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Banana CakeMuffinBread February 20, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in food.
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Banana muffins

I made some more banana cake last night, in the form of muffins so the kids can take them to school/daycare. After investing a bunch of money around the holidays on silicon bakeware, it’s ironic that I’ve really come to love my coated aluminum Nordicware pans the best. Ever since I started using cooking spray with flour – I couldn’t find Baker’s Joy locally so I ended up with Pam with Flour – it has completely eliminated any sticking issues. I just have to be careful when I spray it because it tends to get everywhere. I also have to remember to wipe it off the surfaces of the pan that aren’t going to be filled with batter so it doesn’t bake on. Overall, though, I’m a convert. I guess I’ll save the silicon for soapmaking or donate it to GeeDub.

Nom.

Banana muffins

Recipes. Here’s the cake recipe, since I was asked for it – I used to make banana bread which has less flour and is heavier, but was never totally satisfied with the results. The cake, however, this will be my banana bread recipe from now on, it’s spot-on perfect. With a few edits, of course ;)

Banana CakeMuffinBread

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar (recipe calls for 1-1/2, but I don’t think it needs that much)
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup milk (it calls for buttermilk or sour milk but I never have those on hand)
1/2 cup butter (recipe calls for “shortening”, eugh)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla (I use a sploosh)

Combine dry ingredients and 1/2 tsp salt. Add banana, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Beat on low until combined, then beat on medium for 3 minutes (very important!) Pour batter into whatever you’re baking it in – cake pans, muffin tins, Pyrex bowls, bake at 350 degrees (325 if using convection) for 30-35 minutes, test by poking with a knife. Cool on racks. Nom.

And of course no baked good would be complete without buttercream frosting! I use a standard recipe, more or less.

Buttercream Frosting

1/3 cup butter, soft
4-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
sploosh of vanilla

Beat butter until fluffy, add powdered sugar gradually and mix well in between. Slowly beat in liquid, adjusting amounts by how stiff or soft you want your frosting to be. Spread on cake if you want. Nom.

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Happy Birthday Mim! February 17, 2009

Posted by jeninmaine in bebeh, food.
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Today is Mim’s first birthday! We already had a really casual party on Sunday at the local Chinese place, I mean she doesn’t know what’s going on so it’s not like I had to plan anything elaborate this year. Also the folks at the Chinese place love my kids, seriously love them.

Mim’s pretty party shoes! Which stayed on all of 1.5 seconds before she kicked them off.

Mim turns one!

I made banana cake with buttercream frosting – I freakin’ LOVE buttercream frosting, the kind made with real butter and vanilla. I used to detest making it before I got a mixer, now it’s so easy. Mmm frosting. I’m drooling just thinking about it. I was originally going to use a banana bread recipe and just make them into cake shapes but of course I didn’t start baking until mid-morning on Sunday (we were meeting at noon) so the 55-60 minute baking time gave me pause…until I found a banana cake recipe with the same ingredients, just more flour and milk, that only took 25-30 minutes. Sold! I ended up using Pyrex storage bowls for baking pans, two medium round ones for most of the batter and one small one-cup sized for Mim’s personal cake. They were yummy.

Mim turns one!

Her little cake had a smiley face in it!

Mim turns one!

Mim’s Signature Look.

Mim turns one!

Time for cake!

Mim turns one!

First up – testing the buttercream frosting.

Mim turns one!

Nom.

Mim turns one!

Processing…

Mim turns one!

Yeah, that’s good, let’s have some more of that.

Mim turns one!

Once all the frosting was licked off, the cake itself wasn’t too shabby

Mim turns one!

Here, have a Happy Birthday smack.

Mim turns one!

Test baking? For real? December 10, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in food.
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This xmas we plan to make things to send to people – in years past it’s mostly been my duty (which I assign to myself, mind you) to organize and perform any baking and/or crafting for gifts, though last year Michael did help in the packaging which was a huge relief. This year he brought it up which surprised me a little but if it means he’ll head up some of it then yay!

In any case we made a decision to find some silicone bakeware to use in this endeavor. We searched far and wide for cute shaped pans to no avail. Finally we chanced upon one snowflake cupcake pan at A.C. Moore and a large bundt at Target but that was all we could find. I went online and found a large flower cupcake pan and some mini bundt cups on Target.com. But then a week later when I was in Marden’s they had a HUGE display of Wilton silicon bakeware, the exact same stuff we had seen at Bed, Bath & Beyond (in fact they still had the BBB price tags on them, blacked out with permanent marker) so I picked up some bread pans, cake pans, muffin pans, mini muffin pans and madeleines as I’ve always wanted to make those, all for around 70% off. It so figures that the one place I wasn’t looking specifically would have what I wanted. Needless to say we now have a HUGE amount of silicon bakeware where before we had none at all. I also scored a really nice Nordicware small rose muffin pan – even though it was non-stick aluminum I had seen the same rose-shaped cakes at Kate’s wedding and really liked them, so finding it at Marden’s for $15 instead of the retail price of $38 was very exciting to me :D

I was a little leery of silicon so I did some Googling and found that it’s considered to be very safe – silicon is inert so it won’t combine with food when heated (as long as you don’t heat it above 500 degrees) and even if it were ingested it would pass through the body without being absorbed. That’s why it’s used inside the body for medical purposes due to its safety. I felt better about using the pans after reading up on them.

