Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gluten Free Goodies...And A Little Monster

I repeatedly see recipes for "slutty" brownies, every single time I use Pinterest (which is highly addictive, I might add. If you aren't on it, I wouldn't recommend it, hahaha, jk ;) The sheer volume of "pins" for this one item piqued my interest. What is a "slutty" brownie, you ask? Well, it's a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough, and a layer of Oreo cookies, all topped with brownie batter and baked to perfection. They are crispy, gooey, sweet, delicious! I just had to make some. The thing is, some of us living in my home are gluten free. This makes the whole seemingly simple task of baking anything a little more complicated. The good news is, I just happened to have a fantastic recipe for g-free chocolate chip cookies, and gluten free Oreo-like cookies are readily available in most supermarkets these days! The only challenge might be finding a good brownie recipe, but having had some amazing flourless chocolate cakes, I figured brownies would lend themselves to the task quite readily. A quick search on my go-to recipe site yielded success on the first try. A quick trip to the grocery store for supplies, and we were off!

layering on the Glutino brand "Oreos"

The first task was making my chocolate chip cookie dough. The recipe is adapted from the winning cookie recipe on Food Network Canada's Recipe To Riches.  I have made a few changes to the recipe to suit my own tastes, but the original is pretty awesome. I doubled the recipe and had enough to make the bottom layer of a 9x13" pan, and also about 3 dozen cookies (2 tbsp. dough balls, bake for 12 minutes @ 350 F from chilled). I then layered on a package of Glutino Dream cookies, which taste nearly identical to Oreos. Next came the brownie batter, from a Canadian Living recipe, that I doubled as well, but used the full amount in one pan. Into the oven they went, to bake @ 350 F for 50-60 minutes. I tested with a bamboo skewer, and when it came out just slightly gooey, I pulled them out to cool. 

Into the oven they go

This recipe match-up yielded thick, fudgy, decadent brownies that I honestly could have cut much smaller, but why not live a little?  I think the beauty of this recipe, as a whole, is that you can use your favourite chocolate chip cookie and brownie recipes, whatever version of Oreo your prefer (regular, double stuffed, gluten free...), and they will turn out slightly different, but delicious all the same. If you can bake, then this WILL turn out. If you can't bake, you can use any number of available cookie and brownie mixes, or order them from Sugar Sweet Cake Company ;) We don't just bake cakes you know!

Gluten free "slutty" brownies

* these brownies got rave reviews from my non-celiac friends and family, who had no idea what they were eating, until I told them afterwards. This is how I like to test my g-free recipes, because if they don't taste a difference, then neither will the tasty treat deprived celiacs of the world ;)

Amazing chocolate chip cookies

** the chocolate chip cookies were awesome as well. In fact, I think they were better than the brownies, and maybe the best cookies I have ever eaten, regardless of gluten content!!! They are also available from Sugar Sweet Cake Company.

Domo Kun cupcakes

As for our little monster friend, this is Domo Kun. He is a little Japanese stop-motion character, and beloved by many, including my brother. These were his birthday cupcakes.

Happy Birthday Greg!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What REALLY Goes Into Your Birthday Cake...

I read A LOT. In my spare time, especially lately, I am often reading blogs, and articles and websites about cakes and cake business'. A recurring theme seems to be people wondering why a custom cake costs what it does and cake designers wondering if people will pay what a designer/baker needs to charge in order to see ANY profit. Anyone can walk into (insert big box supermarket name of choice here) and buy a sheet cake, colorfully decorated, and large enough to feed a football team for less than $30. But what are you really getting for that price? A cake made from a mix, with filling made from a mix and icing made from a mix, decorated generically at best. And there are times when maybe that is the type of cake that is most appropriate, but certainly it is not fitting for all events...and that is where cake designers/bakers come in. Yes, my cakes are more expensive than the big box store, but there's a reason for that...

finished bottom tier iced in buttercream

To really produce amazing custom cakes, it takes a few things: talent, creativity, ingredients, time and equipment.
You need a good mixer, bowls, and assorted pans in so many shapes and sizes it would make your brain hurt to think about it, most of them x2 for the layers involved. If a cake involves fondant/gum paste, there is the cost of the product itself, then the cost of the multitude of cutters, and tools, and drying racks/cups. If the cake has multiple tiers, the cake has to have a structure built into it, in the form of dowels, to support the next tier and prevent collapse. Frosting the cake smooth alone takes a good turntable, and a truly good lasting one is not cheap. And then there are the gel colours for tinting the frosting, fondant, etc. And the non-pareil. And the boxes for transporting. And these are just the basics. Granted, once these things are bought, that's pretty much it. Most of these things will last many years if bought in good quality. But there's always a new flower cutter to purchase, or a new colour to mix, and a bigger pan to buy. There will always be ongoing costs, and supplies to purchase specifically for that cake.

stacked and ready for finishing details

These are also not cakes that can be cranked out en masse. The big box store bakes a whole bunch at the same time and takes less than 20 minutes per cake to decorate. The cake in my pictures took 8 hours total to complete, but over the course of 3 days. One day to bake and completely cool, one day to cover in buttercream and stack, then chill until everything set, while making the decorations and allowing them to dry at least 24 hours, then final assembly the day of...and that doesn't include delivery and setup on site.

