Elvis Cupcakes: Banana cake with chocolate ganache, peanut butter icing, bacon and caramelized bananas

July is already known for two major celebrations, Independence Day and my birthday (I’m still trying to get that approved as a national holiday) but did you know that this July there is another reason to celebrate? July 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of rock and roll. According to the Graceland website; “On July 5, 1954, Elvis {Presley} walked into Sun Studio in Memphis and recorded “That’s All Right” with guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black. DJ Dewey Phillips played the song on July 8 on WHBQ radio and the switchboard lit up. Rock ‘n’ Roll was born and the music world changed forever.”

Elvis may be gone from us but his music is as alive and well as ever. I am a huge fan of “The King” so I thought I would come up with a cupcake creation in his honor for this rockin’ anniversary. It’s a well known fact that Elvis’ favorite sandwich was a peanut butter, banana, bacon sandwich so I decided to use these flavors to create a cupcake that would be worthy of his fame.

I introduce to you: Elvis Cupcakes!

These cupcakes are made with a banana cake, filled with peanut butter icing, topped with chocolate ganache and more peanut butter icing, then adorned with bacon pieces, a caramelized banana slice and a sparkly dark chocolate music note. Can you say “Yum”?

I have to tell you that these turned out even better than I thought they would. One of my friends kept raving about how amazing they were, only to find out later that he doesn’t even like bananas. I’m not real crazy about the whole bacon with sweets fad but I have to say that this time it was a perfect addition to the sweetness of the rest of the cupcake. All the flavors were just incredible together. I can now understand why Elvis loved his sandwiches so much.

The only thing I would possibly change next time is the caramelized banana. When I caramelized the bananas I added some rum to them. I felt like the taste of the rum was a bit overpowering so I think next time I will just use butter and brown sugar on the bananas and forgo the rum. My family seemed to think the rum taste was fine though so maybe it is just me.

Okay, are you ready to learn how I constructed these scrumptious little cakes?

I started with a banana cupcake recipe that I found on Food Network’s website. I only used the cake part of the recipe. I was kind of expecting the cupcakes to taste like banana bread but they were much different. They were sweet, light and moist. I fell in love with the cupcakes and probably could have eaten them all straight from the oven. This recipe is definitely joining my list of favorite recipes. According to the original recipe it is supposed to yield 12 cupcakes but I got 18 when I made it so I have changed the amount for my printed version.

Click here for a printable version of the Banana Cupcake recipe.

While the cupcakes were baking, I made my bacon bits and chocolate music notes. The easiest way to make bacon bits is to partially freeze the bacon first so that it holds together when you cut it up.

First cut it in 1/4″ slices in one direction

Then cut it in 1/4″ slices in the other direction

Fry all the bacon pieces over medium high heat until they are crispy. Drain the fat then pour the finished pieces onto a paper towel to cool.

For the chocolate music notes, I melted a dark chocolate Ghirardelli candy bar in a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Be very careful to continuously stir and melt completely but not let it get too warm or it will become discolored when cooled. It should be warm to the touch but not hot. I turned the heat off the burner once the chocolate started to melt a bit to make sure the bowl didn’t get too hot.

Once melted, I poured the warm chocolate onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. I laid Perfection Strips down to help me keep an even thickness as I spread the chocolate with an angled spatula. I love my Perfection Strips. I use them all the time for so many different purposes.

I then placed the chocolate in the refrigerator until it just began to set. The shine should be gone but it shouldn’t be so firm that it breaks.

Using a mini music note cutter, I cut music notes out of the chocolate then placed them back in the refrigerator to set up completely.

When they were set I placed the cutter over them again to break them away from the rest of the chocolate.

I found that using a small piece of cardboard helped me to slide them out of the cutter without breaking them.

It was then time to give them some sparkle. I brushed a little bit of Everclear on each note (the alcohol evaporates the moisture quickly so that it is damp just long enough to attach the dust) then poured on some gold Disco Dust. I shook off the excess and then had a shimmery adornment for my cupcake. Disco Dust is edible and gives amazing sparkle. It is also quite messy though, so be prepared for getting dust everywhere. I pour it on over one of these trays so that I can then easily return the excess back into it’s jar.

