Category: general tips & tricks

Brown butter donuts? Vanilla bean glaze? YES.

WARNING: These donuts are CRAZY.

I wasn’t even going to post them. Not really. I made them for Jay’s partner who helped him out moving some stuff, and because they were so insane I decided I had to make them again & post them for you. Seriously.

I also upped the ante a bit.

Brown butter donuts with a thick vanilla bean glaze!

See… the first time I made them I made a regular vanilla bean glaze. Half a bean scraped into some milk & confectioner’s sugar. Bam. It was delicious. Jay’s partner loved ‘em, we loved ‘em.

But I knew that it could be BETTER.

Brown butter donuts with vanilla bean glaze. They're baked, so they're good for you. Right?

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Saying goodbye to summer with tomato jam.

Wow. Hey there, end of summer.

You snuck up on me, as you usually do. But this time I feel like I really haven’t been expecting you at all. By this time in years’ past I have already thought about you once or twice, usually around my birthday. I have perhaps even dwelled upon you, sadly, as I acknowledge the days already getting a smidgen shorter, & the cicadas song plays the finale. But this year? You got me good. Suddenly, it’s the unofficial end of summer: Labor Day.

A delicious tomato jam; try it with goat cheese on toasted bread for a different spin on bruschetta!

I feel like I haven’t made a whole lot of things I wanted to this summer. Having a blog makes you a bit crazy, see. I wanted to make all these awesome things over the summer & then blog about them. I wanted to take some tomato canning classes at The Brooklyn Kitchen. I had big plans for recipes- Miemo’s mama’s eggrolls, paella. Things like that. Things that were new to me (kitchen-wise), things that I never made before. I did make one-pan pasta & homemade butter, though, both of which are things I’d never done. But the other, more complicated things? Nope. I got caught up in the enjoyment of summer… the corn on the cob, the cookouts, the lazy sticky days & humid starry nights roasting marshmallows, drinking frozen alcoholic drinks, the soaking in of the sun, eating fresh fish after a day at the beach, the making of pickles & jams, the cutting of herbs, the inhaling of said herbs (frequently heard around here: “OH MY GOD that fresh basil/cilantro/oregano/rosemary smells AMAZING!”). Then I was tricked by the unseasonably cool weather (not a day over 90 degrees in August) & I was lulled into having the windows open with cool air blowing in. But I still forgot all about the end of summer. Basically, I got distracted living life.

There are worse things.

Stepping away from the internet is a good thing. Anyway… I got distracted & forgot that summer was about to end. Summer is weird that way; it starts to end the minute it begins and before you know it you’re catching up, trying to squeeze in the last bits of it any way you can. Now, suddenly, it’s tomato time.

Fresh grape tomatoes... about to be turned into tomato jam.

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Millions of peaches, peaches for me.

A big ol' box of Washington State peaches!

Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks of that Presidents of the United States of America song when I see peaches… please… someone… anyone? I sing it to myself in the supermarket. At the farmer’s market. Anywhere I see peaches. And I distinctly remember the video; specifically seeing it on MTV at my aunt & uncle’s house when I was in 9th grade. I believe that was when Jenny McCarthy was the host of Singled Out, not to mention when the show was actually popular.

Damn I’m old.

I don’t mind being “old”, though. Not really. I mean, let’s face it… 32 isn’t really old. I’m being facetious here. But either way, old people are my favorite kinds of people, so I don’t care about “getting old.” I’d rather spend my time knitting, baking & listening to Wingy Manone or Dean Martin with the Golden Girls than hanging out with a bunch of gum-snapping Justin Bieber or Taylor Swift fans ANY DAY.

Beautiful fresh peaches.. turned into a vanilla brandied peach jam!A quick wash & dry does a lot to make them even more beautiful…

 

And let’s face it: some of my favorite pastimes used to be considered old fashioned. It used to be (and not that long ago) that baking pies or making jam were outdated concepts. That “home-y” domestic stuff was something that was relegated to history books or old WWII propaganda posters. It was old fashioned. It was for old ladies. It wasn’t cool for a while there to have anything to do with the kitchen. It was the in thing to act as if you couldn’t even boil water or stored sweaters in your stove. Blame Carrie Bradshaw, blame whoever you want, but it was a fact. Women who stayed home & liked to be domestic were once frowned upon, looked at as boring or even worse, dubbed “ambition-less.” That sucks. I’m just glad things have changed. I’m glad there are people like Erica from P.S. I Made This who show that you can be quirky, crafty & love to cook but also be cool, & have a wicked sense of fashion. Not to mention that a career can be made from it! Whoda thunk it. Move over, Martha, there’s more of us.

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Tea towel apron D.I.Y.

Also known as: sewing for the lazy & talentless.

