Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lemon Thyme Cake

I made these cakes for a ladies group I spoke at about using herbs in cooking. Most of the women in the group were fairly familiar with cooking with herbs like thyme, but very few had ever used any herb, other than mint, in baking. Thyme is from the mint family and has a slightly minty, lightly lemony flavor which makes it perfect to use in baking. Thyme pairs perfectly with this lemony cake. I added thyme to the cake batter. After the cakes were baked I poked holes into them with a skewer and topped them with a lemon thyme syrup. The syrup adds even more lemon thyme flavor. Poking holes into the cake allows the syrup to get all the way into the cake and keeps it extremely moist. In fact, these cakes seem to taste better the longer they sits. If you've never tried baking with herbs, this cake is a great place to start!

Lemon Thyme Cake
Source: Martha Stewart (adapted)
Yields: 2 loaf cakes or one bundt cake
Printable Recipe
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
Zest of 2 lemons, finely grated
1 tablespoon fresh thyme,chopped, (if the center stem of the thyme is tough, pick the leaves off and discard the stem).
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs

Lemon Thyme Syrup 
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
Zest of one lemon, finely grated
5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in lowest position. Butter and flour or spray with cooking spray, two 4 1/2-by-8-inch (6-cup) loaf pans.
Make the syrup:
In a small pot, stir together the lemon juice, zest, sugar, and thyme. Heat the mixture on medium for about 10 minutes, until the sugar is dissolves and the liquid is clear. Take off the heat, cover and set aside while you prepare the cake.
For the cake:
In a a 2 cup liquid measuring cup,combine buttermilk with lemon juice and fresh thyme. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.
In a separate bowl mix lemon zest and sugar together. Rub the sugar together with the zest until the sugar is slightly damp. 
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar/zest until light and fluffy about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
With mixer on low, add flour mixture in three parts alternately with the buttermilk mixture in two, beginning and ending with flour; beat just until smooth (do not overmix).
Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes (tent with foil if browning too quickly). Cool 15 minutes in pan. Turn out cakes onto a rack; cool for about 20 minutes before glazing with the syrup.
Set rack with cakes over a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Poke holes in the cakes over the top with a skewer or a thin knife. Pour the syrup over cakes, letting it run down the sides; let dry, about 30 minutes.

I also want to congratulate Kerry S. on winning our Woodland Fairy giveaway!! Our fairy party was also featured on two wonderful blogs last week. Woohoo! 
Check out our feature on Happy Hour Project and Kate from A Creative Cookie picked our party to be featured on Sugar Bee Crafts! Thanks ladies, I am honored!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Kissin' Wears Out, Cookin' Don't!

My Mennonite grandmother used to say this all the time. It's a fairly common saying in Mennonite kitchens and one that always made laugh. Ten years ago today, Hubs and I got married. As I was thinking about how to celebrate, my grandmother's words came to mind. I had to laugh at the truth and wisdom in that saying that I now understand more fully. Walking down the aisle, harp playing, birds singing, I had more kissing on my mind than cooking. After ten years of marriage, I can tell you that dinner time comes around every day. Kissing is still important but dinner time is eternal. It's one of those things I thought I knew before I got married. After answering "what's for dinner?" for 10 years now, I really get it. So here's ten things I've learned in ten years:

1. Grammy was right, you'll do more cooking than kissing.
2. You'll probably experience everything you vowed to love each other through.
3. Marriage isn't easy. It takes hard work, every day. It's easy to take each other for granted, it hard work not to.
4. Dirty laundry is another one of those constants.
5. It's the little things, more than the grand gestures, that mean the most.
6. Learn to say "I'm sorry", it goes a looong way!
7. When he apologizes, accept it and move on. Holding on to past hurts ruins future happiness.
8. Be prepared to change course. You never know what road ahead holds.
9. Accept that you won't agree on everything, and that's a good thing.
10. Kissing is still really important!

