Here’s another attempt at me catching up on cakes I’ve never shared. I made this Paw Patrol cake almost 2 years ago. It was so big, I couldn’t even get good lighting for the whole cake. Instead of making all the characters, I bought some figurines and placed them around the finished cake. A few reasons I like doing this, the characters look official because they are! I can spend time working on the cake design instead of making so many characters. And the child gets to keep the toys after the cake is cut and served! I call that a win-win-win! This cake had me nervous because of the structure, but it traveled beautifully. The bottom tier was a tall 9 inch. I paneled the cake in blue fondant that I rolled out in an ombre pattern. That was more complicated than I wanted it to be, it took me some time to get it right. The smaller paw covered tiers were actually styrofoam. I did that for structural reasons. There was a pvc pipe going through the entire cake and sticking out to hold the topper. I wanted to make sure everything held together nicely. I honestly can’t remember how I made the topper but I do remember leaving it off until I reached the event space, and slipped it onto the top of the pipe once I got there. I’m sure some of it was styrofoam, some rice crispy treats and some cake, all covered in fondant. I love how this cake turned out, but it certainly gave me some challenges!
I’m obsessed with this dessert lately. It’s so easy and so good! This dessert is basically a chocolate chip cookie stick, but I added cocoa to the dough and used white chocolate chips in place of semi-sweet. These sticks are soft and chewy on the inside and crispy outside. Once you mix up the dairy free dough, divide in half and shape each half into a long strip and bake. After 5 minutes of cooling, slice the cookies into 12 pieces and allow to cool completely. I know I mention using a stand mixer, but these can also be made by hand. Just mix everything in a large bowl. There is nothing better than a quick and easy dessert to throw together at the last minute! These cookie sticks also freeze very well!
I may have fallen behind in sharing my custom cakes with you. Like really far behind! Here goes anyway! I designed this cake for my son’s 5th birthday party. At the time he was obsessed with Curious George. I have seen this image of George floating away with a huge bunch of balloons and thought it would be perfect for his cake! I made the bottom tier super tall so I would be able to fit George and his balloons. I made the top tier very short to balance out the cake. I covered both tiers with white fondant and then airbrushed in blue using a stencil to create the clouds. I was having trouble covering the large bottom tier and kind of messed up. I tried redoing the fondant once or twice and was getting frustrated! Instead of trying over and over, I figured the airbrushing would cover any major issues. I covered the bottom with cut out fondant clouds using this cutter in different sizes. I marbled some fondant for the balloons to give them a bit more texture. Curious George was made out of fondant. My son loved his cake! Happy 5th birthday!
I have been talking about my challah recipe for weeks and weeks. Maybe even years? But I wasn’t quite ready to share it until now. I have been tweaking it each time I baked it, and now I’m pretty sure it’s perfect! (See my edits-I’ve tweaked it a bit since originally posting). I’ll explain my process as well as tips and tricks I use to make my challah picture perfect.
Lets talk about yeast. I buy active dry yeast in bulk. I store it in an airtight container in the back of my fridge. It stays fresh for months that way. You can also store it in the freezer. Then when I’m making challah, cinnamon buns, vanilla rugelach, or anything else that calls for yeast, I’m ready to go. Here are some tips for using active dry yeast. When mixing your yeast with water and sugar, that is called proofing. When proofing your yeast, if your yeast mixture is not puffy or bubbly after 5-10 minutes it is probably dead. Please discard it; your bread will not rise. Your yeast could have been old, or your water could have been too hot or cold. The water temperature should be between 105 and 110 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, run the water over your wrist. If it feels warm, it’s just above body temperature (98.6 degrees F) and should work perfectly to proof your yeast.
If you buy instant yeast, you can proof it first, but you can also just add it directly in with the flour; there is no need to proof it with water. Then continue the recipe as normal. If you buy rapid rise you should add it directly to your flour. You should then technically knead the dough and immediately shape the bread. Then allow to rise and bake. The rapid rise yeast is not meant to rise twice. I would stay away from it altogether just because it makes things more complicated and you may have different results.
I like to mix my dough until it just comes together, leaving out the salt. Then I allow the dough to rest for 10-30 minutes. This gives the flour some time to absorb the liquids in the dough. I find that if I mix it all right away, I need to add more and more flour to make the dough stop sticking. By allowing the flour to properly hydrate, the dough doesn’t usually need extra flour. I live in New York and this recipe works for me, but if you live in a higher elevation or very different climate, you may need to adjust your flour amounts, rising, or baking times and temps.
