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Dessert Shows on TV

Monday, October 4th, 2010

I am a regular tv viewer, just like you. Since I am not a Neilsen ratings household, no one really cares about my opinion of tv shows. Since I am now a blogger, I get to give my opinion anyway. Now that I am no longer a tv producer, there is no longer the slightest glimmer of hope that anyone cares about my opinion of tv shows. Frankly, when I worked in tv I think people really really didn’t care what I thought about tv, but at least I was getting paid for it. Oh well.

As you might guess, I LOVE watching the dessert cooking shows. And since I dabble in the world of cake art, I have strong opinions about some of these shows. Cupcake Wars, Top Chef: Just Desserts, DC Cupcakes, Ace of Cakes, Cake Boss, Fabulous Cakes, Food Network Challenge, and anything else that involves cake and frosting.

Top Chef : Just Desserts is my favorite. Maybe because it is new, maybe because I love Top Chef and Top Chef : Masters, or maybe because Gail Simmons is one hot Jew. These contestants are real pastry chefs, like studied, paid, professional pastry chefs who would probably look at my cake photos and laugh their asses off. They whip up some of the most gorgeous desserts using tricks and ingredients only pros would. It is intimidating to watch. There’s no way I could even dream of making half the stuff they make, but man, it sure is fun to see what they pull off! It is so silly how the judges pick apart these desserts in such detail, but of course, that is the point of the whole show! And these chefs are vicious. They are crazy competitive, super talented, and out for blood. That’s the fun for me, watching these chefs train and compete like it’s the Olympics, and to them, it is. I think about how seeing one of those desserts set in front of me would make me feel so happy, and how you might guess the job is so fun and creative and low pressure to just bake all the time, but nope – there is so much skill and detail for every intricate step, there really is not a lot of room for error, if any. I am hoping the camera catch the chefs during their off time eating plain animal crackers or a Halloween candy.

Cupcake Wars is another fave of mine. But the first time I watched it I thought I was going to need a Xanax. When the chefs were told they had like 2 or 3 hours to make 1000 cupcakes, I was freaking out. And they also had to design a display structure. They managed to pull it off without sweating and having a meltdown. I am a head sweater and a panicker, so I would probably make for good tv.

You know what doesn’t make for good tv? DC Cupcakes. The sisters who own the bakery are adorable and so talented. But somebody scripted this reality show, and poorly! Their mother, heretofore known as Mommy to everyone, helps out at the shop. And the Chef warns, “Do not leave Mommy in charge of the cupcakes, she’ll forget to take them out of the oven.!” Well wouldn’t you know it, everyone leaves the shop minutes before the latest batch is finished, leaving Mommy in charge. And wouldn’t you know it, Mommy forgets and the cupcakes are ruined. Wow, how did they predict such a hilarious misunderstanding? Were the producers watching any and every episode of Three’s Company when they came up with that scene?


Wednesday, September 29th, 2010


Honk if you love truffles! BEEEEEP!!!!!!!!!!! Truffles are one of those treats you come across from time to time, you eat one, it is so rich you can hardly believe it, you think about having another one, but one would probably satisfy you. You think about how amazingly rich and decadent it is. You wonder how those fancy pastry chefs and candy makers can figure out how to get so much deliciousness in such a tiny bite. Kids, I’ve got news for you. It ain’t that hard. It could be a Girl Scout fundraising projects and the young ladies would do just as good a job as a pastry chef. It just seems intimidating. Let me tell you, I am scared of a lot of things. A lot. Childbirth without drugs (never gonna happen… #1 the shop is closed, #2 I had c-sections both times and you get MAJOR drugs for those, #3 like I’m ever gonna turn down drugs!) I am scared of flying in airplanes, going on a cruise because I think if I take the port excursion I won’t make it back to the ship on time, and I used to be scared of making ganache.  People, I have seen the light. I read online about how you can use the same ganache to make truffles. So I did. And they were good. I mean goooooooood. They are so impressive, people are amazed when I give them handmade truffles and can’t believe I did this. But when you learn how to do it you will see it is less amazing than being able to put on mascara with your dominant hand. Easy. E. Z. Follow the ganache recipe. Place the ganache covered in the refrigerator for several hours, overnight is best. It should be so thick that when you scoop a spoon through it, it parts like the Red Sea with no threat of coming back together.

