Sunday, January 30, 2011

Easy Hello Kitty Cake

Hello world. I know I've been slacking in the blogging department. Yet another reason not to make New Years resolutions. I made a sort of resolution at the beginning of the month to have a schedule for posting to my blog. I don't know what happened but it seems like as soon as I'd made the plan, my whole life conspired against me being able to actually stick to the plan. I won't go into the long list of things that have kept me from posting but I will tell you that I've been making lots of cakes. A baby shower cake, a Tinkerbell cake, Spongebob cupcakes, I even got a weird request for a mountain dew cake. It's been a busy couple of weeks!
This particular cake was for a friends 6 year old daughter. My friend called and asked if I could make a Hello Kitty cake for her daughters birthday. She said that her daughter wanted the cake to be in the shape of Hello Kitty's head and the cake to be "pink velvet cake." She's a girl that knows what she likes!
This was my first Hello Kitty head cake. I hadn't really planned on sharing it here but as I was making it, I thought it was an easy fun cake that almost anyone could do and I decided to post it. It's great for a beginner cake decorator.
So here's a Hello Kitty cake tutorial, of sorts.


1 half sheet cake (you could also use a 9x13 inch cake)
3 cups of basic white buttercream frosting. (I used butter not shortening)
Fondant for bow, whiskers, eyes, and nose.

Make or buy cake. Wrap well and freeze the cake overnight. It's much easier to carve the cake while it's frozen. Freezing the cake also helps decrease the crumbs, which is very helpful when you go to frost the cake.
My cake was a basic vanilla cake dyed pink, aka pink velvet cake. If you want to go really simple, you could buy an plain, unfrosted half sheet cake from a bakery. I made my own frosting but you could use canned frosting as well.
Hello Kitty's head is pretty easy to cut out freehand. It's just an oval with ears. I didn't use a template but if you want one you can go here and download this one. You need Adobe Reader installed in your computer to download it. Or you could just Google Hello Kitty coloring pages and print the page. You may need to blow-up the picture to get the size you want for your cake.
If using a template, pin the template to the cake with toothpicks and carve around the template. I cut the corners off on the bottom of my cake. On the top of the cake I cut off a little less leaving room to cut out ears. Then I just carved off any edges that kept the cake from being oval shaped.

sorry this picture isn't very good, but I hope you get the general idea!

Frost the cake. You may need to do a thin coat of icing as a crumb coat and refrigerate the cake for about an hour. This will keep the crumbs from showing through when you put the rest of the frosting on the cake. I have never tried this with canned frosting so I don't know if it works well or not.

I used fondant to make the bow, whiskers, eyes and nose, on my cake. If you don't want to buy fondant, you could use fruit roll-ups for the bow, jelly beans for the eyes and nose, and licorice for the whiskers.

For the bow: Pinch off a small piece of fondant. Add  food gel coloring in desired color and knead until the color is incorporated into the fondant. Roll out fondant out to about 1/4 inch thickness. I used a small heart cookie cutter and a small oval cutter. I cut out 2 hearts and put the points of the heart together and put the oval over the points to form the center of the bow.
If you don't want to use fondant, you could cut a bow the same way out of fruit leather and get a similar effect.

I painted my bow with edible glitter!
I made my whiskers out of gum paste dyed black that I put into a clay extruder gun to make long ropes. You also could roll black fondant into ropes by hand and let them dry overnight, or just use pieces licorice.

I cut the eyes and nose from small pieces of fondant but jelly beans would make a good substitution.
Place the bow, eyes, nose and whiskers on the cake. When I finished my cake I realized I should have put the eyes a lower but changing them at that point would have messed up the top of the cake.
I finished off the cake with a boarder of frosting around the bottom edge. This step is optional. Leave it off if you don't feel comfortable using a piping bag.
 This Hello Kitty cake is a pretty easy, very fun project that would be great to do with the kids. The good news is, even if it isn't perfect at least you can eat your mistakes!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lime Cornmeal Cookies

Looking back over the last couple of years on my blog, I noticed a trend. I seem to start the new year with some lemon based dessert/baked item. I'm not sure why but I crave citrus this time of the year. It is a refreshing change from the rich, decadent desserts that pervade the holiday season. With the New Year, I get a feeling of fresh start, or a new beginning. So maybe that's why I find citrus so appealing this time of the year. 
What seems fresher than lemons, possibly only lime! That's partially what drew me to this recipe. The other reason I wanted to make these cookies is because I'd never a cookie with cornmeal as an ingredient. In the spirit of New Years, this year I want to challenge myself to bake and cook things I've never tried before. That's about as close as I'm getting to a resolution. 

Lime Cornmeal Cookies
source: Southern Living, Jan 2011 (adapted)
 (Printable recipe)
 Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plain yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Wax or parchment paper

Optional sugar mix for rolling: 
1/4 crystallized cup sugar
1 tablespoon lime zest

Combine flour and cornmeal. Beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and next 3 ingredients, beating until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating just until blended after each addition. Cover and chill dough 1 hour. Shape dough into a 12-inch log using wax paper. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill 8 hours.

If using, stir crystallized sugar and zest together, Spread on a piece of parchment paper or on your work surface, Unwrap the cookie log and roll log in the sugar mixture. Try to coat the log evenly, pressing lightly to help sugar to adhere.