After the cupcakes were baked and cooled, I filled them with my favorite peanut butter icing. I use this recipe a lot so you have probably seen it on several of my other creations in the past. For more information on how to fill a cupcake, see my past blog post Chocolate Covered Strawberry Cupcakes for your Valentine.

Click here for a printable version of my Peanut Butter Icing Recipe.

Once all the cupcakes were filled it was time to top them with chocolate ganache. To make the ganache I poured a 12 oz. bag of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips into a metal bowl that rested over a pot of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the bottom pot) then added 1 cup of heavy cream.

I slowly stirred the mixture continuously until the chocolate melted completely.

I then dipped the tops of the cupcakes into the mixture and twisted them to keep them from dripping. You can see a video on how to make the ganache and dip the cupcakes here at TLC.com.

Dipping

Twisting

When all the cupcakes were topped with ganache I placed them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to set up.

While waiting, I made the caramelized bananas. I don’t have pictures of the process but it was fairly simple. Like I said before, I think next time I will forgo the rum as I thought it just added too strong of a taste. That is personal preference though.

Click here for a printable version of the Caramelized Banana recipe.

I then removed the cupcakes from the fridge and finished them off by adding more Peanut Butter Icing, using a #1A decorating tip, and then adding some bacon, a slice of caramelized banana and a music note to each cupcake.

There you go, cupcakes that you “Can’t Help Falling In Love” with and that are bound to get you “All Shook Up.”

Okay, enough with the puns. Enjoy!

Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.

Click here for a printable version of the Banana Cake Recipe

Click here for a printable version of the Peanut Butter Icing Recipe

Click here for a printable version of the Caramelized Bananas Recipe

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Spam and Spork Cake

It’s been a while since I have posted anything new on the blog so I thought I’d check in with you all by sharing a picture of a Spam cake I made over the winter. My church has a food pantry that we open up to the community twice a month. The pantry was starting to get low on canned goods after the holidays so the church decided to hold a contest among the various small group Bible studies to see which group could donate the largest number of canned goods to the pantry. The winning group received some individual baked goods from a couple of women in the church as well as a cake, made by me, to share with the group at one of their meetings. I was given free reign to make any type of cake I wanted. Well, what better way to celebrate a canned food drive then a cake that looks like a huge can of Spam?

So that is what I made. I took a few pictures of the process but someone (I won’t name names *cough*my kids*cough*) deleted those pictures from my camera so I am just going to have to do a little explaining. I bought a small can of Spam and carefully removed the label from the can. Using my copy machine I enlarged the label to the size I wanted then cut it out, piece by piece, to use for the various patterns. I thinly rolled out colored modeling chocolate and used the patterns and a sharp knife to cut each piece of the label.

The cake was covered in fondant then the blue and gold color were added with an airbrush. A funny (not-so-funny) story about the airbrushing was that I started up my machine to begin spraying the blue on the cake but no color came out of the airbrush. I kept waiting and waiting, expecting color to eventually appear. After several seconds I looked down in frustration only to discover that I had the airbrush turned backwards and there was blue food coloring all over my waist and all over the room behind me. Sadly, these types of things happen to me all the time. I thought it was going to be impossible to clean the room but about a week later our basement, where my cake room is located, ended up flooding and all the flood water cleaned up the room spic and span. Talk about a mixed blessing!

Okay, back to the cake. Like I said, I airbrushed the color. I made a faded effect with the blue, just like on the real label. I then attached the modeling chocolate pieces with some thinned down piping gel.

The cake board is also covered in fondant and made to look like a wood surface. There is a great Youtube video by Elisa Strauss on how to make a wood grain in fondant.

Finally, I thought the cake needed something laying beside it on the baseboard. A fork or spoon just seemed a bit to classy for Spam. That’s when it hit me… a SPORK! A plastic spork is the perfect eating utensil to capture the sophistication of a can of Spam. So I found a picture of a spork online and printed it out to use as my pattern. I cut it out of gum paste and laid it on top of some wadded up foil to allow it to dry in the correct shape.