gum paste/fondant details going onto the cake

I also only use REAL ingredients. I bet you can pronounce every single ingredient that goes into one of my cakes. Butter, good quality eggs, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, fresh berries, rich cocoa. These ingredients just cost more than a mix. They also make a 100% better product. They make cakes that taste like your grandma used to make, and didn't her cakes always taste the best?

little sugar monkeys sitting to dry for 24 hours

Last, but certainly not least, is talent and creativity. I will lump them together, because to me they go hand in hand. These are things that just can't be taught. You are either a creative person, or your not. You either have a talented hand at cakes, or you don't. Sure there are varying degrees of talent and creativity. I'm no Colette Peters or Ron Ben-Israel. But I'm me, and I know I can do something not everyone does.

the finished product, ready for delivery

Oh, and one last thing, passion. Without a true passion for what I am doing, those 8 hours spent molding tiny sugar figurines and flowers would last forever. Instead, I forget to eat, and hour takes 5 minutes, and before I know it 8 hours (or more) has passed. Love what you do, do what you love and the rest will follow.

a sugar-free (!!!) creation also ready for delivery

Thanks to Melissa and Sarah-Jane for this weeks orders :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gluten Free Cupcakes & Cakes!!!

A typical weekend for me means cleaning, cooking, baking, playing and probably some more baking! This weekend was no different. I had an opportunity to photograph a few more gourmet cupcake flavours, thanks to an order for minis. I also played around with some gluten-free deliciousness for our G-free fans! Shouldn't everyone be able to enjoy a cupcake?!?

S'more Please! and Pralines & Cream minis
First up, cupcake minis. This weekend brought S'more Please! (dark chocolate w/ marshmallow filling, milk chocolate frosting, graham cracker sprinkle & toasted mini marshmallow) and Pralines & Cream (vanilla bean w/ dulce de leche filling, cream cheese frosting & praline pecan). Mini's are so cute and just the perfect bite of cake, filling and frosting!

S'more Please!
Pralines & Cream

On Saturday, I was prepared to go on a hunt for ingredients for my gluten-free experimenting. The hunt was much faster than I expected. All ingredients were readily available at my local grocery store! Gluten-free rice flour and tapioca starch were quickly found, as well as other more typical cake ingredients, like buttermilk and eggs. A quick trip to my local Choices Market located the one elusive ingredient, Xanthan Gum, a thickening agent derived from cornstarch.
A common problem with gluten-free products is they are often crumbly, dense and nearly buscuit like, or chewy and dry like a sponge. Gluten, the protein in wheat (undigestable for Celaics and the gluten intolerant), gives structure to baked goods, and most recipes are created with this in mind. Gluten free baking takes you back to the drawing board. Finding the right balance of ingredients is key, to flavour, and most inportantly in gluten-free baking, to texture.
I wanted a recipe that held true to my beliefs in food: no preservatives, no unpronouncable ingredients...just eggs, sugar, milk, flour (in this case rice instead of wheat), and yeah okay, Xanthan Gum, which is a near necessity in G-free baking.
I am proud to say, we achieved all that I wanted and more...

gluten-free!!! Triple chocolate :)

Behold, the triple chocolate wonder of my gluten-free experiments! It was light, airy, moist, delicate, chocolatey...delicious. I tested them on my two boys and my husband, without telling them anything was different about these cakes. I got the seal of approval on this one! Theirs, and mine!

Gluten-free cakes and cupcakes are now available to order in vanilla and chocolate (and nearly any flavour of buttercream imaginable), with more flavours to come :)

And thanks to Heather for your order this weekend! Hope you enjoyed your minis :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Busy Opening Weekend...

This weekend marked the official opening of Sugar Sweet Cake Company. While we do not have a retail storefront, I do have a commercial kitchen to work from, and it officially passed inspection this past week! Good thing too, because we had four orders to fulfill for the weekend, and a birthday cupcake for a very special mom :)

Vanilla bean mini cupcakes w/ vanilla buttercream & sugar decoration

First up was an order for baking: dozens of muffins, a few loaves, and these cute mini cupcakes w/ sugar soccer balls, footballs, baseballs and basketballs (100% edible).

Dark double chocolate cake w/ whipped ganache filling, milk chocolate buttercream & fondant

My next order was a 30th birthday cake comissioned by the birthday girls sister. She wanted it to be whimsical, fun and, most importantly, CHOCOLATE!!! I think we achieved all of that :) I just hope it survived the flight, as she was taking it aboard a plane to Vancouver!

Dark chocolate cupcake w/ whipped ganache frosting & sugar decorations

I mentioned in my last post that I also run a daycare. This was a decadent double dose of chocolate for one of my daycare mommies :) Yum!!!

Lemon Drop & Red Velvet mini cupcakes

Last, but not least, was 2 dozen mini cupcakes ordered by one of the most fabulous photographers in Kelowna (www.foreverinamoment.ca, seriously, she is very good, so check out her site!!!) Mini cupcakes are cute, sweet, and just the right bite of cake, filling and frosting.

Thanks to Patti Dorin, Rachel Wyatt, Alex Himer & April Martin for your orders :) It was an exciting weekend...and Happy Birthday Kendra!!!