To Gluten or Not to Gluten

Gluten has become quite the buzzword these days. At first you heard it constantly from the gluten free camp, but now the gluten eaters are vocalizing their opinions on this tiny little protein. The most annoying part (to me at least), is that so many people on either side can’t even tell you what IS gluten! People. If you’re going to throw around random studies, articles, and arguments, you should probably at least try to educate yourself on what you are talking about. I am not here to tell you whether you should be for or against gluten, but rather to help you form your own opinion. This is the science teacher side of me coming out.

This video by America’s Test Kitchen gives a good visual of gluten, as well as explaining what it is along with some of it’s properties. Don’t worry, it’s only about 3 minutes long. You probably spend more time looking at funny cat memes.

Obviously gluten has a pretty significant impact on baking, which makes it my problem. If you’ve been following my blog you probably know that I bake cupcakes with and without gluten. I realize I’m playing both sides while most sites will cater to one party or the other. As for myself, I choose to follow a gluten free lifestyle and I will gladly answer why if you ever care to ask me. But you probably don’t care and are not here for that. The reason I still post “gluten” desserts right along with the gluten free desserts is for this: Enjoyment.

Most of the events and moments I bake for are celebrations, everything from weddings, bridal showers, birthday parties, graduations, baby showers, gender reveal parties…you get the idea. People are celebrating someone or some achievement/moment in someone’s life. You should not be so fixated on FOOD that you miss enjoying the moment. (To clarify, I’m not talking about people who have medical concerns.) I have several customers who do prefer gluten free desserts for one reason or another- and that’s fine. I’m the baker, I’m the one who has to deal with the process whereas they’re concerned about the final product. Can you really tell the difference between these cupcakes? Both are chocolate cupcakes (though one is dark chocolate), but only one is gluten free.

Can you tell the difference?
Can you tell the difference?

My point is that for all the commotion that gluten has caused, it still remains a mystery to most people. All I’m asking is that you educate yourself before telling others what they should or should not eat. Chances are, if there’s cake you should be celebrating and not analyzing the food!

Girly Pink Birthday Cake

I skipped posting again last week. I’ve been terrible this month. In my defense I was in the midst of moving last weekend. I considered myself unpacked when I put my mixer up. I realized I was not unpacked when I had to get ready for work and had to dig through boxes to find work clothes and shoes. Still working on that one.

I've also been busy repainting furniture...channeling a lot of crafty over here
I’ve also been busy repainting furniture…channeling a lot of crafty over here

February is also rodeo season in Texas. I love everything about the rodeo (except the parking/traffic). It’s something everyone needs to experience. And in order to get the full experience you need to eat the deep fried oreos. You should probably run 10 miles before going so there’s less guilt in devouring these treats…but they are so worth it.

The Pink Girly Birthday Cake
The Girly Pink Birthday Cake

I know “Girly Pink Birthday Cake” is terribly vague and not very descriptive…but I had no idea what else to call this cake. I based the cake off of the party invite and I’m kind of obsessed with how simple and girly it looks. Decorating actually went pretty quick. I applied a crumb coat to cover the top of the cake and to make an even base on the sides.

I used my tip that is a very large circle (it’s not a wilton tip so it doesn’t have a number…think of a large version of Wilton #12). I applied 4 large dots in a column on the side of the cake. Using an offset spatula, I then “smeared” each dot. Repeat this all around the cake. Each new column you apply should slightly overlap the previous column. The last group gets a little tricky…so make sure you start on the back side of the cake just in case you have issues blending it together.

Pink Girly Birthday Cake

The canvas triangles for the banner I actually found in the scrapbook section. I thought I was going to have to cut the pieces myself, but this size was perfect! “Happy birthday” was too long to fit across the cake, so that’s why I just used her name. I love the color of the canvas with the pink. Sometimes simple is better!!

Pink Girly Birthday Cake

Pay It Forward Friday

A few days ago I was left a comment reading “I’ve nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award”. Whaaaat? I don’t know you and I don’t know what this is. After checking out her blog (By the way- thanks Sweet Spell Bakeshop!), I realized that this was just a friendly gesture, a random act of kindness. At first I wasn’t going to pass it on because I didn’t think too much of it. But I realized that it had brought a smile to my face and considering it was a completely harmless act, I should keep it going. People so frequently use the internet for cruelty, to pass on judgements they would never dream of saying in person. To call out people they don’t even know. Which is dumb. But it happens. So why should I break the chain of something positive that’s circling around? That is why I’m continuing this.

Thank you to Sweet Spell Bakeshop for nominating me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award.

According to this whole deal, I’m supposed to do the following things:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated me
  • Post the blog award image on my page
  • Tell 7 facts about myself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs and let the nominees know they have been chosen.

Here’s 7 Things About Me:

1. Cupcakes aren’t my favorite. I love oatmeal raisin cookies. And cheesecake.
2. If my job required me to sit at a desk all day, I would fail miserably.
3. I have a library card. And use it frequently.
4. I can’t stand the taste of coffee, but I love the smell. Sometimes I go down the coffee grounds aisle at the store just for the smell.
5. I love Wheel of Fortune. I’m pretty good at it, too.
6. I’m on a mission to travel the world. Off to a slow start though.
7. I’m a sucker for BBQ. Brisket, onions, and sauce…all I need.

I don’t know 15 other bloggers. But I will list the ones I do know, because they are amazing people and strong influences in my life.

