Friday, February 29, 2008

Faux Strawberry cheesecake

Sugar-free vanilla cheesecake with sugar-free strawberry topping.

I made this cheesecake for my mom's birthday. She's diabetic, so she can't usually partake when I make my normal desserts. But she loves cheesecake, so this recipe is for her.

The thing about cheesecake is that you can easily make it sugar-free. The sugar isn't really necessary to make the cake rise or to alter any of its other properties (as is the case with many other baked goods). It's just there to make it sweet. In other types of baking, you might need to add baking soda or something, in addition to the sugar substitute.

So just use a sugar substitute (I prefer Splenda) in your cheesecake recipe. Make sure you understand the ratio of sweetness of your substitute to regular sugar. Baking Splenda is designed so that it's a 1-to-1 ratio for sugar.

Splenda actually gives me the creeps. You ever buy a bag of the baking Splenda? It's like a bag of finely shredded Styrofoam. Seriously. The stuff literally makes my skin crawl, because it feels so WEIRD and artificial. Get this: as I was scooping it, the Splenda developed static cling. It stood up like magnetic filings inside of the measuring cup. FREAKY. And yet you're... eating it. But I've learned to deal, because of my mom. Here's a pic of the stuff (I was too weirded out by the static cling to take a pic of it, though):


Next, I made a sugar-free topping. So for this, I took some sugar-free strawberry jam (I prefer Smuckers), and mixed in a bit of water and lemon juice and Splenda. Then I added in fresh sliced strawberries.


I let all of that marinate in the fridge, and it turned out great. I highly recommend making this for anyone who's watching their sugar intake.


You honestly can't tell the difference.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tiramisu cupcakes

White cake cupcakes sprinkled with expresso, with mocha cream cheese frosting.

So, these cupcakes attempt to recreate the flavors of tiramisu, which is traditionally lady fingers dipped in coffee liquor, layered with mascarpone cheese and cocoa powder.

I start off with my favorite white cake recipe, and then I dab some espresso on top of each cake. (You can use actual coffee liquor, too, but I didn't feel like coughing up the money for it.) For those without an espresso machine? Just buy a couple of shots from your local coffee shop.


Depending on how much coffee flavor you're going for, you can put in more. Make sure you have a denser white cake, which can hold up to the added liquid.

My cupcakes, jazzed up with espresso:


Then! I added some cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup?) and about a shot of espresso to my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe. Now, I am normally not a fan of frosting. But this frosting? OH GOD. I love this frosting like no tomorrow. It tastes like cheesecake. I had to try REALLY HARD to not get any on my fingers. Otherwise, I'd just lick it off. :\ (I don't normally have that temptation with regular frosting. But this? Oh gosh. I love this frosting.)

If I were to change anything about the recipe... I'd probably add more sugar to the frosting. I ran out of powdered sugar in the middle of making the frosting, so I only put in 2 and maybe 1/3 cup of sugar, rather than the normal 3 cups. It tastes good on its own, but paired with the sweet white cake, the cream cheese flavor stands out a little too much.

Anyway! The finished product (topped with a dusting of cocoa powder):

Monday, February 18, 2008

Finger Food bento (2)

Okay, I think I am a little obsessed now. Just a little. But we've all gotta eat lunch, right? Might as well make it pretty. Food is meant to be enjoyed with all your senses (including your eyes), after all.


On the right, we've got sliced tomato, celery sticks, sliced cucumber, sliced Golden Delicious apple, a few cubes of white cheddar cheese, and a handful of Wheat Thins. The tomato and celery are in a foil baking cup, and the cheese is in a paper baking cup, to keep the wet and dry items separated. You can't see it, but hidden under the cheese are two little Lorna Doone cookies.

On the left, we've got about 2 tablespoons each of ranch dressing and roasted red pepper hummus. They're in foil baking cups. Hidden under the dips is more sliced cucumber, and there are some stuck around the edges of the box as "gap fillers" too.

What else.... I sprinkled some paprika on top of the hummus for a little extra oomph. I dunked the apples in this sort of "lemonade" -- a bit of water, a few teaspoons of lemon juice, and a dash of sugar (to cut the sour) -- to keep them from turning brown.

