupcake. I was not going to use a cake mix but rather my favorite cocoa fudge cake recipe. Instead of chocolate frosting, I covered them with a ganache. My original plan was to write Ellie's name across the top instead of the trademark loops, but my piping skills are terrible and I was in a hurry. Using white chocolate, I scribbled like a two year-old across each one.

The gourmet Hostess Cupcakes were a bit hit. I thought they were much better than the original. I have plans to make them at Christmas. However, I will practice my piping skills so I can write "hohohohoho" across the top. Clever, eh?

Mmmmm...Hostess-y goodness!
Happy birthday, Ellie!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Berry Orange Torte

This cake is also something I made a couple months ago and am finally getting around to posting the recipe.

One of my students was having a birthday the next day, and I was walking through the grocery store for inspiration. I came upon some magnificent looking blackberries that were on sale. They looked so good, I knew I needed to use them somehow. When I got home, I immediately began looking through cookbooks to see what I could make using the berries. I found a Taste of Home recipe I could adapt.

The recipe called for a box cake mix. Typically, I always prefer scratch, but I was short on time. The cake was very easy to make, and it turned out to be a real show stopper. I had also never used Mascarpone cheese before. Oh my! That stuff is goooood. You could easily substitute cream cheese in the recipe. But, I think I'm now going to start looking for more recipes to try that use Mascarpone cheese.

It's a beautiful cake. And if you chose to use a cake mix, no one would ever guess. I felt this was worthy of a German bakery.
Here's the lucky birthday girl. Happy birthday, Brielle!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sunshine Lemon Cheesecake

So, I'm still going through photos of things I've made over the past six months.

I made this wonderful cheesecake last June for a student's birthday. Camilla ALWAYS has a positive attitude. I seriously don't know how she does it, but I'm in awe. And, she influences all who are around her. Therefore, I thought this sunny yellow lemon cheesecake would be the perfect way to wish her a happy birthday.

My favorite part is the lemon curd-like glaze on top. Yum.

I'm not sure why the side of cheese cake looks more brown than it actually was in real life. I was using someone else's camera to take this photo. Maybe that's it.
A happy cake for a happy Camilla!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oreo Cookie Cake with Chocolate Ganache

OK, this has reached the point of being completely and totally Pa-the-tic. And, I do mean with a capital P! It's been half a year since I last posted anything.

I haven't given up baking though. In fact, I've done quite a bit. Every student I work with still gets a cake for his or her birthday, and I've baked something for other family gatherings and social functions. I've also taken photos of most of the creations with the intent of someday posting the recipes. But, I don't know what my problem has been. Laziness? Lack of interest? Guilt?

Anyway, I have a few vacation days, so I thought I'd go through my photos and get some posts finished. I found photos of a birthday cake I made back in July, and it was actually my own birthday cake. Quite a few people asked me why I made my own birthday cake. My answer was that way I assured I got something I wanted.

I found this Oreo cake on the Kraft website. I love Oreos even though I know they are totally unhealthy, especially in the amounts I like to eat them. I modified the recipe a little because I only use cake mixes if I absolutely must and I never use imitation whipped cream. I have my standards.

Here is the result, and dang, was it ever good.

Happy birthday to me!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mango Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Each month, we get an order from the Community Co-Op. Even though we always give it a good try, it's been known to happen in our home for the fruits and vegetables to sit on the counter or in the fridge until they go bad and have to be thrown out. Quite often the reason is we receive some sort of fruit or vegetable we have no idea what to do with. Take last month, for example, where we received a bunch of leeks. What do you do with those? I think the only time I've ever had leeks was when it was served with something I had ordered in a restaurant. So, Katie went searching for recipes and found a really good leek and cauliflower soup. We've discovered something new.

This gave me an idea. I've given myself the challenge to try and use something each month from our co-op order in a recipe and post it here.

Last week, we received a bunch of mangoes. The only time I have had mangoes was in a mango lassi (a sort of Indian smoothie). Our fourteen year-old, Liam, is the smoothie maker of the family. Maybe I'll have him someday do a guest post on either mago lassis or one of his many creative flavor creations. 

I, however, wanted to use the mangoes in something else. As it turns out, there was another birthday at the office—perfect opportunity to try a new dessert. Caving into pressure to join the cupcake craze, I chose to try out mango cupcakes. 

Happy Birthday, Julie Anne!

The hardest thing about the cupcakes is cutting up the mangoes. I learned how from this guy here. Everyone at the office loved the cupcakes. The mango flavor is really nice, and the cupcakes were very moist. The cream cheese frosting was a perfect compliment. I flavored it with vanilla extract, but if you want to go with a Caribbean theme, I think rum extract would work well.

The cupcakes did stick to the paper liners a bit. I think next time I'll try spraying the liners with a cooking spray.
All in all, this turned out to be a keeper recipe, and I tried something new with mangoes. I'm excited to see what we get in our next co-op order.