Monday, April 28, 2008

Hi Hat Blackout Cupcakes in Ice Cream Cones

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Oh man, when I saw the recipe for Hi Hat cupcakes on the Barmy Baker's blog, I knew I had to try it. I immediately wanted to make the cupcakes in ice cream cones because they reminded me of DQ soft serve cones.

Since this was going to be quite the project, I gave myself two days to accomplish it. I started with the Blackout Chocolate Cake recipe (though I used a different one than posted on that site, as I do not care for coffee).

Here are all my ingredients for the cupcakes lined up. The batter was really easy to put together- but bear in mind that I've been baking for a while and love to bake from scratch. I had 24 ice cream cones, and ended up making a double batch of the cupcake batter. That filled all 24 cones, as well as 6 cupcake wrappers. The batter was very thin.

I ended up baking the cupcakes for about 25 minutes. For the most part they came out fairly flat- though a few of the ones in the cones sort of imploded after cooling. I neglected to take any photos of the cupcakes after being baked.

I put the cupcakes in the fridge overnight, and made the meringue the next day. I got all of my ingredients ready to go and started boiling the water, sugar, cream of tartar, and corn syrup. Unfortunately, I don't think the burners on our stove go hot enough to really cook it into a nice candy mix. There was absolutely nothing I could do about that, so I just got it as hot as I could, and added it to the whipped egg whites.

Everything puffed up according to plan, but it definitely did not stiffen up the way a meringue should. There was really not much I could do here, so I thought maybe if I put the cupcakes in the fridge after piping on the meringue, it would help stiffen the mixture.

Here are my little cupcakes all covered in meringue and ready to go in the fridge. Piping the meringue on was really easy. I don't have any piping bags (because even though I say every other month that I want to take a Wilton cake class, I still haven't managed to do so- this summer, I swear), so I just used a freezer sized ziploc with the corner snipped off.

These went in the fridge for forty five minutes before I started making the chocolate coating. The coating was just melted chocolate with some veggie oil in it. I usually don't put any oil in my chocolate, but the recipe called for it. I'm not sure I'd do that again.

I heated the chocolate in the double boiler and turned the heat down before I started dipping. I started with the regular cupcakes, just to see how it went. The chocolate was so warm that it was melting the meringue. Well, to be honest, I think it was a combination of the heat of the chocolate and the non-stiffening of the meringue.

As the chocolate cooled, my meringue stayed in place. I did reheat the chocolate to get it melty again and that caused one of the meringue toppings to slide right off into the chocolate. I just scooped it up with the spoonula and put it back on top of the cupcake.

After dipping them in chocolate, I put the cupcakes on wire cooling racks (with waxed paper underneath) to drip and added the sprinkles. Once that was done, I loaded the cupcakes back into the fridge so the chocolate could harden.

Let me tell you, these are delightful to look at. Not as delightful? Trying to transport them. I have a cake/cupcake carrier and they were too tall. I ended up laying them on their sides for the trip to the party. It about killed me to do that, but that was the only option. As soon as we got to the party, I went and set them all up right and we left them on the porch until we were ready to eat them (it was chilly enough outside that I wasn't worried they would melt).

Even though the meringue didn't turn out as I would have liked, they tasted delicious and everyone enjoyed them. They were quite messy to eat- if the meringue had set up as anticipated I think it would have been much easier to handle.

If you try the recipe, just give yourself a LOT of time to make them. They are time consuming and a leave a mess in your kitchen. The compliments you get are worth all the effort.

Chicken Marsala

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I got really brave last week in honor of my husband's birthday. We had another couple over on Thursday to celebrate his birthday (and the wife's birthday of the other couple). My husband is the cook in our house. Even though I love to bake, I typically leave the cooking to him. But, no one should have to labor on their birthday, so I offered to cook dinner.

I decided to make Chicken Marsala (from my mom's recipe, which is mostly in her head, so I won't post it here) because I'd helped my mom with it before and both chicken and pasta are pretty universally well liked.

Let me just say that this is probably the most complicated thing I've ever tried to cook. Normally when I volunteer to cook I make grilled cheese and tomato soup or chicken and rice (thrown in a casserole dish with a few cans of soup). This recipe required me to multi task and do a lot of prep.

