Saturday, February 28, 2009

February Daring Bakers Challenge-- Chocolate Valentino Cake & Vanilla Ice Cream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

Be sure to check out other Daring Bakers creations!

This month's challenge is responsible for any weight I've gained this month.

*licking the spoon/pan/rubber spatula from the custard for the ice cream
*licking the beaters/bowl from the whipping cream (that I *added* fat content to... don't most people want less fat? Here I am increasing the fat content intentionally!)
*licking the spoon/bowl/rubber spatula from the custard/whipping cream combination
*licking both beaters after I had to whip the freezing ice cream
*licking the beaters again after I had to whip the freezing ice cream a second time
*licking the spoon while melting the chocolate and butter together for the cake
*licking the spoon again just because the chocolate/butter combo tasted so good the first time
*licking the spoon/spatula and pan clean after transferring the chocolate mixture to a bowl to cool
*licking the bowl after folding in the egg whites and transferring batter to the cake pan
*licking the spoon/pan/spatula after making hot fudge to use on my presentation platter
*licking the funnel that was used to transfer the hot fudge from the pan to a squeeze bottle
*eating (not licking) the scrap pieces of milk chocolate and white chocolate candy hearts I made for accessories to the cake and ice cream (I don't even like white chocolate but still ate those scraps)
*eating the scraps after cutting a small heart shape out of the larger heart shape
*licking the spoon that was used to dollop some homemade raspberry jam onto the plate
*eating a piece of the finished product; it will be virtually impossible to make it through the month without gaining a pound.

I found this months challenge to be exciting! I was more nervous excited to make the homemade ice cream than a flourless cake. The cake directions seemed cut and dry... and with the small amount of ingredients, how could you go wrong? I was a little disappointed in the taste of the final result (of the cake); it was not nearly sweet enough for my liking and instead was far too bitter. I used semi-sweet chocolate and will use milk chocolate next time. That was a bummer to not like the taste of the cake, but the presentation was fun and the texture of it was surprising. It was like biting into a cloud!

I also didn't care for the ice cream-- which means it was good ice cream! Confused? Let me explain... Not only do I not like semi-sweet chocolate, but I don't like ice cream (I know, what is wrong with me?). You will never find me just scooping up a bowl of ice cream to eat, regardless of the flavor or toppings.

I thought I would like this ice cream because you first needed to make a custard, and I loved the custard. I could have eaten the whole thing! Then you needed to make whipped cream, and I loved the whipped cream. Then all you had to do was combine the two and freeze..... and if I loved the custard and loved the whipped cream, one would think that I would have loved the result of the two of them together. But I didn't. It tasted like ice cream!

Which means that the recipe is a good one-- because it resulted in ice cream tasting like ice cream.

Here are the two simple recipes for this months challenge. I think they make a beautiful presentation together and perhaps even taste good together....

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes


16 ounces (1 pound) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated


1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F

9. Bake for 25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer reads 140F
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Here is my unmolded cake-- it sinks quite a bit as you can see:

Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes


1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with 1 tsp vanilla extract)
1 ¼ cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
1 tsp cornstarch
1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat*)

{*you can easily increase your cream's fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted - cool to room temperature and add to the 1.5 cups heavy cream .)


1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod length ways. Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil. Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse
Lift the vanilla pod up. Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.

2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.

3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time.

4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl. Cool it then chill.

5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon. Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container.

I was surprised at how much this already looked like (melted) ice cream, even before it made it's way into the freezer!

Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse. I used a hand beater to whip mine at the 2 hour and 4 hour marks.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Marble Target Game

Got an old shoebox lying around your house? Use it to make a target for shooting marbles into! Cut a few holes into the side of a shoe box and assign and label each hole a point value. Set the target at one end of the table and mark a starting line at the other end of the table and see who can get the most points!

If you have any old building blocks also lying around, they make great "barriers" on each side of the box to keep the marbles from rolling off of the table.