I’m going to preface this by saying that yes, I went to F.I.T., also known as the Fashion Institute of Technology, for Fashion Design. This is true. Yes, I have a dressmakers mannequin in my house, which you will see shortly. And yes, I spent a good many hours seated at a massive industrial sweatshop-style sewing machine, once even witnessing a girl sew her fingers together. This is all true. And yes, I also took draping & patternmaking classes. I did very poorly in them, though, to be quite honest. Yes, I also made my own dress with a Peter Pan collar, skirt with a zipper up the back & light summer-weight coat. Yes, I did also create patterns for a business suit with a Batman-style collar & fishtail skirt out of muslin. But they weren’t exactly loved by the faculty. Not the design aspect- but the patterns (and consequently the poor sewing of said patterns) themselves. My strong suit was not the actual making of the clothes, but the designing. And yes- Professor Wong made it quite clear that in order to DESIGN them well one must understand how to CREATE them well. I understand.

That’s also why I transferred to Fashion Illustration shortly thereafter. I make a better artist than seamstress, and I despise patterns.

However, that’s not to say I can’t do some damage with a needle & thread. I’ve made- all sewn by hand, mind you- skirts, shirts, handbags & scarves. I spend a fair amount of my time sewing Jay’s police uniforms as well. I’ve had a sewing machine of my own in the past, but it wasn’t a very large or expensive one & all it was good for was straight seams on thin fabric. Investing in a really good machine for me would be dangerous. First of all, I might injure myself or sew my own pants to whatever it is I’m trying to make, and second, it’s very possible I might become obsessed and never stop making things.

Make your own half-apron out of a tea towel! Insanely simple, and can be sewn by hand or with a machine!Gettin’ myself all ready to be crafty!

Then nobody would eat, and this would become a sewing blog. In the words of Sweet Brown: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

So because of all this, I rely on the professionals to make my aprons, as a rule. I have beautiful vintage ones, gorgeous Jessie Steele ones, whimsical Anthropologie ones and amazing aprons handmade for me by the wonderful Yoyo of topstitch.org. I love them all to bits, but sometimes I feel guilty wearing a stunning apron & then getting it covered in wet flour (which basically becomes a super glue once it dries) & other messy stuff. I mean, let’s be honest- they’re too pretty to get really dirty. And when I make strawberry or cherry jam, and I know I’m going to get splattered on, I actually avoid wearing one of my super cute aprons because of that. ‘Cause I know I’ll NEVER get the stains out, and I’ll be crazy sad for the rest of my life (especially since every apron I own is either one of a kind, vintage or limited edition, so I can’t replace them). However in my internet travels, I happened upon this blog post with a how-to on making your own tea towel apron, and I thought “Oh crap! I HAVE that tea towel!” One Ikea shopper can spot another, you know. Then, I was surfing the internet & found this post. I figured that the fact that I found these two posts within a short amount of time was kind of kismet, and anyway, Yoyo is always saying how fun it is to make half-aprons from tea towels, and it seemed so stupidly easy, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

I went out, bought some ribbon and made one with that very same Ikea tea towel.

D.I.Y. tea towel apron: super easy to make, takes about 15 minutes if you sew it by hand!

I love it.

I’m not afraid to get it dirty & wipe my disgusting dough-&-batter covered hands all over it.

How to make your own tea towel half-apron using just ribbon & a towel. No sewing machine required!

Yet it’s still cute! It actually looks like a skirt from the front, not an apron. Functional yet still adorable… sounds good to me! Plus, it took me basically 15 minutes to make it by hand. If I had used grosgrain ribbon (easier to fold than satin) & had a sewing machine, it would’ve been finished in 5. It’s that easy. It makes a great gift, too. Maybe for a wishing well gift; make the apron and give that plus the three other towels from the pack with some wooden spoons. I’d even dip the ends of the wooden spoons in a paint to match.

What you need: 1 tea towel (or one piece of fabric cut to 21″ x 27″ and hemmed 1″ around), 1 spool of wide ribbon (thin ribbon doesn’t quite work) needle & thread (or sewing machine). Any tea towel will work, as long as it’s cotton or linen. Don’t use those terry cloth ones or ones that feel like a bathroom towel. Ikea has a ton of options; from the set I got mine from to fancier ones. I personally love the cupcake printed ones, the rose print/pink gingham or the multi-colored stripes. And they’re all inexpensive yet they look beautiful. But you can buy yours anywhere! Even the dollar store.

Okay… so here’s the how-to, direct from Slow Mama:

  • Cut two pieces of ribbon for your ties that are one and a half yards long each. For each piece of ribbon, put a quarter-inch fold in one end, then fold again and press (this will keep your cut edge from unraveling). On the back of your towel, align the folded end of each ribbon along the top edge of the towel so that the folded section is centered over the towel’s side seam. (I set it up so the wider edge of the towel went around my waist)
An insanely easy Do-It-Yourself apron made from an Ikea tea towel!Very simple to do this with fabric as well. Just cut & hem it to size (the size of the towels are 20″ x 26″) and then sew your ribbon on.

  • On your sewing machine, position the needle over the seam of the tea towel, then stitch a few lines back and forth over the ribbon (this will hide your new seam from the front). If sewing by hand, the same principle applies. See photo above. Repeat for both sides.
  • Try on the apron to check the length of your ties and trim as needed, then put the same fold in the free end of each tie and stitch those closed, too. If you want, you can switch thread color to match the ribbon. I didn’t. Also, using satin ribbon makes the folding harder, unless you iron it first- which I didn’t. Grosgrain would make it slightly easier… but either way, it’s really not that big of a deal. I stitched just the sides, but you can stitch across if you like. Or use a serger to prevent the ribbon ends from fraying.

