‘Tis the Season for Cake Orders

It’s been a busy month with lots of cake orders and I thought you might like to see what I’ve been working on. Here are some photos of my recent cake orders as well as a couple from last summer.

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This is what the kids are calling a “naked cake.” This type of cake where there is little or no frosting is becoming more and more popular at weddings. This is a lemon cake with strawberry filling and a whipped cream cheese frosting with white chocolate shavings. Decorated with fresh flowers

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These cupcakes were so much fun to make; a vanilla cupcake tinted blue with blue and white vanilla butercream topped with a white chocolate snowflake. And yes, you guessed it, they were for a Frozen-themed birthday party!

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A lemon cake for 2! This 6 inch cake is filled with a homemade lemon-strawberry curd, frosted with a vanilla buttercream and topped with fresh flowers.

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Another delicious lemon cake filled with strawberry filling and frosted with vanilla buttercream, a very popular flavor this year! Decorated with fresh flowers

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This is my favorite way to decorate cupcakes!

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This 14 inch cake was fun to decorate, I love scroll work.

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For more photos follow Clara’s Cake Shop on Facebook.

If you are local to the Kitsap area and are interested in placing an order you may contact me at: ClarasCakeShop@gmail.com.

A Lot Can Happen in Two Years

Two years may seem like a long amount of time but, I personally feel that the last two years of my life have been moving at warp speed. I don’t often talk about my personal life on this blog mainly because, well I don’t know that it’s terribly relevant. I’m always so excited to share different recipes I’ve been making or my photos that I sometimes for get to add me into the equation So, for today’s post I am going to share with you the big changes that have occurred in my life over the past two years.

This time two years ago I was living in Boston, with 3 awesome roommates working at a publishing company as an assistant. In addition to my job I was trying to start my own cake business and writing a monthly column for the Somerville Patch. I was a busy lady!

My roommates and I (and our cats)

My roommates and I (and our cats)

Then, I made a big, life-changing decision. I decided to quit my job and move from Boston down to Charleston, South Carolina with my hunky, sailor boyfriend. My sailor was just starting out on his career in the Navy and needed to move down to SC to get some training for his future job. This was a tough choice to move away from my friends and from a city that felt like home to me, but I knew I was making the right choice.

So there we were, living in South Carolina enjoying the marvelous low-country cuisine and sunshine. I decided that this was as good a time as any to make some major shifts in the direction my career had been going. Hoping to build on the experience I got from working at Wegmans in high school and some additional skills I had picked up along the way, I  started looking for jobs at restaurants and bakeries.

Shockingly, not many people wanted to hire someone who had very little professional kitchen experience, and didn’t have some fancy shmancy degree from a cooking school. It was frustrating and I almost gave up so many times. Then, as luck would have it (after months of searching and failed interviews)  I met someone who decided to take a chance on me, and so I got a job as the pastry chef at Dixie Supply Bakery and Cafe. I loved this job and I learned so much. I knew right away that I had taken a huge step in the right direction. I’ll be forever grateful to the owners, who taught me so much, were very patient when I messed up, and most of all gave me a chance.

This is me on my first day at Dixie presenting my very first batch of their signature blueberry muffins
This is me on my first day at Dixie presenting my very first batch of their signature blueberry muffins

This is me on my first day at Dixie presenting my very first batch of their signature blueberry muffins

After 9 months of living in sunny South Carolina, the Navy had us move to upstate New York so my sailor could finish his training. After tying the knot on a cold and snowy day in February, it was time to look for another job.

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This time a whole new experience awaited me; I was hired as a decorator at Bettie’s Cakes, a cupcake bakery with a retro flare. After working there for only a few months I was promoted to bakery manager and my life became a whirl-wind of working at a bakery during the summer in a tourist town. I worked a lot and in return received an invaluable work experience. When the time came for us to move yet again, it was hard to say goodbye.

This is me in the kitchen at Bettie’s decorating some cookie monster cupcakes
This is me in the kitchen at Bettie's decorating some cookie monster cupcakes

This is me in the kitchen at Bettie’s decorating some cookie monster cupcakes

And now here we are two years later with two vastly different restaurant experiences under my belt, on the opposite side of the country. My handsome sailor got stationed in Bangor, Washington and we’re here to stay (for a few years anyway). I am looking to focus my energy on building my business, Clara’s Cake Shop and my blog. I can’t even wait for the new challenges that lay ahead.

DIY Christmas Gifts Ideas: Part II

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Welcome to Part II of my DIY Christmas gift series. This is where I test out DIY Christmas gift ideas I would like to give this year and decide if the results are worthy of becoming Christmas presents.

In part I of this series I wrote about these simple and delicious cheddar cheese crackers. Check out the recipe here.

This week I’m going to test out a recipe I saw in the December issue of Cooking Light. I’m usually a big fan of this cooking magazine and I have to say this month’s issue is full of really great recipes. The recipe I’m going to show you is Intense Fruit Gelees (pronounced jellies). They are easy, delicious, and so very pretty!

