Cake seems to be ever-present in my house sometimes.  Between all of the birthdays and holidays in-between, there’s often some kind of cake or cupcake around.

Usually they’re homemade, but lately my grandmother’s been fond of popular bakery about an hour’s drive away.  They make pretty good cakes.  But after some thinking (and a small suggestion on my part) she decided the time and money to get them wasn’t worth it for Mother’s Day this year.

I really like making cakes, so I was happy to be given the weighty job of making the desserts.  It came with specific instructions: a chocolate cake with plain buttercream frosting for my mom, and a (biggish) yellow cake with lemon filling and raspberry buttercream for my grandmother.  The decorating was up to me.

I’d like to say cakes themselves were totally homemade, but…who has the time?  Instead I used Betty Crocker mixes and a Devil’s Food one from Duncan Hines.  They’re light and moist, and super easy to make.

Before this I’d never made flavored buttercream or any kind of filling.  Embracing the challenge, I flew to the internet in search of good recipes.  Wilton, the brand for baking supplies, has a great raspberry frosting recipe.  Everyone in my family who tried it liked it—even if they’re not big raspberry fans.  Wilton also has my go-to buttercream frosting.  It’s delicious every time.

nanas-mothers-day-cake-1

The lemon filling was a little trickier.  A lot of recipes required eggs, and I’ve seen too many crème Anglaise gone wrong on Food Network to not be nervous.  Essentially, the eggs can go from ideally delicate and warmed to chunky and scrambled fast.

So I chose a recipe from Betty Crocker that was egg-less.  It tasted good, but I don’t think I cooked it enough.  Despite hours in the fridge, it never set up.  Instead of a creamy filling it became more of a liquid glaze.  My solution was to brush it onto both layers, and then use the frosting as a filler.

moms-mothers-day-cake

For decorations, I tried ‘drawing’ on a cake for the first time.  It was a little, purple owl for my mom’s cake.  She had insisted on not stressing about doing any kind of design, but she deserved some kind of personalized cake.  Green was a nice compliment to both the subject and purple color, so I made a little support for the owl and brought it down into a bottom border.

I wanted to do something more formal for my grandmother.  When I googled ‘raspberry cake’, almost all of the images depicted a fairly simple cake topped with fresh raspberries.  Strangely, they reminded me of a cake in a Mario Party 8 mini-game.  The end result was a combination of abstract flowers and the raspberries.  I added a small amount of red food coloring to the raspberry frosting to make the darker pink color.

nanas-mothers-day-cake-2

It was a success!  While both cakes were not as refined as I imagined them, everyone enjoyed them.  My mom was happily surprised at the owl and my grandmother commented on how good the flavors were.  My grandfather said, “I don’t like cake, but this was a good cake.”

So if you’re ever looking to try out new baking recipes, I recommend perusing through Wilton and Betty Crocker’s online selections.  This certainly isn’t sponsored, by the way, but Wilton’s frostings are always popular when I’ve made them, and this Betty Crocker lemon filling was delicious (even though I didn’t cook it enough to be a thick filling).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Ghosty Meringues at Last

You know the feeling: you’re waiting in a checkout line, glazing your eyes over the tabloids and cooking magazines placed around the candies and register.  Nothing particular interesting, and all you can do is shake your head at the front pages of celebrity alien babies and other oh-so-realistic scandals.

When I was about nine years old, though, I loved the holiday cooking collections.  Little books of themed recipes, dotted amongst the gossip, their covers always had some cute or intricate design.  I distinctly remember one booklet that featured a haunted chocolate cake and creamy looking ghosts.

After much insisting (and let’s be honest, some begging), it was purchased for me.  The recipes included non-alcoholic cocktails, cupcakes, snacks, and yes, those adorable cookie ghosts.  Although I kept wanting too, my family and I never quite made the time or had the motivation to cook them.  Until now.

Finally, I made the meringue with help from my mom, a good cook and baker.  It was a fairly simple process: make the meringue (perhaps not so simple itself), pipe it into ghost shapes on a floured baking pan, place little chocolate chips for the eyes, and bake.

Only a few of my ghosts looked like those on the cover.  Initially it was a little frustrating, as the meringue didn’t stick to the pan enough to shape; instead it was dragged around with the tip instead of staying in place.

Ghost Meringues Uncooked

It was for the better, though.  Because they all looked different, they developed their own personalities as individuals.   That may sound strange, but it was fun to try and pipe one thing, and see them end up in unique ways.

Uncooked Ghost Close-up 1

Uncooked Ghost Meringue Close-up 2

Uncooked Ghost Meringue Close-up 3

Besides the ghosts, I also attempted to do more traditional meringue shapes.  My mom called them “little poos”, and I’ll happily admit many of them have a certain, unintentional resemblance to the poo emoji.

Inspired by some mega meringues I saw while in Assisi, Italy, I tried to make some large ones.  Mine were really sad in comparison, so I gave them their own faces with the chocolate chips.  They evolved to a more ‘melted snowman’ look.

Uncooked Big Meringues

Somewhat surprisingly, they actually came out really well.  Well, the ghosts and little poos *ahem* meringues did.  The large ones, which were experiments anyway, were a little chewy in the middle, but were still enjoyable.

Some of my favorite ghosts were:

Star Wars Dianoga Cooked Meringue

The top left one vaguely reminded me of a dianoga, a.k.a. the Star Wars trash compactor monster.

Ghost Dementor Meringue Baked

We agreed this ghost in the middle had a resemblance to a Dementor.

Baked Ghost Meringue Trio

Here are three that I feel most match the original ghost design.

Again, this was a fairly straightforward project.  It would be neat to make the full project like the cover, placing the ghosts near, or maybe even floating around, a haunted house.  I could see doing this other Halloweens, or maybe dying the meringue pink and making hearts on Valentine’s Day.

 

Have you ever made meringues?  How did it go? Let me know below!