The easiest apron tutorial on the internet. 15 minutes from start to finish, even if sewing by hand!

And that’s it! Your basic apron is done. Now you can add things if you want; add a pocket made from another towel, add a monogram, etc Also, just a random thought, but if you’re making it for a little girl (or boy!), depending on their size you could make a full apron from this tea towel. It wouldn’t be that hard to just turn it around the other way, sew some ribbon for around the neck and then sew some halfway down for the waist. You could also use slightly thinner ribbon. Make one for you, then make one to match for your little one!

Big thanks to Yoyo, Simple Simon & Company & Margaret Cabaniss from Slow Mama for the inspiration to finally make one of these. It was so quick & fun, I might just make more.

So what do you guys think… should I post more D.I.Y. stuff or household-y stuff on here? Or should I stick to the edibles?

Fill your heart with frosting.

I wish I could say I love surprises, but I really don’t.

Deep down inside somewhere, I kinda do; I kinda do get excited about being surprised. But more often than not, it’s just an overwhelming sense of “What am I missing out on?!” and it drives me bananas. I hate not having control over things. I like knowing what’s happening, what time it’s happening, and where it’s going down… I like being dressed appropriately & I like being mentally prepared. Jay can tell you numerous times when I almost ruined birthday gifts, Christmas gifts or trips with this twisted way of thinking. I think the problem is when I know I’m going to be surprised. If you just spring a surprise on me, then I don’t have time to over-analyze or try & figure out what it is. Yeah I know- I’m a f#%!ing wack job who ruins everything. It’s not that I’m a control freak, though, not at all. I’m extremely laid back when it comes to most things. You can plan anything, take me anywhere, give me any gifts, etc, and I’ll be totally cool with it. I just really prefer to know ahead of time.

All that said, however, a cupcake surprise is a different story.

See, these cupcakes aren’t frosted traditionally. Instead, they’re filled with a surprise. And by that I mean they’re filled with a light, fluffy pink-colored vanilla buttercream through a convenient little cut-out heart shape. I used a little heart-shaped cookie cutter from Sur la Table that cost me a whopping $.76. I know, it almost bankrupted me.

Just bake your cupcakes, whatever kind you want, and when they’re all cooled cut out the shape using a small cookie cutter. I went down pretty deep so the entire cupcake would be filled, but you can just do a bit from the top. Then fill the cut-out shape with frosting using a piping bag & small round tip (for the size of my cookie cutter, Wilton’s 2A tip was perfect). Donesky. If you want to do the confectioner’s sugar thing, just dust them AFTER cutting out the shape but BEFORE filling with frosting. That would look awesome with a red velvet cupcake, too. Any & every combination works: chocolate with vanilla filling, red velvet with chocolate filling, red velvet with cream cheese filling, vanilla with strawberry filling, chocolate with strawberry filling, vanilla with chocolate filling, strawberry with chocolate filling… etc, etc. The sugar dusting just won’t be very visible on a vanilla cupcake, though. But that’s okay… it’s pretty without it, too. On that note, I’ve seen it done as a vanilla cupcake with lemon curd filling as well, which would be nice for spring.

*heart cake stand also from Sur La Table

You can use any flavor cupcake, any flavor or kind of frosting, and any shape cookie cutter. Stars, snowflakes, shamrocks, etc. Even just a circle! Here are some recipes, if you need them:

I used Wilton’s heart-shaped silicone baking cups to bake the cupcakes in. Any kind of shape will do, you don’t have to use hearts, nor do you have to use the same shape as your cookie cutter. A round cupcake with a heart cut-out is just as cute! Another excellent idea: letters. Cut out letters on top to spell out a message, or someone’s name, or just use one letter; maybe your kid’s initial for a birthday party. I’m partial to hearts, and the color pink, so obviously I was going to make ones like this for Valentine’s Day. But of course, this idea can extend far past Valentine’s Day.

I like the spelling out of a message idea, myself. Like maybe…

“Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Just a thought.

printable-valentine-cards-cupid-inside-red-heart

The perfect November pound cake.

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Ah, November. You crept up on me this year. I wasn’t expecting you so soon! It seems like literally yesterday I was posting on the first day of October. And I’m still in Halloween-mode, to be honest. Mainly because I feel like there was no Halloween. Hurricane Sandy came & that was that. I just got power back last night- I had been without power since Monday night! But the calendar doesn’t care what I’m thinking, does it? No it doesn’t. Nor does Mother Nature. If you can spare a few bucks, or some pocket change, please donate to the Red Cross & help those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I’m lucky to have power, food & a house. Not everyone is. Please help feed, clothe and shelter your fellow human being in need.

I’ve mentioned before that when you’ve got a food blog, or you just bake often, you get a lot of requests. My dad always wants lasagna or blueberry cake/pie/cupcakes, Jay always wants beer bread, maple cookies or applesauce cake (even in the middle of summer), my aunt wants strawberry jam, etc, etc, etc. The list goes on. And my mother…. well, my mother usually has an entire list of things. I’m forever getting e-mails from her that contain recipes, or recipe ideas. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s just outright- “Hey, make this for me?” And that means that a good percentage of the time, I’m making things I don’t really like or I wouldn’t eat. Which is fine by me. Not only does it give me more blogging material, it spices things up a bit. Who wants to make the same vanilla cupcakes over & over?