In a sudden fit of preparedness I decided to do some test baking tonight. Ready for the pictoral?

Okay, first up: Banana Muffins. I used a new, really horrible recipe that I am not at all pleased with. I won’t use it again. In any case I tested out the Wilton brand muffin and mini muffin pans on a double batch of that crap recipe, here’s how it went.

Mini muffins:

Baking Experiments

They browned very nicely on top though they sort of resemble little popovers. Oh man, I could use these to make popovers! I love popovers. I poked a couple to see if they were stuck.

Baking Experiments

No sticking at all! The only thing I noticed is that since I had them on a steel cookie sheet the bottoms browned more than I was expecting. In the future I’ll either put a Silpat on top of the cookie sheet and under the muffin pan, or bake for a little longer at a lower temperature.

Next were the standard size muffins.

Baking Experiments

Again, pretty perfect! They were on a small cookie sheet (the only thing that would fit in the oven beside the large cookie sheet) and you can see how the tilted pans made the batter rise sideways. Kind of neat.

Baking Experiments

And again, slightly over-browned but no sticking at all. I waited until the pan was cool (about 1-2 minutes), then was able to easily grab the muffins with my fingers and put them on cooling racks. The muffins were still too hot to handle, however, so I will know to wait longer next time.

But as I said, they tasted kind of weird.

Baking Experiments

Wilton Easy Flex Mini Muffin Pan: A
Wilton Easy Flex Muffin Pan: A

Let’s check on Brigid.

Baking Experiments

Brigid: A+

Next up: Spice Cake (a recipe I have used with much success). I mixed up a double batch of batter, which was very nearly too much for my mixer.

Baking Experiments

For this round I was using a generic brand flower muffin pan, a Wilton snowflake muffin pan, the Nordicware rose muffin pan, and with the extra batter I decided to try out a few of the KitchenAid mini bundt muffin cups.

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

I was able to cram the two silicone muffin pans in the oven along with a couple of the mini bundt cups, but the rose muffin pan was too wide so it had to sit out and wait. I hoped the batter wouldn’t flatten while it sat. I put the remainder of the batter into a few more mini bundt cups and on a lark popped them in the toaster oven at 325.

Toaster oven mini bundts:

Baking Experiments

These very surprisingly came out just fine. I was concerned about the heat sources being so close to the cups but they didn’t have any trouble. The cakes were slightly browner than their conventional oven counterparts but weren’t overcooked. This is a good thing to know should I ever need to whip up something last minute while the oven is already being used.

Soon after, the silicon pans came out of the oven.

Baking Experiments

Everything looked pretty good. The conventional oven cakes were more even on top (bottom), but otherwise nothing too earth-shattering. I shook out the mini bundts from the toaster oven and from the conventional oven.

Baking Experiments

The toaster oven bundts were slightly browner, due no doubt to being so close to the heating elements. Still, they baked all the way through and didn’t suffer any ill effects.

Baking Experiments

The conventional oven bundts also came out of the molds with very little problem (there were a few crumbs stuck to the center piece but nothing drastic) even though I had forgotten to spray oil into them before filling. Very cute!

KitchenAid Mini Bundt Muffin Cups: A-

Then it came time for the snowflakes and flowers. I was so excited as my experiences thus far had been positive…

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

Oh – oh my. EPIC FAIL.

Baking Experiments

I tried to pry one out while it was still hot and saw it would be a disaster, so I waited until it cooled but the cakes were still so firmly attached to these things I had to turn them inside out. I had followed the directions and used spray oil on the pans just as I did with the muffin and mini muffin pans, yet the batter stuck horribly. The details on the snowflakes didn’t show up at all on the few pieces that managed to come out intact, and the flowers had some detail but not very much. It looks like I had some lumps of brown sugar that didn’t get dissolved and that wreaked havoc, nonstick spray or no. The cake was very light and fluffy and delicious, just fugly and non-giftable. I did, however, detect a slight “plasticky” taste in the flower cakes. Blech.

Wilton Mini Snowflake Silicone Mold: F
Silicone Zone Flower Muffin Pan: D-

Last but not least, the timer beeped and I took the Nordicware pan out of the oven. It looked innocent enough:

Baking Experiments

But I was convinced that I would end up with another pile of crumbs and chunks of half-demolished spice cake. I let it sit for a bit to cool and then prepared to turn it over on the cookie sheet and shake it to loosen its load, employing a plastic spoon to pry out what I could.

Baking Experiments

Much to my surprise the moment I tipped it, all these perfect little rosebuds just tumbled out with a sound like tinkling fairy laughter. I think I even saw glitter. Could it be? Could conventional aluminum (albeit with the cheat of non-stick coating) be the way to go? Let’s get a closer look.

Baking Experiments

They really did look very good. With the exception of a few air bubbles I neglected to knock out they were perfect. Firm and nicely shaped and with lovely detail.