I then had another slight tragedy. Remember the flying wiener dog incident from my VW Bug cake? Well, it happened again. I set the cake on my kitchen table to take pictures. After a couple of pictures I decided I wanted to switch the lens on my camera. In the 10 seconds I was gone from the room to get the other lens, my naughty wiener dog, Peanut, jumped up on the table, via a chair, and took a bite out of the corner of the cake. I frantically did the best I could to fix up the corner before I had to deliver it. Thankfully it was for church friends. I figured they could practice their forgiveness skills on my dog. I never did get another chance to take any more pictures of the cake.

It ended up being a big hit among the members of the Bible study group and no one cared about the little bit of dog nibbling. In fact, the best part was that some people even asked where the cake was as they looked right at it. A couple people told me they thought it was just a large can of Spam from Costco laying on the counter. Those are the types of comments that make it all worth while, even the airbrush disaster and the naughty dog incident. One thing I love about cake decorating is that every cake has a story. Most have two stories; one story is the reason for the cake and the other story is about the making of the cake. For me, cake decorating is never about the end product, it is always about the journey in getting to that end product; the good, the bad and the ugly.

Until next time, God bless and Sweet Dreams.

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Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe EVER! Thank you Jacques Torres!

I have been meaning to share this recipe with you all since last fall but it got pushed to the back of my mind behind the thousands of other ideas that keep me awake at nights. When I read that May 15th is National Chocolate Chip Day I suddenly remembered that I never shared it and decided that National Chocolate Chip Day would be the perfect day to do so.

For a while, I have been searching for the “perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe”. I’d tried several different recipes but nothing ever really stood out as anything special to me. (You may recall my blog post on Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies.) Well, I was in Florida for a few weeks last fall and visited Disney World’s Epcot Center during their annual Food and Wine Festival. On the day I was there the famous chocolatier, Jacques Torres, was also there doing a chocolate cooking demonstration. While talking about all of his various accomplishments in chocolate he joked that despite all those achievements he would probably be best remembered for his chocolate chip cookie recipe. That immediately got my attention. As soon as I got home I googled “Jacques Torres chocolate chip cookies” and sure enough it was all over the internet and everyone was talking about how fantastic these cookies were. I had to try them!

I went shopping the next day and had a batched whipped up that night. The worse part about these cookies is that they have to set in the refrigerator for 24 hours before you bake them. I was so excited to try them that those 24 hours were pure torture. When it finally came time to bake them, all the waiting was definitely worth it. They were amazing! My husband and kids dove into them and said they were, by far, the best chocolate chip cookies they had ever eaten. I couldn’t believe that I had finally found my “perfect chocolate chip cookie” recipe.

I did make just a couple of small modifications to the original recipe to make it easier on myself. Jacques Torres suggests you use his Dark Chocolate Baking Discs in the cookies. I am sure they would taste even better with his prestigious chocolate but I didn’t want to have to place an online order every time I wanted to make a batch of cookies. Instead, I used the suggestion of another blogger (I can’t remember where I saw this) and used a combination of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Baking Chips and Ghirardelli Baking Bars, both easily found at my local grocery store. The other change I made was the original recipe tells you to refrigerate the dough, right after mixing it, then scoop out the balls of dough and add a salt garnish after the 24 hour rest period. When I tried to do this I found it was almost impossible to scoop out the dough because it was so hard from refrigeration. Also the salt wouldn’t stick to the cold dough. To solve that problem, I scooped the dough into balls while it was fresh from mixing, added the salt, and then refrigerated the dough balls for 24 hours.

How is this cookie different than other chocolate chip cookies, you ask? Well, the three things about it that I love the most are: 1. The cookies are huge. It is hard to accurately tell their size from the above picture but here is a picture of the original batch that I made while in Florida. You can tell by how big they are on my baking sheet.

I have tried making them smaller too but found that they really are better at the larger size because it allows them to accommodate the chocolate chunks and they seem to bake up nicer. 2. The chocolate chunks and chips are large and have intense chocolate flavor. 3. The addition of a sea salt garnish adds a mild saltiness that tastes great with the chocolate and sweetness of the cookie.

One warning, these cookies are definitely pricier to make than your average Nestlé Toll House batch of cookies. You use three chocolate baking bars along with a bag of baking chips, plus you use a combination of bread and cake flour instead of all-purpose flour. They aren’t a cookie I make every day but they are sure worth it when you want something special.