So when I’m presented with an opportunity to use cranberries & orange in something, I jump at it. It’s November, guys. It’s cranberry time.

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This is all Entenmann’s fault. When I was a kid growing up, Entenmann’s baked goods were the bomb dot com. Everyone- I mean everyone- had an Entenmann’s cake or box of donuts in their kitchen. The glazed Pop’Ems, the marshmallow iced devil’s food cake, the Holiday butter cookies, the French all butter crumb cake…

Entenmann’s is a company that is over 100 years old and originated in New York. In the 1800s, William Entenmann immigrated to New York in the United States of America. William learned the trade of baking from his father in Stuttgart, Germany, and used his acquired skills to work in a bakery in the United States, eventually opening his own bakery in 1898 on Rogers Avenue in Brooklyn.[1] Later, William moved his bakery to Bay Shore, Long Island. Home-delivery was a substantial part of the bakery that William owned, eventually turning into 30 home delivery routes by the time his son, William Jr., took over the bakery.[1] While William Jr. headed the bakery, it flourished; Frank Sinatra was a weekly customer.[1]

William Jr. died in 1951 leaving the bakery to his wife Martha and their sons, Robert, Charles and William. The family decided to phase out bread, focus on pastries and cakes, and start supplying grocery stores as opposed to home delivering. In 1959 the Entenmann family invented the “see-through” cake box that is used by many today.[2] In 1961, the business grew, with new bakeries and factories in Bay Shore, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Plans to expand nationally stalled in 1970. Entenmann’s Bakery, with the assistance of new product consultants at Calle & Company reformulated heavier New England style baked goods into lighter offerings more suitable for hotter, more humid test markets such as Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. Entenmann’s successful national expansion quickly followed suit. In 1972, Entenmann’s started to sell chocolate chip cookies and has since sold more than 620 million cookies.[2] Since its first opening in 1898, Entenmann’s has been selling “all butter loaf cake” and sold more than 700 million to date.

The pharmaceutical company Warner-Lambert purchased Entenmann’s in 1978 and sold it to General Foods in 1982. General Foods merged with Kraft in 1990. Kraft sold its bakery business to CPC International (later Bestfoods). Bestfoods was purchased by Unilever in 2000, which sold its baking division to George Weston, a Canadian baked goods and supermarket business, the next year. Weston sold its United States interests including Entemann’s in 2008 to Mexican conglomerate Grupo Bimbo. Other Bimbo Bakeries USA holdings include companies such as Thomas’, Brownberry, Boboli, Arnold, Oroweat, Freihofer’s, and Stroehmann.[3]

-Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I was food shopping with my mother. She had hurt her ankle, & was limping along with my assistance. She spotted the Entenmann’s display and made a beeline for it. My mom is a big fan of anything sweet; baked goods, cookies, candy, candy bars, etc. So she saw the display, and immediately zoned in on the seasonal Cranberry Orange loaf. She picked it up and I said, “No, ma, really. Come on. I can make that for you.” She initially resisted a bit, there were a few longing looks (and I think she might have said, “Are you sure?”… what is THAT about!?), but then she gave in. There is no bigger insult to someone like me than a family member buying a supermarket cake or box of cookies. At least buy stuff from a bakery. Just please don’t buy the styrofoam cupcakes that Costco sells. I’d permit Entenmann’s… in certain dire circumstances… but seriously… I bake ALL THE TIME. How are you gonna be in the supermarket with me & pick up BOXED CAKE. No. No, no, no.

I know she really wanted that cake. But mom, why buy it when I can make it for you!? And… uh… make it better.

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‘Cause see, the Entenmann’s cake might be scrumptious. But it doesn’t come with an orange butter rum sauce on top, which mine does.

And just so you know- that brown Kraft paper makes things a hell of a lot easier to clean up. Especially when you’re using a messy sauce or glaze & want to take photos (or maybe if you have kids… *cough*). I highly recommend it. Plus it’s great not only as a “tablecloth”, but as wrapping paper. A gift wrapped with Kraft paper, twine & some dehydrated citrus slices is rustically beautiful. Even to give this loaf as a gift, it’s a great wrapping idea. Okay, sorry- back to the cake!

CRANBERRY ORANGE LOAF CAKE

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2-3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons grated orange peel
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries*

Directions:

  1. Butter and flour a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan, set aside. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla, orange juice and orange peel. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in cranberries.
  3. Pour into the greased pan. Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. Spoon orange butter rum sauce (if desired) over the top. Wait 3-5 minutes for it to set, then serve.
*You could use fresh cranberries too (& you can also toss in some walnuts, or even unsalted shelled pistachios, if you like)

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ORANGE BUTTER RUM SAUCE

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Directions:

  1. Add the orange juice, flour, sugar and heavy cream to a medium saucepan. Cook (constantly stirring) on medium heat until combined, then add the butter.
  2. Stir until the butter is melted, combined, and the mixture is thickened. Add the rum. Continue cooking until thick & smooth. Stir it constantly while it cooks, or it’ll scorch & burn.
  3. Remove from heat, and let sit 5 minutes.
  4. Spoon over pound cake.