 Preheat oven to 375°. Using a sharp knife, cut log into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely.

When I tasted these cookies, I thought they were pretty good. They had a nice subtle lime flavor, but  I wanted to kick that up a little more so I decided to add a lime glaze. I think it made these cookies even better.
The glaze on these cookies is a totally optional addition...well maybe for you, for me it's mandatory!

Lime Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2-3 tablespoons lime juice
zest from one lime
In a bowl, stir confectioners sugar and lime juice together. Stir until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, thin out by adding more lime juice, a teaspoon at a time until you get a glaze like consistency. Stir in lime zest
Place cookies on a baking rack over a baking sheet, to catch any drips. Drizzle on about a teaspoon of the glaze on the cookies. Wait about 5 minutes for the glaze to set-up slightly.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Happy New Year! Not the post I had planned...

 I planned to start the New Year with a recipe for oatmeal pancakes and cranberry maple syrup. On New Years Eve my computer decided it was done. It crashed, no stores were open, I had to live without a computer for a couple of days. In my distraught state, I never made my pancakes. I will but that's not what this post is about.
Most  Some of the time when blogging, I have a plan, see a recipe, get an idea, etc. and then set about to blog about whatever it is that I've decided would be a good post. I'll make something specifically because I want to put it on my blog, such as, the oatmeal pancakes. It doesn't always happen like this, sometimes the process happens in reverse. It's more like, by seat of the pants blogging (I'm a frequent flier). I make something, like it, take a picture and voila, unplanned blog post. I sure your shocked by this admission!
I admit this happens a lot. If I make something and like it, I usually end up blogging about it, and hope that someone out there likes it too. Sometimes a few readers will leave me a nice comment, occasionally another blogger will post a link on their blog. Whether or not it was a well planned and thought out post or simply a by the seat of the pants last minute post, that's usually the extent of it. Which is perfectly fine. I love the comments and links are even better. It's great to know that someone else enjoyed the recipe as well.
Anyway that's exactly what happened when I made the Fresh Corn Salad that I blogged about way back in May of 2009. I had corn, needed to use it, mixed it with some other stuff in the fridge and had it for dinner. Hubs and I both really liked it so I made it again the very next day. This time I took a picture of it before we devoured it. It was one of those posts that I hadn't planned but the salad was delish and it turned into a blog post. A few weeks after I posted the recipe, I got an email from someone saying that they worked with Molly O'Neill.  Molly O'Neill is was a food columnist for the New York Times and had written 3 cookbooks. She was writing a new cookbook featuring the food of America. The email said that they loved the fresh corn salad recipe I had posted on my blog. Would I please send them my phone number because they may want to talk to me about the recipe. At first I thought that this was some kind of scam or something. I mean really, you like that corn salad recipe? After all it was just a last minute addition to the blog. There are other recipes on my blog that I'd spent much more time and effort on. After taking a day or two to decided, I sent her my phone number. A few days later, a very nice woman from Ms. O'Neill's office calls and asks if I have time for a phone interview. I agree to do it, still kind of wondering where all this was going. She asked me all kinds of questions about my life, where I'm from, what my food background is and so on. She asked me about where/how the corn salad recipe came about. Was it an old family recipe, was it something I served often, etc... Ummm well, no it's not an old family recipe. I mean sure I grew up eating corn based salads, but I just happened to have a lot of corn and some really ripe tomatoes on hand. I threw in the feta because I had it, and the basil seemed like a good idea too. There you have it, corn salad. We talked for a few more minutes, she explained to me that she was gathering info for Molly O'Neills cookbook. The cookbook was going to be a compilation of recipes and stories from across America. She said she didn't know if my recipe would end up making it into the cookbook or not. She was just getting my information and Ms. O'Neill would make the final decisions about what would be included in the cookbook. She thanked me for my time and that was that.

Fast forward to Dec. 2010. I'm pushing my cart, containing  a 7 lb bag of confectioner's sugar and 4 lbs of butter, my usual purchases, through Sam's Club. I can't walk through Sam's without going down the book aisle and flipping through a cookbook or two. I love Christmas time because they usually have lots of newly released cookbooks. I picked up one or two cookbooks before I noticed this very large cookbook titled, One Big Table. The title caught my interest so I picked it up. I saw the authors name was Molly O'Neill. That name sounded familiar. Wasn't that the name of the author that I did that phone interview for way back when. I'd completely forgotten about that interview until I saw this book. "Oh well I guess my recipe didn't make the cut," was my thought because I'd never heard anything back from her office. I started flipping through the book and noticed the index was divided by state. Out of curiosity, I turned to Alabama...and right there it listed my hometown. No way! I flipped back to the page listed and there was my Fresh Sweet Corn Recipe along with a short bio about me! In the book it said that they'd gone through over 20,000 recipes and picked just 600 for the book. OMG! I wanted to grab the person next to me and say "My corn salad recipe is in this cookbook!!" Common sense kicked in and I didn't run around shouting "That's me on page 137." Instead, I picked up the book, put it in my cart and casually headed for the check-out. I did probably have a big goofy grin on my face, however!
Happy New Year! Wishing you all a healthy, happy year! I guess I should resolve to plan more and fly by the seat of my pants less, but you know what, so far so good!