Anyhow, so this is what my counter looked like after I'd cut up my peppers and thrown them in the sauce pan with some oil. I'd never worked with garlic before, so the husband came in and did that part for me.

(I can't get this photo to rotate, I'll work on that later.)
These are the peppers simmering in chicken broth- which is the step after you cook them in the garlic and oil. I definitely used too much broth, but live and learn.

Once the veggies are done (cooked until soft, but not overdone), it's time to throw the chicken in the pan (same pan as veggies) and put the pasta on. This is where I screwed up. I should have started the water to boil earlier. Instead I thought I could do it at the same time, but the small burners on our stove totally ruined that plan.

Ultimately I ended up cooking the chicken and putting it in the oven (covered with foil) to stay warm while I finished up the pasta.

The food turned out just fine, but I definitely learned a lesson about multi tasking and trying to get all the elements to come together at the same time.

For now though? I think I'll leave the cooking to my husband.

Faux iPhone

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I spent a lot of time trying to get this one right. My husband's birthday was this past week and he'd been eying the iPhone for quite a while. Even though I'd decided to get him one, I knew he would have questions and I thought it would be better to have him there so he could also pick out a case.

I still wanted to give him something tangible to open- because unwrapping gifts is fun- so I decided to paper piece this faux iPhone.

I used my Cricut to cut out the phone base and all the squares for the icons. The hardest part was adding the detail to the icons. I was working off of this image. Given the size of the small squares and the pen tips, I think it came out pretty well.

Once we went and picked up the real phone, I compared the two. I was missing an icon square (it wasn't shown in the picture I used as a reference), and the proportions weren't exactly on. Overall, I think I did a great job.

Happy Birthday (Piece of Cake)

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I made this card for my Husband for his birthday last week. It's super simple because I spent most of my time paper piecing an iPhone (more on that later).

I love this color scheme, even though the photo doesn't do it justice. I used a nice bright turquoise with black accents.

All of the images are stamped. I went over the stamped gifts in a sparkle gel pen, because the ink wasn't standing out enough on the black stripe. The stamp on the black stripe was repeated three times.

Welcome Little One

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This is a card I made for some friends who recently had their second child. I know people don't typically throw a big shower for second (or third) babies, but I thought it was a day worth celebrating.

I wanted to go with a nice girlie color scheme, but not too girlie. I'm not sure I achieved that exactly, but I loved the polka dots. I used my Cricut to cut out the bear. I used a gel pen to go over the mouth and make it stand out, and then added some fun google eyes.

The sentiment was stamped and then hand cut to resemble a flag. I went over the sentiment with a gel pen, to darken it.

I also did a simple weave in the upper left corner, in a small square, to give the card added dimension.

Minnie's Thinking of You

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I made this card recently to send to my Aunt. I don't get to see her as often as I'd like and I wanted to remind her that I'm always thinking of her.

I used my Cricut to cut out Minnie. I love the Disney cartridges, but they are so tough to do on a small scale. I cut Minnie as big as I could, and still leave room on the card (and have the card fit in the envelope).

I hand cut the thought bubble, and stamped the sentiment. I went over the stamp with a gel pen. I also, cut around the dots by hand. It did not turn out as I had wanted it to, but live and learn.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Thanks (House Guest)

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I made this card for some friends of mine who let me stay at their home for a few days while I was at a conference out of state. I originally wanted to have a card with me, to leave at the house when I left, but this one ended up having to go in the mail.

The house and sentiment were cut with the Cricut. The house was really complicated with a lot of pieces. I made the house at 3 inches, but the pieces were still very small. I think it turned out pretty well.

Grab the Keys

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I made this card for my cousin who recently got her driver's license. I don't get to see her very often since we're states away and I wanted her to know that I was thinking of her.

I cut out the car & key with my Circut. I had to hand cut the windshield and front bumper on the car. I also cut the key out twice, to get the brown keyring. I hand wrote the sentiment in the bottom right hand corner.

The inside reads, "Congratulations!"

A simple card, but I think it's cute and gets the message across.