The butter rum sauce isn’t terribly attractive on it’s own, but it tastes spectacular. Especially on the cake.

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The cake is moist & delicious, not too much cake-y, not too much bread-y. Just perfectly in the middle of a pound cake & loaf cake. Just as good in the morning as it is at night.

And here’s a little tip. If you’re making this for a large crowd, you can double the recipe and make it in one 10″ tube pan, or just double it and make two 9″ loaf pans. The same goes for most pound or loaf cakes, or even regular cakes, actually. Here’s a conversion table for pan sizes. And most cupcake recipes that make 2 dozen will also make two 9″ cake layers. Same goes for the reverse: if you find a recipe that calls for a bundt pan or tube pan and you only want to make a small cake, then you can usually halve it (or in some cases maybe quarter it), and most layer cake recipes will convert into 2 dozen cupcakes (sometimes a little more). This particular recipe would definitely be amazing doubled and made in a 10″ pan, a great Thanksgiving dessert. But this way, it’d make a great Thanksgiving breakfast. Keep the sauce on the side if you want, that way people who aren’t into rum sauce for breakfast can avoid it. But seriously? It’s a holiday. You can so have rum sauce with breakfast!

And before I go, just a reminder. Make sure that all you U.S. citizens who are registered to vote get your asses to the polls on Tuesday! It’s important, and it’s something we’re privileged to be able to do. I really don’t care who you vote for… just vote. And if you aren’t registered: for shame. But consider this a kick in the booty to register for next time. And I know it’s going to be hard for those displaced by Sandy, but there are still places for you to vote. Pass this info & this info on if you know someone affected by this tragedy, please. The election will NOT be postponed because of the hurricane, so we need to get out there & get people voting.

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A time to plant, a time to sow.

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Yes, I know, you’re all in “fall-mode” already. Me too. It’s hard not to be when Halloween has infiltrated every store & every blog (or Pinterest page) is pushing pumpkin desserts! And I’ve got those coming for you, too. But first there’s still some wrapping up to do when it comes to summer. Namely the garden.

Every year at this time, I start to dry my herbs. They continue growing until mid to late October, usually, unless it gets very cold at night very quickly. As do the peppers, sometimes. But the herbs usually get so large midway through the summer, that I end up cutting them back in late July and using most of them fresh (or freezing them). The rest I dry and add to my dried herb jars. Then I cut them back again in September. Drying fresh herbs is one of the easiest things to do, as is freezing them, and if you grow your own herbs I strongly suggest you do it! For cilantro, I suggest freezing it in olive oil. Basil is also good that way, as well as rosemary. You can freeze them in water, too, if you prefer. As far as drying them, there are, of course, quite a few different ways to do it… but this is what I do. I bought little jars from Ikea to store them in, but small Ball jars work too, as do cleaned out baby food jars. All you have to do is cut your herbs and give them a good shake outside to evict any unwanted tenants. Not cilantro, though, dried cilantro tastes nothing like fresh and it’s not really worth it. You’re better off freezing that. Anyhow, cut ‘em down and give ‘em a a shake or two… then give them a good rinse and let them dry overnight on a paper towel or clean dish towel. The next morning, tie the ends of each herb together to create a bunch, and tie with soft twine (or use a small rubber band). Place them in a brown paper lunch bag that you already labeled and “hang” them in it, gathering the top of the bag together around the bottom of the stems and tying it. Then hang the bags or place them in a cool, dry place for 2 weeks. After 2 weeks, you’ll have dried herbs (if not, let them hang another week, there shouldn’t be any moisture left in them). Take them out of the bags and gently tug, pull or scrape the leaves of the herbs off the stems with your fingers. You can crumble the basil, oregano & parsley at this point, if you wish. Place them in your jars and label. Or, if you have non-edible lavender, use it in a sachet. All done!

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Anyway… as you might have guessed, this is the last garden post of the season. Sad, yes. But each year it comes whether we like it or not. The good things far outweigh the bad: the fresh veggies that start to come in record numbers, the fresh herbs that grow like crazy, and the delicious meals, sauces & salsas that can come of them all.

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Except this year.

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This year I was lucky to get 8 Cajun Belle peppers, 4 SuperTasty Hybrid tomatoes and 1 Green Zebra tomato. That’s it. Of course, my herbs were huge and I got tons of use out of them all season, not to mention the pesto I’ll be making & freezing because my basil is taking over a small country. But my vegetables were not at all what they have been in the past. Why? I don’t know. The weather, maybe? I know the country is having the worst drought in two decades. But here in NY, it was a pretty wet summer (wetter than usual), but that flip-flopped from very very hot to very very wet almost constantly. The plants barely had time to dry out and recover from one storm by the time another one hit. Though really, I’m not sure. Maybe it was the crazy wind with all those severe thunderstorms (& tornadoes! WHAT?), maybe it was the really bad heat in between all that, maybe it was just me. My mind has been other places this summer, and I haven’t been as anal-retentive about keeping up with the gardening. I noticed some funky curly leaves on the tomatoes and I never even did anything about it. I haven’t weeded or used any fertilizer/plant food at all either. And maybe it was the fact that I chose heirloom tomatoes, not hardier disease-resistant ones this season. But regardless, no matter what the reason, that’s all I got so far. The “mystery plant” died sometime in mid-August, so I guess I’ll never know what it was (glad we weren’t taking bets!). Now my peppers & tomatoes will probably keep growing for a few more weeks, or at least until it gets too cold at night, but I doubt I’ll get much more out of them. Of course, if I end up with anything else, you’ll all read about it for sure. But basically, that was my bounty of 2012, and I was lucky to get it.