Once your dough is mixed and smooth, place it in an oiled bowl. Rub a thin coat of oil all over the dough. I like to lay a piece of plastic wrap directly over my dough. Then I add a second piece of plastic wrap over the entire bowl, completely sealing it. You can also just rest a clean kitchen towel over the bowl. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled. If it is a hot summer day, it may double in 45 minutes. If it is really cold in your kitchen, it could take up to 2 hours. If it’s a cold day, I like to turn my oven on very low, place my dough on top and sometimes even crack the oven open slightly. Or I will run my dishwasher and place the dough nearby so it benefits from the warmth. Just be careful not to overheat your rising dough. Do what works for you!
If you have mixed your dough but don’t have time to bake it, place it directly in the fridge. Do not allow it to rise first. The dough will rise in the fridge, it will just rise very slowly. You can even allow it to rise in the fridge overnight (currently my favorite method). Just make sure to bring the dough to room temperature before continuing. Your dough may smell extra yeasty or like alcohol. This is okay! Your dough just had extra time to ferment and let off extra alcohol gasses. Do not allow your dough to rise on the counter overnight, you have eggs in the dough which are perishable.
When I make this recipe, I divide my dough into 6 equal pieces, 6 equal challahs. Then I braid each challah and bake them in greased Magic Mill oval challah pans, size 8 (8″). If I want larger challahs, I divide my dough into 3 loaves and bake them in Magic Mill oval challah pans, size 10 (10″). If I doubled my recipe, (and it does double beautifully) I would bake 6 loaves in the size 10 challah pans. The pans that I use are technically non-stick, but I like to grease my pans with cake release or non-stick spray before placing my braided dough inside.
Once my challah loaves are braided, I brush them with egg wash and cover them loosely with a clean kitchen towel. Then I preheat my oven. Allow the bread to rise until doubled in size. This can take anywhere from 30 minutes, to 1 1/2 hours. You can test your dough by pressing your finger into the bread slightly. If your dough springs back, it’s not ready yet. If your indentation stays, your dough is ready for the oven. You can carefully brush with egg wash again and then bake.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes until the bread is evenly browned and the challah sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Baking time can vary depending on the size you shaped your bread. Oven temperature can also vary depending on the pans you use. The pans I use are dark in color so I bake my bread at 325 degrees. Allow to cool and enjoy!
Once my challah bread is baked, it freezes beautifully, just make sure to wrap it well in plastic wrap and a freezer bag.
(Edit 4/12/2018 The past few times I’ve made my challah I have adjusted some of my measurements. I increased my yeast from 2 packages to 3, so now I use 6 3/4 tsp. of active dry yeast. I increased the water from 2 cups to 2 1/4 cups; and I increased the oil from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup. In my opinion the dough is even easier to work with and the bread comes out even richer. But if you have been happy with previous amounts, stick with those!)
In a medium sized bowl mix the warm water with the yeast and ½ cup of sugar. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to proof for 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, add the eggs, oil, sugar, and flour. Turn the mixer to low speed and pour in the yeast mixture. Mix for a minute or two until the dough just comes together. (It will look shaggy and messy). Turn the mixer off and allow the dough to rest for 10-30 minutes.
After 10-30 minutes, add the salt then turn the mixer back on and mix until the dough is smooth; about 10-15 minutes.
Once the dough is smooth, transfer to a large oiled bowl. The bowl should have enough room to allow the dough to double inside. Make sure the dough is completely covered in a thin coat of oil. Then cover and allow to rise. It needs to double in size. This can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. Or allow to rise overnight in the fridge.
Once risen, divide the dough, braid, and egg wash. If the dough rose overnight in the fridge, allow to come to room temp before dividing and shaping. Once shaped, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel.
Allow to double in size again. This can take 30 minutes to 1½ hours.
While the dough is rising for the second time, preheat your oven to 325-350 degrees F.
Once risen, carefully brush with more egg wash and bake until golden brown. Baking time varies depending on the size that you shaped your bread. Oven temp varies depending on the pans used to bake. A darker pan needs a lower oven temperature or the bread will get too dark before the bread is fully baked.
Naomi Nachman aka “The Aussie Gourmet” is out with her debut cookbook “Perfect for Pesach”. This cookbook is geared toward Passover cooking and baking, but according to Naomi, the recipes are so good, you’ll want to make them all year. 120 of the recipes are gluten free which makes this cookbook perfect for those with gluten dietary restrictions. When I asked Naomi why she chose to write this specific book she noted that she really wanted to break the mold of Passover cooking. It doesn’t have to be all meat and potatoes.
Not only does this cookbook contain 125 recipes, it is also a great Passover kitchen resource. It starts off with an entire page breaking down 6 cooking oils you may come across at the supermarket and why certain oils are chosen for certain recipes. Naomi includes a breakdown of her essential kitchen tools which is a perfect checklist for anyone cooking for Passover. She also includes tons of freezer tips because nobody wants to spend the entire holiday cooking in the kitchen.
