How to Give French Eclairs a Modern Makeover

Did you know French Eclairs are the new ‘it’ pastry? These retro desserts are making a huge comeback right now at you local chic bakery. But it’s even more fun to make them at home. Let you inner artist run wild when decorating!

Raise your hand if you devoured a many eclairs in your youth? This French pastry is made with pâte à choux, shaped in an oblong vessel that transports whipped cream or custard cream to your mouth, formerly finished off with a chocolate ganache. The new modern French eclair sheds it’s ganache coat for gorgeous and artistic edible works of art.

French eclairs

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Punschtorte, an Austrian Punch Cake

The Punschtorte is a classic Austrian cake with a big boozy punch! A thin cake sandwiches a rum punch filling, and finished off with a thick pink fondant icing.

No one knows for sure the origins of this Punschtorte cake but it may have been introduced to Vienna in the Middle Ages by the Ottoman armies some time during the 17th century. The components include cake crumbs, chocolate, rum, apricot jam, citrus juices. It is a kick-ass cake! Individual pastries are known as Punschkrapfen.

punschtorte inside

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9th Blogiversary: my Cake Decorating Challenge

The art form of cake decorating can be intimidating to a novice. But even masters had to start with a humbling first cake. Learn in this post the basic tools needed and how to prepare your canvas for your creations.

Let’s eat a fancy decorated cake for my 9th blog anniversary! No, not one cake, let’s have two cakes! Here is a blog veteran tip: keep challenging yourself, make those hard recipes, try those scary cooking techniques. Today I will attempt to conquer one more personal kitchen nemesis: cake decorating.

Cake decorating lily of the valley

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3 Tips to Save a Swiss Meringue Buttercream that has Run Amuck

All hail the supreme cake icing: Swiss Meringue Buttercream! Is it new to you? Learn it’s history, advantages, and make this buttercream recipe like a pro with these 3 tips if the icing goes berserk!

One of my weaker skills in the kitchen is cake decorating. I am not a natural and I have ventured little into serious cake decorating business. I decided to do something about it and give it a real try. Now before you can really give cake decorating a try, you have to start off with the right icing. There are many options but the uncontested icing for serious cake decoration is the Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe.

icing with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

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Lemon Cupcakes are just Beachy

Got a party in the works? How about serving up these adorable beach themed lemon cupcakes and cake! No special skills are required to prepare these sweets and your dessert just may steel the spotlight from the honored guest!

As you get older you realize that one of the most important things in life is being well surrounded by people you love. Or to keep certain people close enough to you that they are willing to plan a huge party for you. Just kidding! On May 31st 2015 the party organization team of Sue and Evelyne threw a big 50th Birthday bash for our dearest friend Michele. It was an absolute pleasure to plan Michele’s birthday as she is like family to me and I know it is a mutual feeling. So one more time: Happy 50th Birthday Michele!

Beach themed Lemon Cupcakes tier

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Childlike Cake Pops

Oh boy, I was not jumping up and down when I heard this months International Incident Party challenge, hosted by Penny at Jeroxie.com. Yes cake pops are like the new THANG . Some people say that cake pops will sweep the nation and put cupcakes down a notch from their pedestal (I heard rumors whoopy pies where next…time will tell). Cake pops are totally frigging cute to look at and the creativity limit is sky high. So why was I not psyched?

Because I SUCK at icing and cake decoration. What I really wanted to use as a title was childish cake pops but I figured I would be accused of being to hard on myself. Nothing went right. So I used blueberry muffins instead of cake and I used regular frosting as the recipe calls for. It was really messy and the balls did not stick very well together.And the idea of that much icing IN the cake was not appetizing for me.

I did not fins lollipop sticks so first I tried straws, the cake balls were to heavy and the straw would bend. I opted for chopsticks. Then I could not find the colored candy melts so I tried melted white chocolate with food coloring. The texture was WAY too heave, I tired adding cream to get a ganache consistency but I guess white chocolate does not like cream. I would try dipping and covering the ball in the chocolate like suggested and then the chopsticks just slipped out or the cake ball fell apart. I was ready to give up.

So I went with reverse cake pops. I did the fork dipping thing and placed the chop sticks on top. I had some store bough cake icing tubes and with my horrible icing talents got 2 cake pops to look like supposed bees and 2 other cake pops with flowers, leaves and hearts. A childish garden on pollinated flowers from bees!

Gimme a really complicated cake recipe where the final presentation is in the baking I got no problem. Put icing in my hand and I am terrified. But hey I did it once…I can move on lol.

International Incident Cake Pops Party

Milk Braised Fennel

Still fighting the laryngitis but it is finally getting better!

You are not going to believe this but this post goes back to Christmas. Oops. Well actually I have a few possible future posts that date back even further but this one I cannot hide the holiday factor! I made this recipe for a dinner party amongst friends on December 23rd. Everyone had to bring the ingredients to prepare one dish on the spot and share. There was no formality to the dinner, when a dish was ready it was set on the table. People sat and ate, stood and ate, went back to the kitchen to check how their recipe was going along. We had a blast! And Amen for big kitchens such as the one our host had.

I love introducing less common foods in such occasions but you don’t want to go overkill exotic for a large group. After all some may scare easy lol. I love fennel bulb and it has become a common find n the grocery store so I figured it may be new to some guests without causing too much panic. I came across a curious recipe where the fennel is braised in milk. I just had to try it.

Milk Braised Fennel

3 medium fennel bulbs
4 cups milk
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup chopped fennel greens
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Goat cheese ( used sheep cheese)
Cherry tomatoes

Directions:

Heat oven to 475 F.

Remove tough outer layer of fennel. Halve bulbs lengthwise and cut into 1⁄2″ wedges.

Combine fennel, milk, and 2 tbsp. butter in a 4-qt. baking dish. Add chopped fennel greens and season with salt and pepper.

Cook in oven until fennel is just tender, about 30–45 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer fennel to a 2-qt. baking dish.

Pour 1 cup of the milk mixture over fennel. Sprinkle with cheese, a few tomatoes and dot with remaining butter.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

The dish was an all around success. The fennel was so tender and delicate, infused with milk all the way through. I kept a section cheese-less as some guests did not like goat/sheep cheese. Well in the end they were the ones that said it tasted better with the cheese.

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So here are the small Christmas crumbs I wanted to share:

The Christmas Eve dinner prepared by my mom, some lovely braised duck leg…

And a few very retro gifts. The first is a self-confessed re-gifting from a friend…but an unusual one. Johanne gave me a set of shot glasses with a small carafe that belonged to her grandmother. How cute is this. Yes the glass is cut with the typical flower patterns of the time (you just can’t really see it here)

And this second gift is more a part of my heritage. I have been coveting these for a while and my mom finally gave them to me. The first is a complete cake icing kit in metal and the second are various cookies cutter shapes. These all belonged to my maternal grandmother who was a great cook and pastry chef. Although by the time I was born I never witnessed the grand dinner parties she hosted, my mother’s stories of them are probably what propelled my cooking curiosity.