Ok so this list barely scratches the surface of the lessons learned in ten years but these were some of the biggest for me. I know that there'll be many more things to learn in the years to come. Here's to ten more years and all the cookin' it brings!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Woodland Fairy Party and Giveaway

Be warned this Woodland Fairy party just may be cute overload!
My sister and I put together this party for my niece's 7th birthday. My sister made all the printables for the party and I made the food. I made toadstool and monogram cupcake toppers and cake toppers from fondant to match the invitations. We are in the process of putting together an Etsy store so that you can buy these (and many other styles/themes) printables and fondant decorations and throw a Woodland Fairy party of you own. In the meantime we are going to have a giveaway and one lucky reader will receive the pdf files with the printables for this party from Fat Bird Designs and two dozen of the Woodland Fairy Cupcake toppers, a fondant fairy cake topper and 3 fondant mushrooms from me!
Woodland Fairy Birthday Banner

The invite, you can edit to add your party information, and the cupcake toppers!

Even if you don't win the whole party, Fat Bird Designs is offering this FREE printable and DIY instructions on how you can make the felt mushroom, pictured below.

 Enter to win the pdf files for the printables for the party, one dozen monogram cupcake toppers with the letter of your choice, one dozen mushroom cupcake toppers. The pdf files will include a editable invitation, the Happy Birthday banner, monogram food picks, mushroom food picks, fairy picks, an editable menu, and water bottle /drink wrap.
 Here's how you enter to win! It's super easy. The winner will be chosen by Rafflecopter and announced here next Thursday. Good Luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway Party printables: Fat Bird Designs 
Cake, cupcakes, "mushroom" marshmallow pops, chocolate dipped pretzels: Half Baked

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, April 13, 2012

Sneak Peek of the Woodland Fairy Birthday Party...

I'm so excited to share these photos from the Woodland Fairy birthday party we threw for my niece yesterday. She's turning seven and loves fairies. Her birthday isn't actually until the end of the month, but she lives three hours away, and won't be here on her actual birthday so we celebrated yesterday. This is just a peek. I'm still getting a more in depth post together including how you can win the adorable printables and the cupcake toppers like the ones from the party! I couldn't wait to share so here's your sneak peek!
Invitation by Fat Bird Designs (my sister) I made the cupcake toppers to match the invites
Stay tuned for more details from the Woodland Fairy party!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Strawberry Roulade

Like most families, our holiday traditions revolve are food. That's especially true for Easter in our family. We have pretty much the same menu from year to year. The same was true this year. We had our annual Easter lunch at the farm on Sunday afternoon. It was a gorgeous day. My contribution to the meal was this Strawberry Roulade. It was delicious, very light, a perfect Spring dessert. The cake is a light sponge cake filled with a mascarpone whipped cream and fresh strawberries. It's kind of like a rolled up strawberry shortcake.

If you've never made a roulade before don't be intimidated by the process. It can be a little nerve racking to roll up a cake in a towel, but it's easier than it looks.  

Strawberry Roulade
Source: (adapted) 

Printable recipe
For the Cake:
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare one 10½ x15½ x1 inch Jelly Roll pan; lightly grease the pan or spray with baking spray, line with parchment paper, and then lightly spray with baking spray.

Sprinkle a clean towel with 1/4 cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar. Set aside to use after the cake is baked. A small kitchen towel that is a little larger than the 15x10 inch pan works well.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt; sift or whisk together to mix. Set aside.
In a large bowl of an electric mixer, add the egg yolks and beat 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed until the egg yolk foam becomes thick and lemon colored. With the mixer on medium speed, VERY slowly add 1/2 cup of the sugar to the eggs, either one tablespoon at a time, or in a very slow steady stream, taking from 2 to 3 minutes to add all of the sugar, and beating until the eggs and sugar are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. The mixture will be thick and a pale yellow color. Add the water and vanilla and continue mixing for another 1 minute until well blended.
With the mixer on low speed, gradually add about 1/2 of the flour mixture, mix just until blended, and then add the remaining half, mix just until blended, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed.
In another large mixing bowl and using clean beaters, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar; continue beating until stiff peaks form. Using a balloon type whisk or large rubber spatula, gently fold about 1/4 of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten the batter, and then fold the remaining egg whites in.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with the back of a large spoon or large offset spatula. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched. Remove from oven, immediately loosen edges of cake from pan and turn the cake over onto the prepared towel. Carefully peel off the parchment paper, and then roll the cake and towel together tightly, starting with the narrow end. Place seam side down on a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

For the Filling:
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold
1/2 cup mascarpone
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup of powdered sugar
Sliced strawberries (about 1 1/2 cup)
*(1/2 cup Strawberry Jam, optional)

To make the filling, whip together the mascarpone, heavy cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff peaks form.