Before I jump into this, a huge thanks to my mom and my sister, who not only helped me with making the gelees, but also agreed to be hand models for the post. Who knew, it was easier to take action shots when the one taking the pictures isn’t doing the action?

Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine (click here to view the original recipe)

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Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

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*A note on the fruit concentrate; Cooking Light suggested flavors such as tangerine, lemon, and pomegranate. They also recommended ordering some the puree or concentrate from www.perfectpuree.com. I used  grape juice concentrate and I think they turned out fabulous, and very rich in flavor. I am looking forward to experimenting with more flavors.

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After the ingredients have been gathered and the flavor of the gelee has been selected it’s time to prep the pan. Grab a loaf pan and line it with plastic wrap. Spray the plastic wrap with cooking spray.

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Next combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, applesauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

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Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

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After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often.

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Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice.

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Give it a stir.

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Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

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Tertius wants to know what’s going on up there and if he can have some.

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Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight in room temperature. In the morning you have a delicious, gelatinous, fruity treat. Does that sound unappetizing? I promise these taste amazing, or as my sister put it; “It’s like a mini grape pie in my mouth.”

Now that the mixture is solidified, let’s cut them up!

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First, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee.

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Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee. My sister recommends starting in the middle, then cutting in the middle of that half, followed by cutting down the middle of the two sections and so forth. Can ya’ dig it?

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They look pretty already!

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Next put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and slice the columns of gelees into cubes and toss into the sugar to evenly coat them. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

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The verdict: these rock! They are absolutely scrumptious and I will definitely be giving out little boxes of these as gifts this year.

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If you enjoyed reading this post be sure to subscribe to Reckless in the Kitchen and never miss a delicious post!

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Intense Fruit Gelees

Recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients:

  • cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 3/4 cup fruit concentrate*
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup light-colored corn syrup
  • 1 (3-ounce) package liquid fruit pectin (such as Certo)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Directions:

Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap and spray with cooking spray. Next, combine 1 1/4 cup sugar with the fruit concentrate, apple sauce, and corn syrup in a large saucepan.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then cook for 10 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer the temperature you’re looking for is 224 degrees F).

After cooking the mixture for 10 minutes add the liquid pectin, bring to a boil, and cook for 1 minute stirring often. Remove the pot from the heat and pour in the lemon juice. Give it a stir. Then pour it into the prepared loaf pan.

Let the mixture cool and then cover and let it sit overnight at room temperature.

To de-mold and cut up; first, sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on the top of the gelee. Put the remaining sugar in a small bowl and set aside.

Next, tip your loaf pan upside down, the gelee will flop right out. Get rid of the plastic wrap. Then start slicing up the gelee into cubes. I suggest keeping the cubes on the small side, these are sweet, rich candies.

Toss the gelee cubes into the sugar to evenly coat them.

 

DIY Christmas Gift Ideas: Part I

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I know this is crazy seeing as it’s not even the end of November, but I’m already thinking about Christmas gifts. I am a last-minute person and I always have been. This applies to all areas of my life including studying for exams, writing articles, planning Halloween costumes, and most certainly extends to shopping for Christmas gifts. So let’s just say that this year, I’m trying to do things differently.

This year I want to try to make as many as my gifts as I can. (Spoiler alert to those of you on my Christmas list!) However, some of the ideas I have, I’ve never made before and therefore the recipes must be tested, so why not write about their success (or failure) and share the recipes with you!

Here is Part I of my series on DIY Christmas gifts.

Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

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Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese*
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour**
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

*Note: what really makes these crackers is the cheese (duh!), so choose your cheddar carefully. I’m a Cabbot girl myself, so I went with Cabbot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar and grated it myself before starting the dough. Personally, I think it’s worth the extra effort to grate the cheese yourself than to buy a pre-grated package.

**Note: some easy flour substitutions can be made; using whole wheat flour, or a combination of whole wheat and AP flour. Almond flour could also be used for a gluten-free version.

To get started beat the butter, grated cheese, and spices using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Now for the easy part! Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm. (Quick Tip: don’t have the time? Chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead.)

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Warning: This recipe makes a lotta crackers. My test groups yielded about: 50 per a batch (although this will vary depending on the size of the log).

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The Verdict: Yum. Yum. Yum! Just call me Clara Ciminelli: the killer of diets. These were awesome. Make ’em, share ’em, love ’em!

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Cheddar crackers

Recipe adapted from Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 c grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 c Rice Krispie cereal
  • 1/4 c chopped bacon, optional
  • 1/4 c chopped jalapeno, optional

Directions:

Start by beating the butter, grated cheese, and spices together using a hand or stand mixer. Once combined add the flour and cereal. If opting to add bacon and/or jalapeno to the crackers toss them in too. Mix for 1-2 minutes on a medium-low speed until the dough starts to come together.