A lot of freaking food, in a small space! I am so proud of myself. Not as visually stunning as my first, for some odd reason, but DUDE. I cannot wait to eat it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Ichiban bento (1)

And now for something completely different! Something savory! Not a baked good, gasp. I know, I know -- what's come over me?

Well, inspired by a certain Miss Jeanne, I attempted to make my own bento box to bring to work for lunch tomorrow. I think it was a success! I call it "Ichiban" ("first"), because... it's my first.


I don't even have a real bento box, so I made do with what boxes I had. (Bento boxes are super cute and are usually partitioned off already, for convenience of separating the food.) Erm, I really want one, haha, so let me know if you find any cute ones!

On the right, I put in some of a stir-fry I made with broccoli, carrots, red pepper, and pressed tofu. The rice has furikake sprinkled on top. It's a Japanese rice seasoning, and there are different types. This particular one is noritamago (seaweed egg) furikake.

On the left, I put some leftover cantaloupe and grapes that were sitting around in my fridge. And hidden in the top left is actually a little baggie with two Lorna Doone cookies.

You know what I love best about bento boxes? They're like an art form. It's about presentation, food appreciation, and taking care of others. And your entire lunch fits in this moderately-sized box, so it's a good exercise in portion control, to boot.

Whoo. Is it lunchtime yet?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Neapolitan cupcakes

White cake cupcakes with swirled strawberry and chocolate buttercream frosting.

These cupcakes are meant to taste like Neapolitan ice cream. :) First, you start off with a plain white cake. (Not yellow cake, I have to point out. I am not sure why, but the white cake flavor tends to remind me more of ice cream.)

Look at the pretty white cakes! :) The naked cupcake. It holds such potential.


Next! Onto the buttercream. Buttercream frosting is normally a mixture of butter, confectioner's sugar, whipping cream, and a little pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla. I found this recipe on allrecipes.com, and that uses a bit of shortening, too. I find that it holds up REALLY well for piping, but I am not a huge fan of the taste cuz I think it's kinda... filmy? Oily. Still working on finding a better one.

I made two batches -- one with strawberry jam mixed in (and a dash of lemon juice), and one with cocoa powder mixed in (and extra whipping cream, to alleviate the dryness of the powder). This is the strawberry batch:


Then! My favorite part. Decorating. I filled the piping bag with half chocolate and half strawberry, used a big star tip, and voila! An "ice cream" swirl. I topped the whole thing off with a pink fondant flower.


So there you have it. Like ice cream, but in the form of a cupcake.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Sweetheart Kiss cupcakes

Dark chocolate cupcakes with raspberry vanilla icing.

I love the pairing of raspberry and chocolate, and I thought it'd be a nice Valentine-themed cupcake to make.

Look! Delicious cake batter. It looks like chocolate pudding! (It looks milky, but the photo is sorta inaccurately bright. The cake itself turns out nice and dark.)


This cupcake gets its character from the icing. Once AGAIN, I was running short on time, so I didn't make my own buttercream frosting and I used store-bought vanilla icing. I doctored it up with my raspberry concoction. It takes... about a third of a cup of raspberry preserves, mixed with a teaspoon of water, and a teaspoon of lemon juice. I like to cut the sweetness of the jam with some lemon, especially since you're pairing it with sugary icing.

This is how I meant for the cupcakes to look:


But you know what? That took freaking FOREVER to do, so in the end, I mixed the raspberry sauce with the icing and topped the whole thing with mini "kisses" (ie - semisweet chocolate chips). So the majority of the cupcakes ended up like this:


Welp, next up are Iris's birthday cupcakes, and I have all Saturday afternoon to make them, so I won't be lazy and I will actually make my own buttercream frosting, and pipe it nicely. Stay tuned! And happy belated Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Dragee or no?


(Photo from indiatree.com.)


Are metallic dragees bad for you? They're very cute and classy, and I'd love to use them for icing accents, but the warnings that they're not meant for consumption deter me. Yet Wikipedia seems to suggest that they're edible. And Wikipedia knows all.