Carefully unroll cooled cake but don’t try to make the cake lie completely flat, the edge should remain curled so that the cake doesn’t split.

Spread whipped cream over the cake and under the curled edge and leaving a 1 1/2 inch border on the far side. Sprinkle strawberries over the whipped cream. Gently re-roll the cake without the towel, starting with the curled end. Place seam side down on a serving plate. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

*Note: The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of strawberry jam spread over the cake before spreading on the whipped cream. I didn't have strawberry jam so I left it out but the jam would add a bit more strawberry flavor to the cake so I think I'll add it next time I make this.

A great dessert to impress your friends with!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Stenciled Easter Cookies

I get asked to make a lot of decorated sugar cookies and I have a love/hate relationship with royal icing. That's actually an improvement over the outright hatred I used to feel for it. We've worked out most of our issues, (well I've done the all work) and now have a pretty good working relationship. Although sometimes, on occasion, I still yell at it, call it mean names, and threaten to throw it away and never use it again...rrrr love/hate! When it came to these cookies I didn't feel like dealing with my frenemy royal icing. I was just making these cookies for fun and didn't want to work that hard. So here is my lazy girl answer to royal icing decorated sugar cookies. I went easy all the way. I made a no-chill sugar cookies, really just roll out, cut out, and bake...easy!  Instead of high maintenance, finicky, royal icing, I made super easy corn syrup icing, no whipping or thinning, just mix and use...also very easy. Then I iced cookies, when the icing dried, I threw a stencil on the cookies and sprayed with some Wilton color mist. So easy and cute! The only problem with these cookies is that the stenciling was really fun and now I'm coveting  this airbrush cake decorating kit. Maybe one day!

How adorable are these cookies!
No-Chill Sugar Cookies
Source: Wilton recipes

Yield: about 3 dozen 3-in. cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon no-color almond extract 
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and extracts. Mix flour, baking powder and salt; add to butter mixture 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Do not chill dough. Divide dough into 2 balls.
On floured surface, roll each ball into a circle approximately 12 in. diameter x 1/8 in. thick. Dip cookie cutter in flour before each use. Bake cookies on ungreased cookie sheet 8-11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned.
Note: These cookies taste great but do spread a little when baking, unlike this recipe, but for simple sugar cookies, it's a great choice.

When the cookies cool, pipe an outline(you can skip this but it helps keep the icing from running), spread icing on the rest of the cookie. Let the icing dry, about 6 hours, overnight is best. 

Corn Syrup Icing
Source: Karen's Cookies  
2 lb powdered sugar
½ C plus 2 T milk (10 T)
½ C plus 2 T corn syrup (10 T)
1 Tablespoon flavoring, anything you like: a combination of clear vanilla and almond extract is nice. I also like lemon flavoring for this icing.

Mix together till smooth. Divide up and color as desired.
You can use this icing just the way it is for both outlining and filling in. If you're looking for more detail, you can thicken up your outline color with a bit more powdered sugar if desired. The formula is not set in stone, feel free to experiment with different ratios of liquid to sugar to get the consistency you like the best.
Note: Love this much easier than royal icing. However, the consistency is too thin for piping intricate designs (so I'll still be using royal icing for those cookies) but it's perfect for a simple iced cookie, like these.

Now for the fun part.... stenciling! I found this pack of stencils at Wal-Mart in the craft section.
So cute and they're the perfect size for cookies!
Lay stencil on top

Spray iced cookie with color spray.
Ta da!
Notes: Be sure to cover your work area well, there's quite a bit of over spray. It takes a couple of tries to get the feel for using the color mist. I practiced on a paper towel first. The first couple of cookies still didn't turn out perfectly.  Doing couple of light coats works better than one heavy coat. There's a little bit of a learning curve but even the less than perfect cookies are delicious! 
This is one of the first ones I made...not exactly perfect!
zebra stripes!
Easter basket ready!