Also, keep the shoebox cover for two reasons:
1. It makes a great marble holder for those marbles waiting to be shot.
2. When you aren't playing, you can store everything inside of the shoebox and just place the cover on top and put the entire box neatly away!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Winter Bird Feeder

Here is an easy craft that even the littlest of kiddo's can help out with... feeding the birds! Wintertime in Minnesota leaves a lot to be desired for the birds so why not help them out with a little treat that they will be thrilled to stumble upon?

All you need is:

A shoestring

Tie a knot into an end of the shoestring. Starting with the un-knotted end, string as many Cheerios as you'd like onto the shoestring, one at a time. Be sure to leave some of the string empty at the end opposite of the knot so that you can tie it around a branch when it has become as long as you'd like it to be (I cut my shoestring in half).

I can't promise that the birds will get to it before the snow or rain gets to it-- but it will be something fun for little ones to watch!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rainbow Cake

My son is usually very particular when it comes to his birthday cake. He takes his time and debates all of the different flavors, sizes and themes that he can go with. He is very serious when it comes to cake. But this year, he wanted me to surprise him. So when I saw the recipe for this RAINBOW CAKE, I knew exactly what I would make for his 6th birthday! It was a bit pokey to make, but the results were worth it. He loved the bright colors-- which are the result of food coloring paste (no little triangle shaped capped food coloring for this recipe-- you'll never get the desired results).

The recipe that I saw was ironically close to my recipe for Watergate Cake, by the fact that it was made with 7-up and instant pudding. However, the recipe did not call for eggs and it called for diet 7-Up and fat-free instant pudding, ( which was only used in the frosting rather than in both the cake and the frosting); a pathetic attempt to make a fat-free cake. If you're going to eat cake-- you deserve to enjoy it and put all the goods into it. No skimping here. I adapted my own recipe for this Rainbow Cake.


White Cake Mix
1 cup 7-Up
1 cup water
1 package vanilla instant pudding
2 eggs


1. Mix all ingredients for 1 minute (usually a cake needs to be mixed for about 2 minutes, but you will be mixing again when you add the coloring).

2. I measured the entire batter so that I knew what I needed to measure in order to have 6 equal portions. Conveniently, the batter equaled 6 cups! How easy!

I simply used a 1-cup measuring scoop to divide the batter into 6 separate bowls. I then tinted each bowl with a different color.

3. Grease 2 round cake pans.

4. Now, I used my first three colors in the first pan and then switched to do the last three colors in the second pan. I did it like this, because you want to use about 2/3 of the total amount of batter in each bowl for the bottom colors. (Make sense? Basically, if I did all 6 colors in one pan before moving onto the 2nd pan, I would end up having a hard time making sure I had equal amounts of batter in each pan.)

5. So use about 2/3 of your first color (red) and plop it dead center into the pan. Don't worry about swirling it around or anything-- it magically will work out.

6. Add about 2/3 of the batter of your second color (orange) smack dab on top of the first color.

7. Do this also with your third color (yellow).

8. This is where you want to now go to your second pan and work the colors backwards. Using about 2/3 of the batter for the LAST color of your rainbow (purple), plop it into the empty 2nd pan.

9. Do this with the next color (blue) and again with the green.

10. You should be left with about 1/3 of the batter for each color.

11. Go ahead and finish up your rainbows--- put the remaining green, blue and purple in your first pan and put the remaining yellow, orange and red in your last pan.

12. If you insist, give the pans a little swirl to make sure that your batter is even. Don't do this too hard- you don't want to mix your colors and as tempted as you may be, do NOT drag a knife through it to marble the cake.

13. Put your two pans into a preheated 350° oven and bake until cake test is complete (about 25 minutes... but watch them-- you have mixed up your ingredients a tad from the given directions on the box).

14. Cool the cake on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

15. Frost with either frosting of your choice, or with whipped cream (I mixed another package of instant vanilla into mine before frosting). Also tuck some waxed paper under the edges of the cake while you frost so that your plate remains clean. When you're done frosting, simply slide the waxed paper out.