From today's yumsugar: Pepsi Raw looks intriguing, doesn't it?

I'm going to make my Sweetheart Kiss cupcakes tomorrow night! Who's excited? I am. ;)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Good Fortune cupcakes

Lychee cupcakes with honey ginger icing.

I wanted to make a cupcake in honor of the Lunar New Year for this dinner party. So I decided to use some Asian-inspired flavors. The cupcakes didn't turn out as well as I liked because the bottom got too brown too quickly (more on this later), but they tasted pretty good.

Lychees are a Chinese fruit. They have a prickly red exterior, which you peel off to reveal the white pulpy fruit. The fruit... I can't really describe the taste, but it's light and very sweet, and faintly tropical. You can buy them fresh in Asian supermarkets, but you can also buy them canned. (And some stores have lychee juice, too, as a drink.)


For ease, I bought the canned stuff. Peeling and cleaning all the fruit is not really worth the effort, when the canned stuff is not markedly different. So I pureed about a cup's worth of the fruit and some syrup, too. I used one of my favorite chocolate cupcake recipes, except I put in a cup of milk and a cup of lychee puree instead of 2 cups of milk and chocolate. (I also cut the sugar in half and upped the flour a little, because the lychees and syrup are very sweet and... syrupy.)

Remember I said the bottoms got too brown, too quickly? I think this is where I went wrong because I don't believe I should have added any syrup to my puree. I think the syrup.... settled, or something like that? Because the bottom was brown but the top was basically perfect. I noticed the same thing about my batter when I was mixing it together -- the lychee part settled. So if I were to make these again, I'd just puree the fruit and not add any of the syrup at all, and hopefully that'd hold up better.

For the icing, I used store-bought white icing, and doctored it up -- because I was already running kinda late for the dinner party. So I added a couple of teaspoons of minced ginger root, some ginger powder, and a dollop of honey. (If I were to do this again, I'd double the ginger root so you really get a kick out of it. The lychee cake is sweet enough that it can take a less-sweet icing.)

The cupcakes, mid-decorating.


Ta-da! The Good Fortune cupcake. I had reservations about them, walking out the door with them, but everyone enjoyed them, to my pleasant surprise. Happy Lunar New Year, everyone!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

To Bake - February

February is a big birthday month for my circle of friends and relations. Whoo. I love having events to bake for. So far, I predict:

- Good Fortune cupcakes for dinner party

- Sweetheart Kiss cupcakes for Valentine's Day

- Neapolitan cupcakes for Iris's birthday

- Tiramisu cupcakes for Tina's birthday (Tina and I actually share a birthday, but these are my gift to Tina)

- Strawberry cheesecake for my mom's birthday (which is at the very beginning of March, but I'll probably end up making it ahead of time)

Fondant! Yay!

I've been on the search for fondant for... forever. Not many stores sell it -- well, I suppose I just didn't know where to look. But, to my surprise, there is a GREAT kitchen supply store in my own backyard. (Well, nearly. It's in Tyson's Galleria, right by where I work.) Sur la Table has almost everything cooking related you could ever want. And folks, I think this is love. If it's wrong to love a kitchen supply store, then I never want to be right.

And look! Fondant!


Plus food color gel, and shape cutters, and glitter sprinkles. I don't actually like eating fondant, but I've always wanted to try decorating with it.

All the pieces are coming together for my Good Fortune cupcakes. Mwahahah.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Hello, world

Wow, it's been a while since I last had a blog. I made my own, back in high school, for a programming class. I don't even remember what I put in it. But here I am, back in the swing of things.

This blog is going to be (mostly) about baking and cooking. Sharing my experiments in the kitchen, with (hopefully) nice photo visual aids, since I just discovered the close-up function on my camera. (I tested it on a soda can -- it looks like it'll work pretty well!)

For now, I am just going to edit my blog a little -- put links in the sidebar and etc. But tomorrow! I'm going to tell you all about my Good Fortune cupcakes -- a recipe I devised in honor of the Lunar New Year, which was this week.