Dump the dough out onto a large sheet of wax paper. Form the dough into a log and roll up in the wax paper. (Square or round? Whatever floats your boat!). Next, put the log of dough into the fridge to chill for 1-2 hours or until firm (or chill the dough in the freezer for 30-40 minutes instead).

After the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the dough from the wax paper and cut into slices that are at least 1/4 inch thick. Place the slices on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. The crackers should be a light golden brown color.

Store at room temperature in a sealed container for up to 1 week.

Happy Halloween!

Hey y’all, seeing as today is Halloween, I thought I would share some lovely Halloween cookies I made recently for a customer. He ordered 3 dozen square cookies so here is a sample of some of the designs.

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I hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!

Eat Dessert First

Sugar cookies.

Homemade, thick sugar cookies with yummy frosting on top.

Who’s got the time to make them, though? Well, it just so happens, I do. So here’s the deal; if you want ’em, I’ll make ’em fresh, package them up, and ship them to you!

Need holiday cookies?

Or cookies with personalized messages?

Colors, decorations, and messages are all customizable.

For anyone who would like to order sugar cookies you can email me (ClarasCakeShop@gmail.com) or post on my Facebook page (Clara’s Cake Shop or Cakes by Clara) and I will make them fresh and send them your way.

The details;

Shapes: circles or squares (2.5 in)

Flavors: vanilla or almond

Minimum order of 2 dozen cookies

Prices will vary based on the amount of detailed required for the cookie.

All payments to be made through PayPal

Leave a comment or email me if you have any questions or if you are interested in ordering some cookies.

A Somerville resident’s pie baking adventure

*This article originally posted on Boston.com*

A Somerville resident recounts her experience entering a baking competition, where she made 10 pies to feed 300 people.

I blame Facebook. Less than two weeks ago a friend posted a link on my wall and commented “this sounds right up your alley.” She was referring to a posting she saw about two foodies from Brooklyn who are hosting a tour of cooking competitions this summer called the Food Experiment, and their next stop was Boston. The theme of Boston’s Food Experiment: pie. My friend knows me well.

At first I knew that I must attend such a glorious event. For a small price I could eat pie and drink beer until my belly was full. Then I got an even better idea. I thought to myself, “Why not compete?” A few clicks and one confirmation email later, it was official. I had just signed myself up for my very first baking competition. I needed to bake not only my best pie, but enough of it to feed 300 people.

Considering how many pies I would have to make (I had decided on 10 pies, estimating each pie would yield 30 bite-sized samples), I immediately decided against any pie that required refrigeration and since I lacked experience with savory pies, I ruled them out as well. I decided to stick with the familiar: fruit pies.

After careful consideration I decided to make blueberry pies. Each sample would be topped with a dot of lemon curd and whipped cream. It sounded like a winner to me! I had not made blueberry pie before, nor had I ever had to make food in such large quantities, but I had been bit by the competitive bug and I felt confident that my baking skills would produce a winner.

The day before the bake-off I assembled a small team of helpers and we began tackling the seemingly crazy challenge. We began by loading the refrigerator with mounds of pie crust. The labor was then divided up and while I rolled out pie crusts and cooked the blueberries, my friends prepared the rest of the filling. When one batch of pies was in the oven the process was repeated. The phrase “I’m never doing this again!” was said continuously repeated amidst blueberry stains and flying flour.

After hours of sweating in my tiny kitchen, the last batch of pies was finally in the oven. It was dark out and the kitchen was an absolute disaster but we were surrounded by what I hoped would be award-winning pies sitting on the kitchen table.

The next morning my stomach was full of butterflies as final supplies were gathered. I was grateful for my friend’s suggestion to buy pastry boxes from a local bakery so that I could safely transport my pies in sturdy boxes.

Upon arrival I tried to appear as confident as possible as we carried in my pies and began slicing up the bite size samples. Right away I noticed I had seriously under-estimated how many “bites” I would get from one pie. As I eyed the surrounding competition I felt a flutter of anxiety as I learned there were not one but TWO other blueberry pies at the event. I hoped that topping my samples with lemon curd and whipped cream would help us stand out.

As the doors opened and people began to arrive, I finally felt excited. My friends and I had worked hard to make a dessert we were truly proud of, and now we had the opportunity to share it with everyone else.

Time flew by as we spoke to people at our table and restocked our supply of pie samples. Before we knew it the time had come for the winner to be announced. The bakers were called up to the main stage and I quickly tried to get the bits of pie out of my hair. Knowing that the event was coming to an end shortly I started to realize how tired I was and how sore my feet were going to be.

In the end, I did not win any prizes for what I still believe to be amazing blueberry pies. It would be dishonest to say I didn’t feel any disappointment, but I was glad I had competed. Despite the stress of preparing for such an event I had fun participating. If you were to ask me today if I would sign up for another baking competition, I would say, “No.” But if you were to ask me in a week when I’ve caught up on sleep and I can stand to look at blueberries again, undoubtedly my answer would be, “Yes,” without the slightest hesitation.