  1. http://leahgoldstein.blogspot.com
  2. http://www.lifewithahintoflime.blogspot.com/
  3. http://mealsthatmatter.blogspot.com/
  4. http://beautyinthebackbone.wordpress.com/

Well I knew I didn’t have 15, but I thought I had more than 4!! Regardless, do something nice for someone today. Be the reason a stranger smiles. And have a GREAT weekend!

“Vintage” Cupcake Stand

My old roommate got married a few months ago and of course I volunteered my baking services. This is old news. But when I visited her recently, she told me she had a surprise for me. I was perplexed, mainly because it wasn’t anywhere near my birthday. It turns out she wanted to give me something for all the baking I did for her wedding. Being the crafty gal she is, she tracked down three separate plates and two goblets to create a cupcake stand.

Vintage Cupcake Stand

The plates she found were vintage looking floral plates and a scalloped-edged plate. Basically, I was kind of obsessed. I thought it was adorable. And I was slightly jealous that I had been unsuccessful in my hunt for cute plates to do the same thing. Regardless, I now have a super cute cupcake stand!

Cupcake Stand
Seriously…I love the edges of the middle plate.

Texan Pralines

I was recently approached by a bride-to-be to do some pecan pralines for the hotel welcome bags. It’s a Texas wedding after all, and there’s a lot of family coming in from other states, and even other countries. I had never actually made pralines before but was more than happy to take on the project. My dad is actually from Seguin, the “pecan capitol of Texas”…yes, that is their claim to fame. They even have the “world’s largest pecan”, these people seriously love their pecans. My dad always brings me back pecans from there and then I wonder why I even BOTHER with store bought pecans..it’s just not the same.

Seguin, Texas
Wow...world's largest pecan!! But not edible..sooo what's the point?

But anyways, I digress. Baking in general requires a certain amount of patience, but pralines…well if you jump the gun on these, you’re screwed. There’s a lot of waiting and stirring and then at the right moment, you have to act FAST. Which is why we will call my first batch a learning experience. The second batch however turned out  just right and just delicious.

I managed to dig out a praline recipe from Pape’s Pecan House, which is where we always get our pecans. I did some perusing of the site and was unable to find any recipes on there, so I’m glad I have their collection of pecan recipes from many years ago! Sorry I don’t have more pictures, but there’s no time for pictures when making these!

Texan Pralines

  • 1 1/2 cup pecan halves (I actually chopped up pecans into slightly smaller pieces, personal preference)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 Tbsp. margarine or butter
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cook sugar, milk, and baking soda together until the syrup forms a soft ball when tested in cold water Remove from stove and add pecans, vanilla, and butter. Beat until the mixture begins to hold shape. Drop by spoon on to wax paper that has been sprinkled generously with salt.

Pecan Pralines
Butter, sugar, and pecans...so simple yet so delicious!

Cake Pops

It seems the new sweet trend are cake pops. I mean it’s not hard to see why- they’re bite sized pieces of heaven. I get asked ALL the time how to make them and honestly…they’re probably one of the easiest things to make. Seriously- we’re talking 3 steps.

Lovely

1. Bake a cake.

2. Mix cake with frosting.

3. Dip in chocolate.

4. Devour. (Okay so it’s 4 steps)

BUT let’s break it down a bit further. What kind of cake are you supposed to bake? WHATEVER YOU WANT!! You can pick ANY cake/frosting combination for this. Some of my favorite combinations are red velvet/cream cheese frosting, wine cake/cream cheese frosting, and strawberry cake/strawberry frosting. You can be as creative as you want with this. So once you decide that, bake that cake. Then you crumble it up in a bowl (let me tell you, I did not like this part at first…I went to the trouble of baking a cake and now I have to mess it up?!) and mix it with frosting.

Perfect cake...that you're about to destroy

You can either stop here, grab a spoon, and go to town,  or choose to continue towards the final product. No judgement here if you decide to taste test the whole bowl. Should you choose to continue, refrigerate the cake/frosting mixture until it’s firm enough to roll into balls. Don’t jump the gun here- you will have a chocolate-y gooey cake mess on your hands should you roll too soon. Albeit a very tasty mess. You can also put it in the freezer to speed up the process.

You can use colored frosting to have a surprise center!

Roll all the cake mixture into whatever size you want onto wax paper, I use a cookie dough scoop so that they are all the same size. Melt the chocolate and then dip each ball into the chocolate. If you want to sprinkle them with nuts, sprinkles, or whatever topping you have- do it while the chocolate is still melted. If you want to decorate the cake pops with royal frosting, wait until the chocolate hardens. And you are done!

You can decorate cake pops to be whatever you want!
Happy little snowmen

Superbowl Cupcakes

Well it’s about that time of year again- Superbowl Sunday will be here before we know it! Even if you don’t particularly care for football, you know you’ll get roped into watching it with friends. And you’ll say you’re watching it “for the commercials”. But everyone knows football games=food! Chips, dips, beer, wings, cupcakes, what? Who WOULDN’T want Superbowl cupcakes?

Superbowl 2011 Cupcakes

Clearly those are from last year. Thankfully both teams had pretty easy logos to frost. The Patriots are making that a little bit more difficult for me this year- but I will figure it out somehow!! So regardless of who you’re cheering for- Giants, Patriots, Madonna and the halftime show, you can have spirit cupcakes!!