April 3, 2012

This weekend Katie and I put a lot of backbreaking work in to our gardens, to get them up to speed for the new seasons. Of particular pleasure is the fact that we planted two trees end of season and they both survived and are starting to leaf out. That’s a big deal.

So we weeded, we raked, we picked up sticks, we trimmed and primped and planted. We started our seedlings the other week for our veggies. All in all it was a good weekend.

Katie and I are currently discussing our goals for this season. We definitely have a garden we’d like to finish, as well as the veggies, and we’ve even started talking about a chicken coop. At 18 eggs a week, we could use the help.

So my question to you is, what are you doing to get ready for the new season? Cleaning? Gardening? Mowing? Cooking? Tell us in the comments!

Cake pops!

April 12, 2011

Cake pops are one of those new, trendy desserts. They’re essentially a ball of cake on a stick, coated with a thick icing that sets up and provides a hard outer shell. We got a book explaining how to make them, so we decided to start with a spring chicken version, just to keep life simple.

To make a cake pop, you start with the most important ingredient-cake!

The nice thing about cake for cake pops is that you don’t have to make a pretty cake. You’re just going to crumble it up anyway, so the way it looks isn’t the important thing. You also don’t need to fuss with cake pans or anything else fancy like that. Because you’re just going to crumble the cake up anyway, just throw it in a large baking dish.

Once the cake is done and fully cooled, you start crumbling. Again, there’s nothing complicated about this step. You literally just take your hands and break the cake into little crumbs.

As you can see in the picture above, I’ve reduced my 9″ * 13″ baking pan of cake to a bowl of crumbs. The goal with the crumbs is just for there to be no large pieces of cake left.

Once you’ve got cake crumbs you need frosting. The key with your frosting is that it really needs to either go well with the flavor of your cake, or it needs to blend into the stronger flavoring of the cake. If the second option is your goal try a plain buttercream-the frosting will add moisture and richness to your cake without doing a lot to the flavor.

Once you have cake and frosting, you mix them together to make balls. Using a spoon, or your hands, or your kids’ hands, mix the frosting, a bit at a time, into the cake crumbs until you get a substance approximately the consistency of play dough. Once you’ve achieved that state, form balls.

The balls should go on a baking sheet into the fridge so they can harden, and they maintain their shape while you dip them. Once the balls have been refrigerated the fun starts-dipping and decorating!

You dip cake balls into candy coating wafers. These are available at most craft stores. They’re nice because they’re designed to be melted in the microwave and they stay melted for a relatively long period at room temperature. Also they come in lots of colors. If you’re opposed to buying a kind of one use item like this, you can also cover your cake pops with the white chocolate candy coating that is made for dipping pretzels (usually available in the baking aisle at the grocery store if you look hard) or with regular chocolate, which can be a little temperamental, but tastes great.

We started out with yellow candy wafers. If you are using wafers it never hurts to think about how the color of your final product is going to interact with your flavor. Most of us have pretty strong color-taste associations (think about how a “red” candy tastes), and messing with that can throw your taste-testers for a loop.

Before you start dipping, you should also gather any other decorating items you might want. You can keep it simple and just add some sprinkles, or a drizzle of a different colored wafer, or you can try making your cake pops into objects like we did.

Once you’ve got everything assembled, take your cake balls out of the fridge, a few at a time. Dip your stick into the melted wafter, and gently but firmly stick it into the cake ball.

Then take your cake pop, and dip the entire ball into the melted wafter. Make sure that you get an even covering over the entire ball, and a generous amount around the stick to help hold it in place.

Once it’s dipped, give it a second to let the excess coating drip off, and then apply any decorations you want before the coating sets.

Get a helper to hold your pops while they dry (about 2 minutes until the coating is initially set), or you can stick them into a foam block or any other kind of holder you can devise. Once they’ve set all the way, they’re ready to eat. The texture of the cake is soft and extremely moist, and if you’ve gotten a good coating of the candy wafer it keeps the cake from drying out or getting stale, so they’re an easy treat to make ahead. They’re also extremely portable as far as cake goes. As long as the wafer coating doesn’t get too hot it’s pretty durable once it’s hardened so these are far easier to transport that regular cake or cupcakes that tend to stick to their coverings.

To see more of Rachel’s cakes, visit her bakery page.