The book is then broken up into classic categories: appetizers, dips ad salads, soups, fish, poultry, meat, dairy, sides, and desserts. Each recipe has a little note from Naomi, as well as a clear list of ingredients and a step by step method for preparing the dish. There are also cooks tips such as ingredient substitutions or different cooking methods that can be used. Many of the recipes also include ways to prep the recipe in advance. This sets you up for success in the kitchen. And although these recipes can be prepared as is for year round use, there is a page of non-Passover substitutions that can be used in place of Passover specific ingredients.
The best part of any cookbook, in my opinion, is the pictures. And this cookbook has a gorgeous full page color photo of every recipe. Miriam Pascal the Overtime Cook did all the photography for this book. She really knows how to make the food pop off the page.
So many of the recipes look amazing, but the recipes I really want to try first are southwestern chicken egg rolls, hush puppy potato knishes, quionoa “hummus”, charoset salad, goat cheese salad with raspberry vinaigrette, flanken butternut squash soup, meat and cabbage soup, pistachio crusted salmon, braised chicken with apples and sweet potatoes, citrus glazed duck breast, cranberry glazed turkey and spinach meatloaf, maple glazed rack of ribs, veal roast with mushroom sauce, pastrami meatballs, almond butter banana pancakes, cheesy hash browns, apple kugel muffins, blueberry cobbler, and fudgy chocolate bundt cake with coffee glaze. Lucky for us, with permission from Artscroll/Shaar Press/ March 2017 I am able to share Naomi Nachmans Passover recipe for fudgy chocolate bundt cake with coffee glaze!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a Bundt pan well; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour, coca powder, potato starch, coffee, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs. Add dry ingredients; stir to combine.
Pour batter into Bundt pan; bake 40-45 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool completely in the pan. Remove from pan; glaze with coffee glaze.
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients to form a glaze. If the glaze is too thick to pour, add water, ½ teaspoon at a time, until desired texture is reached.
Pour glaze over cooled cake.
I was generously given a review copy of Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman from Artscroll/Shaar Press/ March 2017 and they have agreed to give one away too! To win your very own copy of Perfect for Pesach by Naomi Nachman, head over to my Instagram @lilmisscakes to enter. US mailing address only.
This cake was made for a lady who loves shopping. What better way to celebrate than with a shopping bag cake! I built the cake pretty tall in a rectangle shape. Then I paneled the cake with white fondant.
I added some gum paste roses to the side of the cake, I love how they look. They really balance out the cake.
To make the handles I took some thick wire and bent it. Then I wrapped it with white fondant before inserting it into the top of the cake.
I rolled out tons on red fondant using my pasta roller to get the pieces very thin. Then I cut small rectangles of fondant and ruffled them by folding them up and allowing them to dry slightly before attaching them to the cake.
Going through some older photos I found this cake I made 3 years ago! I’m pretty sure I have never shared it until now. The design is still in style this cake could have been made today. I love this cake style and I think it’s safe to say it’s still trending. This is a simple style but still so perfect. The cake is covered in buttercream rosettes made using either a Wilton 1M or 2D tip. I don’t remember which one I used here but I often switch off depending on my mood. The pink color gets lighter with each layer. A simple fondant topper finishes off the look.
This post contains affiliate links. I have linked to the piping tips I love listed on Amazon. Purchasing through my links supports my shop and allows me to share all my tips, tricks, and recipes with you. Thanks for your support!
The Silver Platter: Simple Elegance is the second book by Daniella Silver. After the success of her first cookbook, The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular, Daniella has yet again teamed up with cooking guru Norene Gilletz. These two ladies make an amazing team and have put out another winning cookbook. Daniella comes up with impressive dishes with simple ingredients and Norene gives some really interesting and helpful tips for each and every dish. This book contains over 160 new recipes with tricks and techniques for planning, prepping, and serving stunning dishes for any occasion.
I love the layout of this book. Each recipe has a small introduction. The ingredients are clearly listed, and the directions are easy to understand. Each recipe includes “Norene’s Notes” which can be anything from make ahead tips, to substitutions, leftover ideas, Passover options, preparation tips, and even nutritional information. Every recipe is also paired with a gorgeous color photo to give you an idea of what your dish will look like as well as plating ideas. The cookbook itself is nice and big and is just gorgeous to flip thorough-it makes a beautiful coffee table book and makes the perfect gift.
The book is broken up into categories: appetizers, soups, salads, fish, poultry, meat, dairy, grain side dishes, vegetable side dishes, cookies and treats, and cakes. I like how easy Daniella and Norene make it to be healthful. Not only are the recipes lightened up when possible, but at the end of the book you will find a clear breakdown of the nutritional information for each recipe.