Did Charlton Heston do this?

I scooped and it didn’t budge, see?

no budge fudge

I think about that empty space and how if I could fit in there I would settle in and chomp my way out. Dream. Sigh. So, to make the truffles, you’ll need to gather something to coat the ball of heaven with. Some good options include cocoa, chocolate shavings, or nuts. I used good old Hersheys Dark Cocoa, some fancy chocolate shavings I bought at a chocolate shop, and ground almonds from Trader Joe’s, or as they call it “Just Almond Meal.” It is Just Fantastic for so many things in my opinion.

coatings galore

You’ll need a small bowl, a fork, and something to use for the finished product, be it a plate, a waxed paper covered baking sheet, or gift packaging.

I bought these little brown candy cups (that can also be used as mini cupcake wrappers) at Hobby Lobby. I bought these adorable brown square dealies at You can actually bake IN them! They are like a little baking pan and gift packaging all in one! See what else I used them for? Brownies!!!

ganache topped brownie

ganache topped brownie

Ok, back to the task at hand. I scooped with a mini cookie scooper.



I dropped the scoop of chocolate into the bowl filled with cocoa.  I used a fork to gently nudge my little nugget around in the bowl so it was coated with cocoa.



Once I picked it up with the fork I tapped it a bit to let the extra cocoa to fall off.  Then I placed the truffle in a little candy cup inside the square container.



After a few of those I went for the chocolate shavings. Ooooh la la!

chocolate shavings

chocolate shavings

And then the almond meal. Cute!

almond meal

almond meal

Then I wanted to experiment a little bit. Not the way I did in college or my early twenties. But with candy!!! I used my trusty mini M&M’s, also known as every kid’s dream, to coat some truffles. I filled a bowl with some

oh yum

oh yum

I dropped in my chocolate  and I nudged it around to cover it with M&M’s. All that nudging and ganache is not spotless.

m&m cutie

m&m cutie

I think these are so cute and would make a great addition to any party tray for kids. But they do not look beautiful from this first attempt. They kind of look messy. So I put them in the “leftovers” box for home consumption, or what I like to call “research.” Hard to believe I’m fat. I assembled my little gift boxes that were more picture perfect and placed them in the fridge to keep their shape and consistency until I was ready to take them. I packaged them up all sweet with a bow.

all wrapped up

all wrapped up

Would you not be so excited if this showed up at your door? Some of my wonderful friends did something super nice for me, so I rewarded them with a little treat. And it took me a few attempts to actually convince them I made the sweets myself. Because I did. And it was easy.


Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

ganache topped cupcake

Fancy word, isn’t it? It’s so fancy I want to say in a weird voice and stretch it out so it sounds more like ganazzzzzzgggggghhhhh. Ganache is a beautiful, smooth, shiny chocolate coating you see on cakes, the top layer that seems to stop midstream oozing down the side of a boston cream pie, and sometimes used as the sinful center of a truffle. Man, was I intimidated at the thought of making ganache. Ganaaaahhhhhhhggggggggge. Turns out, there’s no real skill or cooking used here. None. Ganache is simply melting. Phoebe’s little brother Frank, Jr., on Friends would have loved making ganache because he loved melting stuff. Frank, Jr. never discussed a love of cooking or having any mad pastry skills. But he sure did love melting stuff, so this would be right up his alley. Few things could be more basic AND so impressive at the same time. You could make a boxed cake mix in a normal round pan, whip up some ganahhhhzzzzzzzggggg, pour it over the top, and people will think you are Martha Stewart without the rap sheet. Plus there’s tons of other stuff you can do with ganache, like dipping the tops of cupcakes and letting them dry and then piping a little white buttercream swirl on it like the childhood lunchbox favorite, Hostess cupcakes. Or letting it cool, scooping it with a mini cookie dough scooper, dropping it in a bowl of crushed nuts or cocoa, and creating homemade truffles. Have I convinced you to try it yet? Ok, here’s how. Get your hands on 8 ounces of chocolate. But don’t get your hands on it too much because your body heat will melt it. What kind of chocolate do you like? Milk? Dark? Super crazy high percentage dark? Fancy? Grocery store cheap and basic? They’ll all work. Pick the one you like best. Here’s the recipe.