Keep refrigerated.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Homemade Raspberry Jam (and cookies)

I made homemade Raspberry Jam for the first time last week and loved it so much that I made a larger batch today. The first time I made it, I used my bread machine; I know that sounds weird-- but I found a recipe for it in the bread machine manual and it looked so simple to make that I had to try it. It was pretty simple: Mix, push button, wait. 1 hour later... yummy jam!

So I thought I'd try it the traditional way today- on the stove top. It was just as easy! It actually was quicker, although I didn't have to stand there and stir it when I made it in the bread machine. But making it on the stove knocks out a bigger batch and saves a lot of time.

Once the jam was made, I baked these sugar cookies and instead of frosting them, I slathered them with the homemade jam and topped them with a cookie dusted with powdered sugar for a perfect Valentine Cookie treat!

Here is how I made the jam:

What you need:

5 cups crushed raspberries (not pureed)
7 cups sugar
1 packet dry Sure-Jell Fruit Pectin
1 tablespoon Lemon Juice


1. Run jars through a dishwasher to sterilize and keep them hot on the "heated dry" cycle. (you'll want to time this right so the jars are still hot when you fill them, otherwise they may break) Also, fill a stock pot with water allow to simmer while you make the jam.

2. Wash the lids and screw bands and place in a pan of water that you had brought to a boil but removed from heat.

3. Prepare fruit by mashing with a potato masher.

4. Measure exact amount of fruit and put into a 6-8 quart sauce pot.

5. Measure exact amount of sugar and pour into a separate bowl. Set aside.

6. Stir in one packet of dry fruit pectin into the fruit. You can also add a tsp of butter to help minimize foaming, but the butter is optional.

7. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop boiling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly.

8. Stir in sugar quickly. Return to a full boil (it took about 10 minutes to get there) and boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam.

9. Ladle quickly into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly.

10. Being very careful, use tongs to lower jars one by one down into the simmering stockpot of water. The water must cover the jars by 1 - 2 inches; add boiling water if needed. Cover. Bring water to a gentle boil. Process jams 10 minutes.

11. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars are cool, check seals by pressing middle of lid with finger (if lid springs back, lid is not sealed and refrigeration is necessary).

12. Let stand at room temperature 24 hours. Store unopened jams in cool, dry, dark place up to 1 year. Refrigerate open jams up to 3 weeks.

Valentine Heart Attack

Give a loved one a heart attack by surprising them with many of the reasons you love them! What a fun way to wake up!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Valentine Chocolate Treats

Make some sweet treats to present to your Valentine by melting some chocolate and cutting with cookie cutters. These are perfect toppers to cakes, cupcakes, ice cream or even presented by themselves. They literally take a few minutes to make.

What you need:

Quality chocolate (milk, white, dark... it's up to you)
Wax Paper
Cookie Cutters

What you do:

1. Melt chocolate either in a double boiler on the stove or in a microwave-safe bowl. I opted for the microwave, and used two blocks of chocolate bark. I set it for 1 minute on high, stirred and then cooked another 30 seconds until it was melted.

2. Using a spatula, spread chocolate into a thin layer onto wax paper.

3. While chocolate is setting up, but still a bit soft, press cookie cutters into the chocolate to cut a shape (don't go anywhere... it took mine about a minute of setting up before it was ready). Work quickly.

4. Using a spoon, drizzle with melted chocolate of another variety (optional). (If you mix the drizzle chocolate with a teensy bit of vegetable shortening, it will be thinner, allowing you to drizzle it easily.)

* Use a cheese grater to sliver the leftover chocolate scraps to use on cakes, pies and ice cream.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Valentine Candles

Light up your Valentine table with these simple decorative ideas for candles. Place different kinds of Valentine-themed candy sprinkles in a clear votive or tea light holder. Top with a candle and light.