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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Stained Glass Stories (and the BEST cake ever baked)

My cousin is visiting this weekend! Yay!! Excuse me while I go do a happy dance.  We planned this trip months ago and I've been looking forward to it ever since. I just love it when she visits; our life views so closely align that entertaining her is kind of like entertaining myself -- just as easy, but twice the fun.  To put it briefly, we both find joy in good food and relaxation (and just maybe some reality TV, if the show is right -- like FLIPPING VEGAS --I'm looking at you super-tightly-wound-Scott and flighty-spendthrift-Amie!) So when she visits, we literally spend the majority of time sitting in front of the fireplace, snacking on a variety of foodstuff and musing about life.  The fireplace thing is sounding especially wonderful -- particularly given the bout of winter mix (which by the way is no where near as magical as it sounds) that's supposed to hit my  lovely part of the country. And to make life even better, my brother and my future sister-in-law are joining in on the fun! It's going to be a good few days.

Of course, in anticipation, I've been baking up a storm.  Some successful (which you'll see over the next few weeks on the blog) and some not-so-successful (which shall never again see the light of day. . .) but the crowning glory is going to be my cousin's birthday cake. (Okay, so her birthday was actually almost a month ago, but I haven't seen her since then! So belated, yet still birthday, cake it is.) Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this cake is so good that when I offered my husband a replica cupcake to QC (the batter made enough for a cake and a few extra cupcakes -- winning!), he literally harangued me for the next 16 hours asking for more. Including at our dinner party that night, when he tried to offer up the residual cupcakes -- by then frozen, and several short of the number of guests.  Awkward. . . (Although, to be fair, he's been pretty sick, so I'll give him a pass.  Mental status changes due to dehydration or something like that. Or. . . he's been driven mad by how good my cake was. . .hehehe. . .)

 Chai Spice Cake with Butterscotch Chips,
filled with Banana Cream
and
topped with Maple Cream Cheese 

Cake

1 Box Butter Golden Cake Mix
4 Eggs 
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
3 Tbsp Chai Spice Mix (from King Arthur Flour
1 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
7 Tbsp Softened Butter
1/2 Cup Milk 
1 Small Package Vanilla Instant Pudding
1 16 oz Package of Butterscotch Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
Add all ingredients except the butterscotch chips to the bowl of a stand mixer.  Blend for 30 seconds at the lowest speed to combine.  Increase speed to medium and mix for 4 minutes. 
Toss butterscotch chips in flour and then fold the chips into batter, 1 cup at a time.
Pour into greased pans (I used a 3 inch deep, 6 inch diameter cake pan and a jumbo muffin pan.) Bake for 65 minutes. 
Cool in pans on racks for 10 minutes, then flip out of pans to cool completely.
When completely cool, split cake into two layers and core the cupcakes.

Filling

1/2 Cup Water
1/4 Cup Banana Cream Instant Pudding Mix
4.5 oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
2 tsp Maple Chips 

Whisk water, pudding mix and condensed milk together until well combined.  Cover with plastic wrap (wrap touching pudding) and refrigerate for an hour.
Whip the cream to stiff peaks.  When the pudding has been sufficiently chilled, fold the whipped cream into the pudding mixture.  Refrigerate, overnight if possible. (Reserve the maple chips for later. If you have the larger chips like these, crush into smaller pieces/powder before use. Honestly, these look super gross -- but my chips were smaller and looked less like tiny corks, and more like, well, chips.)

Frosting

16 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
2 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
2 tsp Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp Maple Flavor
1/2 Cup Butter (softened)

Combine cream cheese, butter, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at low until well combined (so that powdered sugar doesn't fly everywhere!) Add the remaining ingredients and beat at medium-high until fluffy and well combined. Refrigerate until needed.

Putting it all together

The easy part! Pipe a ring of cream cheese frosting around the edge of one cake layer.  This will prevent the filling from seeping out, since it's a looser filling than a traditional buttercream.  Fill with the banana cream.  Sprinkle maple chips on the cream filling and top with the second cake layer.  Frost with the maple cream cheese.  (At this time, I froze the cake, to be decorated the day before serving.  To defrost, leave in the refrigerator overnight and then at room temperature for a few hours.  Fondant the whole thing and it's a blank canvas, ready for embellishments!) 

Now the fun part!!!! (Not that baking isn't fun, but it's just so much more fun to decorate.)

I recently puchased these really nifty mesh stencils from evilcakegenius.com.  How awesome is that name, by the way?  I wish I were an evil cake genius! But I seem to be more of a generally nice cake amateur.  Doesn't seem to have the same ring, somehow. . . Ahh, well, we all need to have something to aspire to. . .

Anyways, back on topic.  These stencils almost seem like magic -- they appear to be solid, but when you use them, you see the very fine, beautiful lines which appear white on the actual stencil.  It's gorgeous -- and a God-given for people like me whose innate artistry is, well, nonexistent.

To use the stencil: Dilute white petal dust (make sure it's the edible kind -- Wilton sells this) with a bit of vegetable oil until it's runny, but not liquidy.  I know that's a weird distinction, but it should be a viscous fluid, not like water.


Place the stencil on the cake in the desired location and pin into place with some straight pins (mine have pearls, because. . .pretty!) Spread the mixture over the stencil evenly using a spatula or bench scraper to remove all the excess possible.  Then, carefully, so as not to smudge, remove the pins and then the stencil.  Repeat as needed.  You probably won't need to apply the mixture to the stencil every time; the residual paste should last for at least a couple of applications.

 



So lovely, right?! Now at this point, you can even leave it like this.  Maybe with a little luster dust to make it sparkle? Or you could use a colored dust to begin with to have a pretty two color scheme.  But I chose to go a different route.





Trace the white outline that you just made with black royal icing.  Don't get scared -- I know it doesn't look so great right now.  You probably are thinking "why didn't she just leave it????" (I certainly was at time. . .)

But never fear, it does get better.





When the whole cake has been traced out to your desire, take a moment and clear off your work surface.  Find a position where the cake is comfortably at eye level.  This will probably mean that you will be sitting down.  Trust me, for the sake of your sanity and your muscles, you don't want to be hunched over the cake.

Take a few different complimentary colors of gel food coloring and put a tiny bit of each in four separate prep bowls.  Dilute with a drop or two of high proof alcohol (clear, so probably vodka.)

Take a fine bristled paint brush and lightly paint each figure to your desire.  I used pink and yellow for the sort of flower looking shapes, and some green around them for leaves.  (My husband came in at the time and looked dubious to say the least. . . He didn't have faith, but I did. . .)



Finished it off with a coat of blue color to fill in any blank space (which there was a lot of -- blue was the background color, so it was to be expected, I suppose.) It took a long time.  But it was actually really calming.  Isn't coloring supposed to be good for you?  Sort of the same thing, although much harder on my upper back.  Remember what I said about not wanting to be hunched over the cake?  Yeah -- I was really happy that I'd done some focused shoulder stretches at the gym that day. Reaching the end, I freehand piped some irregular shapes with the remaining royal icing, so the whole cake looked somewhat fragmented.  Because my piping skills aren't so wonderful, there were a bunch of places where the royal icing wasn't flat -- so to finish off, when the icing had set a little, I pressed a clean paper towel on top of the cake and patted firmly, which helped to flatten the icing lines a little.





And there it is -- a stained glass cake; not quite as grand as the beautiful walls of glass in those gorgeous cathedrals, but more personally gratifying. And much more palatable of course.  Now all that remains is to sit in front of the fireplace and eat it!
 



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