I claim that I don’t really like pie and that is the reason that I don’t frequently make them. It is partly a lie though: I don’t like store bought pie crusts (they are either too crusty and dry or too soggy and mushy) and I have a phobia of making my own. This obviously makes it difficult to make a good pies! So when Martha Stewart (oh how I love Martha – she may not be the best person but she is the Queen of the kitchen!) came out with a new cookbook (finally! I had been waiting, even guessing which would be next in the series!) for Pies & Tarts that matches her amazing cookbooks for Cookies & Cupcakes, I figured it was time to get over my fears and dive into the world of pastry dough. Thankfully the book came out not long before my birthday and my friend, that I frequently have exchanged Martha’s books with for gifts previous years, gave me a copy along with a pastry cutter! Now I really had no excuse.
Even with Martha behind me, I started small: with Jumbleberry mini tarts. This was a sad excuse for a pie really as you don’t even have to roll out the dough or anything like that! You take a small piece of dough and push it into the bottom and sides of a mini muffin pan. This can be a bit tricky but I have a mini tart shaper that makes it pretty easy! I should point out that I like mini tarts and I wasn’t just being a wimp! They are cute and fun and tasty!
By the way, the dough has to sit for at least an hour in the fridge! And then another 30 min after they are formed into tarts.
The tarts turned out pretty well. They weren’t my favourite and I think I overworked the pastry but they were cute and filled with berry goodness!
Jumbleberry Mini Tarts with Crumb Topping
For the crust:
- 1 cup + 2Tb all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup icing sugar
- pinch of salt
- 6 Tb cold butter, cut into small pieces
- 2-3 Tb ice water
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 Tb cornstarch
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- pinch of salt
- 2 cups mixed berries (I thawed frozen blackberries, raspberries & blueberries)
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Make the crust: using a pastry cutter, mix butter into dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add water a little at a time until dough forms. Shape dough into a disk and refridgerate until firm – 1 hour or overnight.
- Divide the dough so that you can get at least 24 pieces. Now you have two choices. You can either flatten each piece into 3-inch circles and press a round into the bottom and up the sides of your mini muffin pan. Or you can shove a small roundish piece into the pan and then use your shaper to get it up the sides and evenly on the bottom. Refridgerate or freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Make the filling bu stirring together everything but the berries. Add the berries and gently stir to coat.
- Make the topping: mix together the crumb topping (I made this up and forgot to record the exact numbers but this should be roughly right!)
- Fill the shells with the berry mixture ensuring that it is divided evenly. Spoon a little of the crumb topping over each.
- Bake until the crusts are golden and the berries are bubbling, about 25 minutes. Allow them to cool in the tins about 10 minutes before removing them carefully to a cooling rack.
So after the success of wedding #1, it was on to the easier and less stressful task of wedding #2 this summer. This bride, a friend of mine, wanted cupcakes and had requested chocolate with coconut frosting and whatever else I wanted to make. Well I already posted the chocolate-coconut cupcakes and the other ones I chose to make were a variation on the strawberry cupcakes I previously posted as well. I won’t repost the recipe but rather just some notes on them since they were actually what I called “Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes”.
Since the couple was aiming for a “desserts & appies” type of night, I figured cupcakes weren’t enough and made two other creations for the evening, which were Caramel Macchiato Whoopie Pies & the all time favourite Lemon Squares. Of course the Whoopie Pies will have to make an appearance on Let’s Make Whoopie rather than this blog! As for the lemon squares, well I think I will post a couple pics on here but I had a bit of a problem with the lemon squares… I made a double batch of them and therefore made two pans of them. Now here is the weird thing, when I went to cut up the first batch, the entire pan was “inverted”. So the lemon was on the bottom and the crust was on the top. The second pan of them was
about 80% completely fine but at the one end, the same thing had happened – crust on top! So so strange! I have no idea why this happened or what went on but I have found that other people have had the same problem! My only guess is that
you have to put the lemon filling in the crust while the crust is still hot (it is prebaked). Since I was taking forever to squeeze the lemons, I wasn’t ready with the filling when the crusts were done so they were able to cool. That is the only thing I can think that I did differently from the first time that I made the recipe and they came out PERFECT! So I will not post the recipe here until I know that it works perfectly. I still did take them to the wedding though – the ones that didn’t make nice squares because of the less-than-sturdy base weren’t served there and instead were flipped over, slightly smoothed and taken to my less-than-picky friends! They still tasted amazing but they didn’t look pretty!