A final note, before I give you the recipe; I live in a high altitude area so I found that when I baked them at home they did bake up slightly different than they had in Florida. You can sort of see the difference between my Florida batch and the others. They were a little more airy and puffed up a bit more. They were still incredible and way better than any other chocolate chip cookie I have ever baked here though. I am perfectly happy with them as is but I think I may still try to make a few modifications to the recipe in the future and see if I can get them as perfect as they were at sea level.

OK, enough talk; let’s start baking!

Click here for a printable version of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe Ever

The ingredients you need for these cookies are:
• 2 cups minus to 2 tablespoons Cake flour
• 1 2/3 cup Bread flour
• 1 1/4 teaspoon Baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) Unsalted butter, softened
• 1 1/4 cups Light brown sugar
• 1 cups plus 2 tablespoons Granulated sugar
• 2 Large eggs, room temperature
• 2 teaspoon Vanilla extract
• 1 1/4 pounds Bittersweet chocolate at least 60 percent cacao content (I use 3 – 4oz Ghirardelli Semi Sweet Chocolate Baking Bars and 1 – 10oz bag Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips)
• Sea salt for garnish

One thing I don’t recommend is the salt that you see in the above picture. I used it because it was all that I had at the time but it was too coarse to go through my sifter. I now use a salt that is a little bit finer.

A very important factor when making any cookie is the temperature of your butter. You want your butter to be soft enough to leave an indention from your finger but not so soft that it is losing it’s shape or, worse yet, starting to melt. The temperature of your room will determine how long it needs to set out before use. I usually set mine out for 30-45 minutes and then start checking it at that point. Don’t try to heat it in the microwave because it will heat unevenly and start to melt in some places. Once it is melted it will no longer cream properly with the sugar. When it is ready it should look something like this after being pressed on with a finger:

Step 1: Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Step 2: If using baking bars, chop bars into large chunks and combine with baking chips. Set aside.

Look at all that chocolatey goodness!

Step 3: Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds.

Step 5: Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them.

Step 6: Scoop 3 ½ -ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Make sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Be careful not to over do it on the salt, you want them to have just a hint of saltiness.

I found that a 2 1/2 inch scoop made the perfect sized mounds.

I also placed them all close together so that I could get them on one sheet for refrigeration. When it is time to bake them the next day, you will only want to place 6 cookies on a sheet at a time because they are so large and will spread even more while baking.

Step 7: Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate dough for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.



Step 8:
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Place 6 cookies, evenly spaced, on the baking sheet and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough balls.

And here, once again, is the final cookie. Look at those beautiful chunks of chocolate and the light garnish of salt on top.

The only thing better than a beautiful chocolate chip cookie is a beautiful chocolate chip cookie with a big bite in it!

Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.

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Quick Tip for Juicing Key Limes

I’ve been busy making macarons the last couple of days and will have a post up on those soon but I wanted to share a quick tip with you.

One of the macaron flavors I am making is Key Lime Pie. I don’t know about you but I love just about anything key lime flavored! Key limes shouldn’t be confused with normal limes; they are much smaller, often purchased in bags instead of individually, and they have a more tart flavor.

As much as I love to use them, I used to dread having to juice them because they are so tiny. I had tried putting them in my electric juicer, pressing them in a lemon press and even just squeezing them with my hands. They were too small for the juicer or lemon press and squeezing them by hand sort of worked but I could never get all the juice out. To top it off it takes a lot of them to get a decent amount of juice, because of their small size, so it would take forever.

One day I saw a tip, somewhere online, about pressing them through a garlic press. It changed everything! I can now juice an entire bag of key limes in just a few minutes! Here is what I do:

Cut the key limes in half and place one half into the garlic press, cut side down. See how nicely it fits in the press?

Then press

See how easy that was? I like to finish off by pouring the juice through a fine sieve to remove any pulp or seeds.

Just look at that beautiful juice! Now it’s read for a pie, cookies, or macaron filling like I am making.

I hope this tip was as helpful for you as it was for me. Well, back to the macarons I go.

Until next time, God Bless and Sweet Dreams.

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Sweet Dreams Cake App Now Available on Android

After a much-too-long process, the Sweet Dreams Cake App is now available on Android devices! Thank you for your patience, you can see the app page on Google Play by clicking the image below:

 

 

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