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But it was still worth it. Each tomato or pepper is one more tomato or pepper I didn’t have to buy.

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I cut those last three peppers off before they matured, because I wanted to use a variety of peppery heat in a dish I was making. The green tomato took forever to finish growing, it wasn’t done until last week. And the SuperTasty’s? Ugh. They were a struggle all season. Like I said, I could probably take some of the blame, if not most- I wasn’t 100% invested this year. But the weather was downright bizarre, so I’m just going to use that as my excuse. In all my years of having a veggie/herb garden, this is the first year my bounty was pathetic, so I guess I should be thankful. And the best part? Using fresh tomato slices from my own plant, and fresh oregano to make a fantastic light hot weather dinner: a tomato feta open-face sandwich, using one of my SuperTasty hybrid tomatoes & both kinds of fresh oregano.

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I feel almost silly for writing up the recipe for this, it’s so easy, but epicurious.com did too, so I’m in good company. This is a good way to enjoy the fruits of your garden on a really hot, sticky late summer night. Or a slightly warm early fall evening.

TOMATO-FETA OPEN FACE SANDWICH (from epicurious.com)

Ingredients:

  • Thick slices of white bread (Pullman loaf is ideal)
  • Olive oil (good quality oil meant for eating)
  • Tomato slices
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Slabs or crumbles of feta
  • Fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast thick slices of white bread, then drizzle with olive oil.
  2. Add tomato slices, salt and freshly ground black pepper, slabs of feta, fresh oregano, and more oil.
  3. Eat!

I bet this sandwich would look delightful with different colored heirloom tomatoes, and it would probably be amazing with blue cheese or Gorgonzola crumbles too. Noms.

Cherry-bomb cupcakes for Julia’s birthday.

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.”
-Julia Child

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I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movie Julie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.

Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.

Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest[3] of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).[4]

Child attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade, then The Katherine Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934 with a major in English.[1] A press release issued by Smith in 2004 states that her major was history.[5]

Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena[6].

Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs.[15] She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.

In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.

In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.[16]

PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?

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Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).

I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*

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So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.

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CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…

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I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.

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We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.

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All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.

It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.

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They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.

So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.

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Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!

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I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!

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Follow more bloggers as they #cookforJulia at the Twitter hashtag!

She sells seashell cupcakes by the seashore.

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One of the things that just screams summer, especially when you live near an ocean and are apt to see them A LOT, are seashells. Once the seashells come out, I know it’s definitely summer. You start to see them hanging on wreaths, on restaurant tables, used as planters or candle holders, hanging on walls, on sandals, as earrings, etc. Most people don’t think of the ocean when they think of New York, they just think of “the city.” But New York boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in- dare I say- the world. Coney Island, The Hamptons, Jones Beach, Point Lookout, Brighton Beach, Rye Beach, Manhattan Beach, etc. All of those are not only beautiful but historic beaches. As a kid, going to to beach a few times a week was one of the glories of summer; I could be the little mermaid I was born to be all day long, collecting seashells & starfish, finding little crabs & tide pools, making sand castles and of course swimming myself silly. It’s still one of my favorite things to do. And I still love seashells. I can’t help it, I’m a true summer baby- born July 30th, the height of summer.


I bought these Mary Englebreit cupcake liners last spring, with all intentions of using them last summer. But that didn’t happen. I thought they were so cute, I couldn’t resist! I saw a whole summer cupcake theme going on in my head. Sadly, my summer last year was not how I expected. So this summer I decided I would definitely use those little seahorse liners. And I had an idea! I wanted to do a little seahorse on top of each cupcake. But I couldn’t find appropriate molds, nor could I find any edible toppers that were up to my standards. So I decided I’d buy a set of chocolate seashells, and put one on top of each cupcake. But then I saw the assortment of chocolate shells on the internet, and I wasn’t really pleased. I could’ve made my own, by buying some seashell chocolate molds, but then the weather got really hot.  And that’s when I said, “Self.. maybe chocolate isn’t the best material to use right now.” I was stuck, yet determined. I’d already put off using those liners for a year! I was GOING to use them.

And right about then is when I saw these cute little molded sugar shells at the Cupcake Social and they were perfect.


I brushed them with some gold Wilton pearl dust to give them a little something extra special. It also reminds me a little of sand.


I used an extra large open star tip to frost the vanilla cupcakes with a sweet but ever-so-slightly salty blue frosting (supposed to be reminiscent of saltwater taffy!). Then I topped each one with two seashells. And there you have it- the perfect beachy summery cupcakes.