I got a little carried away with wanting to do lots of different designs! It was kind of fun but maybe two designs for each flavour would have been better! My favs are the little mini chocolate ones with the little orange rose, or the pink minis with the 2 orange apple blossoms or the ones that just look like big roses (see the pics below! There are big white ones and mini pink ones! I added glitter to them too 🙂 )
Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes
Raspberry cupcakes: these were made using the recipe for the strawberry cupcakes found here but instead of strawberries, I used raspberries.
Cheesecake Filling: I made a cheesecake filling (beat together 4 oz cream cheese, 1/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg , 1 tsp vanilla) and added a little less than 1 tablespoon to each cupcake prior to baking. The cupcakes don’t look nicely domed after and some end up a little odd shaped, but they taste good!
White Chocolate Buttercream: melt 6 oz white chocolate and allow to cool. Beat on low 1 cup room temp butter, 2 cups of icing sugar, melted white chocolate, and 3 Tb milk until combined. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
I have done it: made my first wedding cake. It went reasonably well too. I mean, I would have liked the fondant to be smoother and I would have liked to have the confidence to make it more exciting but overall, it looked pretty nice. And the taste! Well, that was more important to me than the look and oh did it taste good! The bride told me that her mom is quite picky about desserts and had been trying to get the bride to tell me to “not make it too sweet” and stuff like that (my friend didn’t pass along anything of the sort – she put a lot of trust in me actually!) but the mother-of-the-bride was extremely happy with it and was thrilled there was some left for them to take home!
So here was the process (sorry that this post may be long – it was a long process!):
- Make the cakes!I made three tiers with the bottom being mocha flavoured (14″ round) and the top two tiers being chai tea. Now do you get why I called it my Tea & Coffee wedding cake? I had to make a triple batch of the mocha cake for two layers of 14″ rounds and a 2.5 batch of the chai spiced cake for the other two tiers. (Note: the 14″ volume is actually larger than the two smaller layers put together). I made the cakes on the Sunday before the wedding (which was held on Saturday), allowed them to cool, and wrapped them very well (a LOT of Saran Wrap!) and froze them. I knew that I wouldn’t
have time to bake them all later in the week. The baking alone took about 7 hours!!
- Make fondant roses. This is not something I love doing. In fact, I think I would just buy real roses in the future instead. These took around 8 hours to make! Since the colours were supposed to be red & gold, I made the roses in a couple shades of red. Overall I did like the effect of the cluster of them on the top of the cake but they are too much work and I am not all that great at them.
- Make the icing. This was where I became exceedingly grateful for owning a KitchenAid mixer. The cappuccino icing/filling for the mocha cake was easy enough but the Honey Swiss Meringue Buttercream for the Chai cake involved beating the egg whites for an excessively long time!
- Ice the cakes. This wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be. I thought with a giant cake it might be a little trickier but it was fine. First though I had to make sure that all three tiers would end up the same size. So I carved down the layers that were a little too thick and made sure they were level. Also, each tier goes on a cardboard cake base (basically you then ice to the width of the board and make sure the fondant covers it). I then put a thin layer of honey on the chai cakes and piping gel on the mocha cake to make sure that the fondant stuck.
- Fondant the cakes! I had bought Satin Ice fondant this time instead of the Wilton I had used in the past. It smelled delicious! I had bought the vanilla buttercream flavour and although it still had that weird fondant texture, it did taste better (Wilton is tasteless – just sweet). This was a little
frustrating as I wanted it to be perfect and I knew it wouldn’t be. Also, fondant attracts lint and hair like crazy and having two cats makes it incredibly frustrating! I did manage to keep it fur free though (I think/hope). After finishing the fondant, I covered the cakes and refridgerated them overnight (normally fondant cakes don’t need to be kept cool but it was pretty hot here and I didn’t want to take the chance). I had planned on making Royal Icing and doing some designs but I decided I could keep this first one simple and plain.
- Insert the dowels. Since the cakes are heavy with all of that cake, icing & fondant, you can’t just pile them on top of each other as the bottom tier will
collapse and buckle. Thankfully they make dowels for cakes. You can buy wooden ones but I opted for the ones that are basically like giant, hard straws. You basically insert them into the cake and push them to the bottom. Mark the side where the top of the cake reaches to and then cut them off a little shorter than that. Push them back in. I was a little paranoid so I likely used more than I needed in the bottom tier but it didn’t collapse! After inserting the dowels, the holes are covered with a little buttercream.