Nordicware Sweetheart Rose Muffin Pan: A+

Mmm, spice cake.

Baking Experiments

Baking Experiments

So there you have it. I’m going to do some more sleuthing to try and figure out what would work best with those shaped silicon pans – it’s nice to know I can at least use the muffin pans without fear, I hate paper muffin cups so it’ll be nice not to have to deal with them any more. I can make all sorts of breakfast muffins and treats to stash in kidlet’s lunch box.

Now I kind of want to get the Nordicware pan I saw at BBB that makes cakes shaped like a train, or maybe the big castle! I’m so easily amused.

Addendum: I was cheesed off that I spent $24.99 (gasp!) on that Silicon Zone flower pan, so I wrote to Target at like 1:30am telling them how awful it was and that I didn’t think it was worth the money. This morning I found a very nice email from Target apologizing for my bad experience and issuing a refund for the pan plus tax. Wow!

Target.com Customer Service: A++!

Let them eat cake! August 9, 2008

Posted by jeninmaine in food, kidlet.
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Whew. I baked a cake. I was going to make another pirate ship cake as kidlet had specifically requested it – that would have been three in three years, egads! The other day I mentioned the pirate ship and he said, “Actually, I changed my mind. I don’t want a pirate ship. I want a castle!”

So I racked my brain a little and came up with a design I thought might work, and here are some exhaustive photos for your enjoyment. I made a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting from scratch. The recipes I used were from my trusty old Better Homes & Gardens New Cook Book, the binder-style one that I got from my Dad when I started college. I was a little bummed that I didn’t have any black food coloring to make the castle grey, the best I could do was light blue.

I started out making a double batch of batter and baking one 9 x 12″ cake and one 8 x 10″ cake in glass Pyrex cake pans. I cut the 9 x 12″ cake in half and trimmed it down a little, then stuck those together and frosted the whole thing. Don’t tell but the frosting between the layers is white as I had forgotten to add the food coloring until after I’d already stuck it together, heh. I used a stiffer frosting that called for a cup of butter and 4-1/2 cups powdered sugar, but only 2-3 tbs of milk. It made a big difference.

Kidlet's birthday cake

The amazing machine that made it all possible:

Kidlet's birthday cake

Some of my other favoritest things – my totally retro coffee flask and my super 70s teapot. I <3 Goodwill.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Here’s the smaller layer:

Kidlet's birthday cake

I cut it into equal pieces, thinking I’d make four towers of two layers each. This left me with a lot of leftovers. Leftover cake is never a bad thing.

Kidlet's birthday cake

While frosting the first two layers of the main cake, I’d scrape any frosting that got crumbs in it into a bowl and then use that frosting for parts that weren’t on the outside, like sticking these layers together. Waste not, want not!

Kidlet's birthday cake

Okso…I started putting the towers on the cake and quickly realized it was madness as I was looking at four towers with four raw, crumbly sides each. Logistical nightmare. Shitty looking logistical nightmare.

Kidlet's birthday cake

…fortunately easily reversible.

My cardinal rule with cake making is thus: Since I am not a professional, I make a double batch of frosting to make sure I have enough after I screw the cake up three to ten times.

Kidlet's birthday cake

If I’d had my brain engaged to start with I would have just cut two layers to go in the middle instead of cobbling together like I did. Shh. Don’t tell.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Sticking it together wasn’t too bad. I discovered when working with raw (crumby) edges it’s a good idea to just slap a layer on any way you can, as long as it’s all covered in frosting, because you can always go back afterward and cover it up.

I also had a brainchild and put strips of parchment paper over the rest of the top so as not to get crumbs all over it.

Kidlet's birthday cake

It’s ugly, but the frosting is on. Then I stuck it in the fridge for a while to let it all harden so I could clean it up. I love buttercream frosting as you can just hit the reset button by chilling it.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Once it came out I was able to straighten out the frosting and add more to cover the crumby parts.

Kidlet's birthday cake

About halfway through this cake it occurred to me that my son is spoiled.

After removing the parchment paper there was a little scarring, but this was easy enough to fix…

Kidlet's birthday cake

There. Not bad! I piped some icing along the bottom of the tower to cover up the gaps. It sort of resembled a stucco house in Atlantis but hey, whatever.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Rolos used for crenelations. I applied a little too much frosting to stick them on, I adjusted the amount when I moved to the ground floor.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Lots of Rolos. I think any five-year-old would flip over the amount of shiny candy alone, especially a kid like mine who only gets candy at Hallowe’en and Easter.

Kidlet's birthday cake

I don’t own an icing bag but you can jury-rig your own with a piece of parchment paper. Make a cone and drop your decorating tip (you can buy these at the grocery store) into the end.

Cheaper and more eco-friendly than a plastic icing bag – whenever I’ve used a plastic bag I always ended up splitting it along the seam within five minutes and making a huge mess.

Kidlet's birthday cake

The finished cake! My husband suggested the door. Of course the second rainbow sequence isn’t quite right but please don’t point it out.

Kidlet's birthday cake

Kidlet's birthday cake

There, don’t you feel enlightened?