VANILLA CUPCAKES

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs, mixing well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and almond extracts.
  3. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda into a small bowl. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.
  4. Fill each cup 3/4 full with batter. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until the center of the cupcakes spring back when touched. Cool completely before frosting.

SLIGHTLY SALTY “SALT WATER TAFFY” BUTTERCREAM

Ingredients:

  • 1 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 stick SALTED butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 pound – 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk (perhaps more)
  • food coloring, if desired

Directions:

  1. Place the butter and shortening in a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy. Slowly add the first pound and a half of powdered sugar, a cup at a time until all is incorporated. Turn off the mixer and scrape the bottom of the bowl very well. Add the vanilla and mix again.
  2. Slowly add half of the milk while the mixer is on, and beat for one minute. Add food coloring. Blend.
  3. Add more milk or sugar as needed to achieve a frosting consistency that’s suitable to piping.

For this frosting color, I used regular McCormick liquid food coloring: two drops of green and three drops of blue. It was the perfect color, wasn’t it? And if you don’t have any salted butter, use a little bit of table salt. Just sprinkle it in, a teeny bit at a time until the desired saltiness is achieved. If you’re concerned about the possible grittiness, then just grind the table salt until it’s super fine. And I usually use homemade buttermilk for things like this; I just mix milk & white vinegar together in a ratio of 1 cup to 1 tablespoon (or 1/2 cup to 1 teaspoon). I mix it together and then just let it sit for 15 minutes. I just find the flavor is better, and this way I don’t have to keep throwing away buttermilk that’s been in my fridge too long or worry about the powdered kind getting all clumpy. Of course any kind of buttermilk works, but that’s just what I like to do.

That beautiful cake stand was a gift from my cousin and his wife who live in New Orleans; it’s from a store called Roux Royale, just in case you’re wondering.


Sometimes, you have to just make some pretty cupcakes for no other reason than to enjoy them, and put them on a pretty cake plate. Even on a random Monday. Or Tuesday… or Thursday. Whenever. Even if it’s pretty hot out. Even if it’s so hot you think your face is going to melt off. ‘Cause look at these! They’re so beautiful, you can’t help but smile.


They’re worth it.

And of course, they go perfectly with my grandmother’s vintage 40′s/50′s summer tablecloth that I recently found. How amazing is this? And how jealous are you? ‘Cause I bet you’re pretty friggin’ jealous right now. That’s okay, I would be too. Between my cake plate and this… pfft. You might as well give up. You ain’t got nuthin’ on me & my summer steez.

Anyway, I love you summer. ♥ Here’s to you & all your awesomeness.

All your burning questions answered.

Let me preface this by saying I am not in any way, shape or form the expert in these matters. All I am is a chick whose been baking weekly or bi-weekly for the last 6 years and had this blog for about 4 ½, so I know a little bit about a few things baking-wise. I am not trained, I am not a pastry chef, I did not go to school for this. I am self-taught and therefore I think in some ways I’m better at answering the basic questions that arise in every day kitchens, when you don’t have a fancy Viking range or Williams-Sonoma goldtone bakeware. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m all about encouraging the average person to bake & cook, and letting them know they don’t need to invest in a brand new chef’s kitchen to do it.

I ain’t no genius & I’m definitely not Florian Bellanger (thank cupcakes!). I’m no June Cleaver and I am most likely not the person you think of when “perfect” comes to mind. But I have failed a few times, and I have made many mistakes and with most of them I’ve managed to figure out the how/why. Again- don’t think I’m being cocky here, not at all. I just hope my basic little down-home, practical knowledge can help someone else out there. So I decided to do a little Q&A on my Facebook page.

Q: Neikya Davis- I was wondering if cupcake batters should be different from cake batters. I’ve made hundreds of cakes and never have any baking problems. But whenever I try to make cupcakes, I always have issues with the cupcakes rising. And for that reason, I HATE making cupcakes. Thanks!

A: Well Neikya, I don’t think that there’s a difference in the batters themselves. I say that because most cupcake recipes can be adapted into making cakes and vice versa. I have noticed most cake recipes when used for cupcakes don’t rise quite as well as cupcake recipes alone, though. If your trouble is with the cupcakes rising but sinking in the middle during or after baking, then that could be a few things: ingredients aren’t “fresh” enough, off-brand butter or oil (as silly as it sounds, there is a serious fat difference in “cheap” butter & good quality butter), the wrong size eggs or the fact that the eggs/butter are too cold. It could also have to do with oven temperature. If that isn’t the problem, or the factors I listed definitely aren’t the problem, then it could be your baking powder or baking soda is old. It loses it’s power after a certain period of time and won’t rise. The reason you may not have a problem with the cakes is that it’s a larger surface area for one, and two they don’t have to rise as much as a cupcake does. And if that doesn’t sound like it’s the problem, maybe you’re over-beating your butter? Are you at a higher/lower altitude? Is your oven gas or electric? Is it humid or dry out? All those factors can also influence your baking. I hope that helped! If not, I suggest The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. She answers tons of scientific questions and gives reasons for everything.