- Make the “topper”. Since the couple didn’t have a topper, I figured I would use the fondant roses on the top. I took some of the cake that was carved off the top of a layer that was too thick and made a mound of cake/icing. I wrapped this in fondant. Since the roses are made on toothpicks, I used these to hold the roses in place in my ‘mound of cake & icing & fondant’. It worked like a charm. Sadly I realized I needed more roses at the last minute…
- Stack the tiers. In the afternoon before the evening reception, I went to the reception hall early and set up my cake. There was no way I was going to try to move the cake already stacked! I used a large angled cake spatula to help me out here. It worked well.
- Wrap in Ribbon. For the gold, in case you are wondering, I wrapped the tiers in the same ribbon that the couple used on their invitations. I looked around for awhile looking for the perfect ribbon and was suddenly inspired to ask if they had any left over as it was the perfect ribbon for the cake. I measured it out and figured I needed a minimum of 250 cm. Well, the bride has about 270 cm left! It really was the absolute perfect length – I cut the three lengths I needed and had none leftover (but enough to perfectly wrap around)! I think it was meant to be 🙂 The best thing about putting ribbon around the base of the tiers was that it hides all the flaws in the fondant at the bottom! Best idea ever!
- Add the topper & other decorations! I put the topper on top and other people brought some rose petals and tealights to decorate the table. Step back so you don’t look at the imperfections so closely. And dim the lights – that helps too!
Rich, moist Mocha Cake
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cocoa
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp espresso powder
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp cappuccino flavour (or another tsp of espresso powder)
- 1 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 3 large eggs
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease cake pans and line with parchment paper. This should make a 2 deep or 3 thinner 9″ layers.
- Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, espresso powder & salt.
- In a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together buttermilk, cappuccino flavour and vanilla.
- In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar until blended. Beat about 3 minutes on high until creamy.
- Reduce speed to low and add eggs one at a time.
- Beat in flour mixture alternatively with buttermilk/vanilla mixture. Start and end with the flour mix.
- Pour into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean about 25-28 minutes (check it at 20 minutes).
- Cool in pans 15-20 minutes before removing to cool on racks.
- 1 cup butter, room temp
- 1 tsp cappuccino flavour
- 1-2 Tb espresso powder (make it to how strong you like it! The flavour will mellow a bit once it is mixed with the cake so make it a little stronger than you would think)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 4 cups icing sugar
- 2-4 tsp milk/cream/water to thin consistency icing
- Beat the butter until creamy and light (at least 3 minutes). Add in the flavourings.
- Add 2-3 cups of the sugar 1 cup at a time. Add a bit of liquid. Beat in the rest of the sugar. Add more liquid as needed.
Chai Tea Cake (adapted from Sky-High Cakes as posted on this blog)
I like it pretty spicy and although I adapted this to make it spicier, I could still use more in my opinion!
- 1 1/3 cup milk
- 4 chai tea bags
- 4 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp chai flavouring (I bought this at a random tea store in Seattle… it is optional!)
- 2 3/4 cup flour
- 2 cup sugar
- 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 tsp. cardamom
- 3/4 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp cloves
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease pans and line with parchment paper (2 or 3 9″ pans would work great! Of course the 3 pans would make for thin layers while the 2 pans would make for deep layers)
- In a saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. Remove from heat and add tea bags. Allow to steep (stir it around some) for about 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags and squeeze out the remaining milk. Allow to cool.
- In a small bowl, combine eggs, yolks, vanilla, chai flavour if using, and 1/3 cup of chai milk.
- In the bowl of a mixer, whisk together all dry ingredients. Beat in the butter and the remaining milk. Mix on medium until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg mixture in three additions.
- Divide the batter between the prepared pans. Bake 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Honey swiss meringue buttercream
4 egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup honey
- 1 tsp vanilla
- In the top of a double boiler over simmering water, heat the sugar and egg whites. Whisk while heating until 140°F. Remove from heat and transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment.
- Whip the meringue by beating on low to start, until foamy, and then increasing the speed. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form and the mixture is cooled completely (test by touching the outside of the metal bowl). This takes about 10 minutes.
- Mix in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Beat between each addition until the butter is fully incorporated.
- Don’t worry if it looks kind of curdled during the process, keep beating as it will come together at the end.
- Slowly pour in the honey while continuing to beat. Add the vanilla. Beat for another 3-4 minutes.
- To finish, switch to the paddle attachment and beat a few extra minutes to reduce air bubbles.