Thursday, March 28, 2013

Blueberry Tangerine Tea

 Blueberry Tangerine Tea
My globetrotting and fellow tea-loving friend just returned from Germany, but before that, she had gone to Australia and brought me some fabulous new tea to try. I mixed up a batch of the Koala brand blueberry tea and added the juice of a tangerine. The recipe is very simple, but it is a refreshing beverage and will be especially nice for the warmer days that are ahead now that it is Spring!
Koala Tea Tag
Koala Tea
The recipe is quick and easy:
Brew 4 blueberry tea bags (any blueberry flavored tea will work) in 2 cups of hot water.
Add the juice of 1 tangerine.
Sweeten to taste.
Pour over ice and enjoy!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Trio of cakes and baking secrets discovered

Blue Cake Trio

I have been doing a lot of baking and cake testing over the last couple of months. Let's just say my waist is not getting any smaller. Thank goodness for neighbors and coworkers who love baked goods! Over the course of these practice sessions, I've learned a few things, although, I still have so much to learn! Luckily, there is a wealth of information out there to help novice bakers like myself, so I thought I would share a few source links for the things that I have discovered.

In the past, I've always had problems with uneven layer cakes. The sides of the layers would not match up when stacked or there would be an uneven dome on the top of each layer, so the whole thing would look off-kilter when frosted. I would try and compensate by sawing off the dome on top and losing a lot of precious cake just trying to level it off. In some cases, it looked worse than if I'd just left things alone!

I recently discovered these Bake Even strips that helped a ton. You can find them here. You basically soak the fabric strips in water to moisten them and then velcro them around your cake pan. They help the cakes bake evenly. I've also heard that lowering the heat in the oven helps. Putting the cake pans in a water bath while baking (as you would do for a cheesecake) also yields similar results.

In my quest for a perfectly smooth cake, I searched online to see if I could find some frosting tutorials out there. I stumbled upon this one from Cup a Dee Cakes that was a huge help to me. I was mesmerized by her tutorial and how easy she made it look. She starts with a large batch of buttercream frosting and adds thin coats, chilling in between each coat of frosting. She uses a bench scraper to help get smooth edges. I put her method to the test and it worked great for me. Head on over to her blog for more great tips.

If you're looking for a fun cake with a more rustic/organic feel, head over to Sweetapolita blog for her "Swirl" method. I used the technique on this cake and I love how it turned out:
 Blue Swirls Cake

Sweetapolita's cakes are always unique and beautiful. You're sure to be inspired by her blog if you love baking as much as I do.

Happy baking!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Feeling Crafty

I had a full weekend of crafting, so it's been a fun weekend. It started yesterday with a card-making class hosted by my friend Lindy and her Mom. We enjoyed a delicious brunch of yogurt parfaits and two yummy breakfast casseroles. Lindy and her Mom are great hostesses!

The class was taught by the awesome and amazing Karah. She had put together materials to make six cute spring-themed cards from the Close to my Heart line of paper crafting products. Here are a couple of my favorites from the class:

A cute one from the "Buzz and Bumble" paper packet:

 Love the sentiment inside:

I love these classes because the cards come together quickly. Karah does the hard part of cutting out all of the items and putting together some of the more complicated pieces. I can't imagine how long it takes her to prepare everything, because I know it takes me a while to make just one card on my own. I keep all of my craft items hidden away in a closet in the spare bedroom, so by the time I dig everything out, any crafting inspiration I may have had has left my brain! Here's a photo my hubby snapped of me at my solo crafting endeavor this afternoon. Just keeping it real, folks!

I walked away from the party yesterday with six beautiful cards and a prize! I had won the raffle for the Chantilly Birthday card kit, which I knew I would have to put to use for any future birthday cakes I make. I have seen the festive cake flag buntings and banners all over Pinterest and this kit would be great for those.

Feeling inspired, I set to work making a cake. These days, it doesn't take much of an excuse to bake a cake. What good is a cake bunting without a cake to put it on? I baked the cake and opted to keep the frosting simple - plain white cream cheese frosting and a few little stars piped on top.

After the cake was done, I headed to the craft cabinet to dig out some goodies for the banners and card I would make. I cut out some of the paper from the Close to my Heart "Chantilly" and "Dotty for You" paper kits. Instead of a bunting strung across the cake, I decided to make some little flags using bamboo skewers. Here's the finished product, along with the card I made to match.


It's someone's birthday somewhere, so can't wait to celebrate with some cake. The best part of this craft project is yet to come!