Q: Cindy Wright- I have never had good luck making carrot cake cupcakes. Do you a good recipe? I usually bake from scratch.

A: I’ve had the same exact problem. I can’t find a good carrot cake or carrot cupcake recipe. I sorta gave up. That said, I heard this one is to die for. If you try it, please let me know how it worked out for you!

Q: Melanie Bishop- I have tried to make cupcakes with peanut butter cups or kisses in the middle. However, no matter if the candy is room temp, frozen, or just barely covered with cake batter, the candy inevitably sinks to the bottom of the cupcake. Any tips to prevent this?

A: Melanie, I’ve had this problem, but mainly with chocolate chips. I find it happens when the batter is very liquidy. I have two solutions you can try: one, coat the candies in flour first. Just put a tablespoon in a bowl and toss ‘em in it, then stick ‘em in. Two, bake the cupcakes halfway and try putting them in then. It will be tricky, and don’t burn yourself. Good luck & please let me know if it works!

Q: Dee Kozarov- I am always excited when I see red velvet cupcakes but then I taste one and the cake is always dry and the cream cheese frosting always taste cheap. Do you have any suggestions on better cake and icing?

A: When a cupcake is dry, it’s usually because it was over-beaten or there isn’t enough fat in it. Red velvet in particular can be tricky, I don’t know why. I’ve tried some duds, let me tell you. But I have found an excellent red velvet recipe that I suggest you try. As far as the icing, I hate cream cheese frosting so I recommend either a vanilla bean cream cheese frosting or a regular vanilla frosting.

Q: Jill Ritenour Wilch- I have problems with my cupcakes rising like I would like them to as well. They prefer to spread instead of rise. Anyone else find they do not fill out the bottoms of the liners either? Mine always seem a bit brown and loose.

A: Jill, you may be overfilling the cups. Or not mixing them thoroughly, and the ingredients aren’t fully incorporated. If you could, send me a photo some time. I could help better if I see exactly what you mean about the bottoms. Until then, make sure your ingredients are room temperature, get an oven thermometer if you don’t have one, make sure you mix your ingredients thoroughly but don’t overbeat them, and you fill the cups no more than halfway. Halfway is the standard, although some recipes call for three-fourths or two-thirds, to be on the safe side I usually do halfway. Could it also be that the recipe calls for either not enough/too much flour or sugar and not enough baking powder? Does it happen with all your cupcakes or just specific ones? Do they use butter, shortening or oil? Those can be factors as well.

Q: Jocelyn Lua- I was wondering if you have any way of telling if your cupcakes are gonna turn out soft & moist, or otherwise. Cos I have been baking them for some time now, but i could never know how they are going to turn out until they finish baking (even if i might have used the recipe before). And it makes me nervous as hell, cos I’ll really hate to waste food. =x

A: I don’t really think there’s a way to tell that 100% from the batter, Jocelyn. However I have found that the thicker the batter, the heavier & denser the cupcake and the more liquidy the batter the more moist and “squishy” the cupcake. However, I’ve made some batters that were quite thick like cookie dough, and I’ve gotten some lovely cakes. Again, the weather, the humidity, your oven, and the ingredients all make a difference as to how exactly a cupcake is going to turn out.


Q: Pola Sanchez-Baker- Is there any way to save a whipped cream that’s been whipped too long? It becomes butter-like and… well, just too thick for frosting.

A: In a word, Pola, no. Sorry. Once it’s been whipped that long, it’s beyond the “cream” stage and into the butter stage. It’s best to keep going, add a little salt, and make homemade butter so the whole thing isn’t a loss. That’s what I’d do, anyway. I’d make lemons out of lemonade & use it to make a homemade compound butter. Maybe with some sauteed garlic/parsley, some basil & chopped sundried tomatoes or just with some cilantro. Then I’d wrap it in waxed paper, refrigerate it (or freeze it) and use it for cooking or topping bread later on. Just don’t keep it frozen for longer than 7 or 8 months.


Q: Tina Becker- Every once in a while when I bake cupcakes from scratch, I notice they have a raw flour taste. It only happens now and then…is it just a “bad recipe” or something that I might be doing?

A: There are a lot of reasons it could be. Yes, it could be a bad recipe. If it always happens with just that particular recipe and no others, then toss it, it sucks. It could also be that the flour isn’t being incorporated well enough so it’s not “cooking.” Make sure you scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl during the mixing to get everything all up in there. Another reason could be the brand of flour has a very strong flavor; although I’ve tried many brands myself and never had that issue, it could very well be. So if you switch brands a lot and notice it only with one brand- stop using it. There could also be too much flour in the recipe, or you’re using all-purpose when you need to use cake flour. And yet another reason could be that the flour is old and therefore stale. If you don’t bake a lot and have the flour in the house for a long time, it’ll turn. Finally, are you using the right amount of salt & extract? Both of those things add flavor (and salt also helps the rising if you’re using baking powder, but that’s another unrelated issue), and without them you’ll definitely end up with a not very delicious baked good. I hope one of these can help you! Happy baking!


If you have any questions yourself, feel free to ask me on Twitter or on Facebook. And as always, you can totally e-mail me your questions any time.