Some recipes I’m excited to try: roasted eggplant salad, pulled BBQ beef nachos, sweet potato and kale soup, cheesy potato leek soup, balsamic spinach salad with carmelized onions, honey garlic herbed salmon, chili lime fish fillets, smoked turkey cabbage slaw, asian flavored miami ribs, quinoa pizza ramekins, spinach cheese bites, candied cauliflower with almonds, peanut butter cookie brownies, brown sugar peach crisp, and salted chocolate ganache tart.
I am excited to share this recipe for Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cake from THE SILVER PLATTER SIMPLE ELEGANCE: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results by Daniella Silver and Norene Gilletz reproduced with permission from the copyright holder, Artscroll, November 2016.
You can’t beat the combination of fruit and chocolate in this fragrant cranberry loaf. Perfectly tart and sweet, it’s a great cake for breakfast, brunch, or an after-dinner treat. It makes two loaves, so freeze the second one for another occasion.
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups orange juice
2 ½ cups flour (or gluten-free flour with xanthan gum)
1 tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (no need to thaw)
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat eggs with sugar, oil, and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light.
Reduce mixer speed to low; gradually blend in orange juice.
Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix just until combined. Fold in cranberries and chocolate chips.
Divide batter evenly between prepared loaf pans; spread evenly. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out dry.
Allow loaves to cool for 20 minutes. Invert onto serving platters.
Muffin Variation: In Step 5, scoop batter into muffin pans coated with nonstick spray or lined with paper liners until ¾-full. Bake at 375°F for about 25 minutes. Yields 18-24 muffins.
Frozen cranberries don’t need to be thawed. Just rinse and pat them dry with paper towels before folding them into the batter.
Want to win your very own copy? Artscroll has offered to give one free copy of The Silver Platter: Simple Elegance to one of you! Head over to my Instagram @lilmisscakes for a chance to win! US mailing addresses only.
Cake release, also known as cake goop, is kind of a bakery secret. Ever have a cake stick in the pan even though you sprayed an entire can of cooking spray before baking? You could brush butter, then coat with flour. That will definitely do the trick, but then you may have a coat of flour on the outside of you cake, not to mention the mess involved in the process. Cake release is a mixture of equal parts shortening, oil, and flour, used to coat any baking pan before filling with batter. I always keep a jar of it on hand, ready to use to coat any baking pan. It kind of seems like magic when my cakes just slide right out of their pans.
The recipe is equal parts oil, vegetable shortening, and flour. I add 1 cup of each into the bowl of my mixer and beat until smooth. It takes a bit of time to work out the lumps but it’s necessary. Once smooth, store your cake release in a jar or container until ready to use. It can be stored at room temperature for a few months. I use mine all the time, so it never lasts that long.
To use, just take a pastry brush and coat your entire pan. Easy peasy! Hope this helps take your baking to the next level!
I’m really excited about this recipe. It’s perfect for this time of year, and really any time of year actually. But these definitely do remind me of fall, when the leaves are changing and the sweaters and boots come out.
I got a frantic call from a devoted mom trying to pull off the perfect autumn themed bake sale. She was planning to have warm cider and spiced apple cider donuts, but couldn’t source the perfect donuts anywhere. She had 2 days until the event when she called me. I told her there was no way I could pull off making 100 fresh donuts, but how about muffins? Perfect-muffins will be great! The only problem was I had never made apple cider muffins. I scoured the internet for a recipe and came across this one from New England Today’s Food section. It sounded like a winner. With a few tweaks I adapted the recipe to be dairy-free, perfect for my needs. These muffins promised to be better the next day and they sure do deliver!
Measure the apple cider and pour into small saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cider is reduced to 1 cup. Allow to cool. This can be done in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
Spray regular or mini muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the oil, apple sauce, and sugar until blended.
Add in the eggs one at a time and mix until blended.
Add in the vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the flour, fresh nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients to combine.
With the mixer running on low add the dry ingredients to the mixer alternating with the reduced and cooled apple cider, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
Once the batter comes together, spoon the batter into prepared muffin pan. I like to fill mine half way (for 18 regular muffins) but you can go ¾ of the way up for a larger muffin (12 regular muffins). You can also make minis, just reduce the baking time.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the muffins spring back to the touch. Once baked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before adding the topping.
In small bowl melt the margarine. In a second bowl combine the sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
Once the muffins are cool enough to handle, brush the muffins with the melted margarine on all sides, then roll in the cinnamon-sugar.
Store in an airtight container. They are perfect right away but are even better the next day.