Ganache Recipe
8 ounces chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream

Place chopped chocolate in medium bowl (I use Tupperware so I can put on the lid to store the leftovers, or cover it when I chill it to make truffles.) Pour heavy cream in small saucepan and over medium heat. As soon as you see little bubbles like it’s about to start boiling, take it off the heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it sit for a minute or two. Then gently whisk it, starting in the center, until it is combined. It will look like a delicious pool of chocolate and will transport you to the scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Gene Wilder where rotund Golden Ticket winner Augustus Gloop bends down to the chocolate river to get his taste on, but falls in and his German mother screams “Augustus! You musn’t!” Too late, Mrs. Gloop. Augustus has been sucked through a tube into the fudge room. You should have just given him a little spoonful of ganache. Oompa, Loompa, Doompa-dee Doo!

so thick and rich!

Ganache Ideas

To cover a cake #1
Let ganache sit so it can cool and thicken, about 5 minutes. Your cake should be filled if it is a layer cake, and placed on a wire rack. Place the wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Then pour ganache over the cake in the center and work your way to the edges. It will run down the sides. You can use an offset spatula to spread the ganache to look even on the sides. Do this quickly while it is still warm and runny. Place the cake in the frig to set for an hour or two. It will look smooth and shiny.

To cover a cake #2
Place covered bowl of ganache in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to one hour, so it is cool and thick sort of like pudding, but not yet set hard and solid. Use an offset spatula to frost the cake as you normally would with traditional frosting. This also works to top cupcakes.

To cover a cake #3
Place covered bowl of ganache in refrigerator for about 30 minutes to one hour, so it is cool and thick sort of like pudding, but not yet set hard and solid. Using either a hand held mixer or the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the ganache into a more traditional frosting consistency and use the same way you would traditional frosting… spreading around the cake. For piping swirls, place whipped ganache into a pastry bag, place in refrigerator for about 10 minutes, and then pipe away! This also works to top cupcakes.

To make Hostess style cupcakes
After ganache has cooled a bit, about 5 to 10 minutes, simply dip a naked cupcake into it, let the excess drop off, and then place it on a rack to set, about 30 minutes. You can then either pipe another flavor of buttercream on top, or fill a pastry bag with some white buttercream and pipe the cute swirls so they resemble Hostess.

dipping cupcake into ganache

it's like watching ganache dry


To fill cupcake
After the ganache has cooled for about 20 minutes, place it in a pastry bag fitted with a plain, round tip. Then place the tip into the center of a fresh cupcake and give the bag a squeeze. The tip will sort of automatically lift its way out as the ganache fills in.

To make truffles
Cover the bowl, put it in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. It will be solid. Grab dry kitchen towel and a damp one too. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Assemble what you want to use for the coating… chocolate jimmies, crushed nuts, cocoa powder, etc. Place the coating, or coatings, into small bowls. I use regular cereal bowls. Spread a teeny bit of vegetable oil on your hands. Using a mini cookie dough/ice cream scoop make small scoops of the solid ganache. You can either quickly roll your oiled hands to form a perfect ball and then drop the ganache into the topping bowl, or if you made a good enough scoop, skip the hand rolling part. Using a fork or spoon, encourage the ball through the topping, so it is covered. Using the fork or spoon, fish out the ball carefully and place it on the waxed paper. Having those kitchen towels will be handy because every few truffles you might want to clean off your hands and re-oil. Once finished, keep truffles in refrigerator until ready to serve.


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Monday, July 5th, 2010

Expressing my feelings through baked goods

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