Are you also such a big fan of picnics? I just love the idea of sitting on a blanket, enjoying a few treats I prepared beforehand and breathing some fresh air in nature. A picnic to me is the best way to relax. Below you will find two recipes perfect for a picnic. One is a berry salad infused with lavender honey, the other is homemade pesto, which I used on a sandwich as a spread, but which may be used as a dip or with some cooked pasta. All of below tips are also from my first-hand experience as a huge picnic lover.
This is going to be a slightly different coffee date to the previous ones. I decided to show you a few pictures of the second wedding cake I had the honor of making in August this year. I will try to keep it short, but I will let you know the few lessons I learned along the way. If you are interested in the recipes, please check this blog post. For more details on the process, check out my highlights on Instagram.
Lesson #1: A three-tiered cake requires much more work than a two-tiered cake. For that reason I made the cake layers at home in Munich and decided to freeze them. As you can see, I wrapped them tightly in plastic wrap and also used a plastic bag to keep them fresh. I decided to do this as the wedding was 600km away and I was simply too scared to carry a cake long-distance for such a long amount of time. I am glad I went this route, I ended up 7 1/2 hours on the road.
Lesson #2: Cooling boxes are my new favorite toy. I carried the frozen cake layers for 7 1/2 hours in this box, wrapped in ice and it was not problem at all to continue freezing the cake layers in a freezer. Yes!
Lesson #3: I finished the wedding cake in an Airbnb. Obviously, I carried with me a lot of the tools, including my KitchenAid. But it was very convenient to have an empty fridge for the cakes at hand.
Lesson #4: Unfortunately, larger cakes tend to look smaller and bulkier than they actually are. I made 4 cake layers for the top tiers, but decided to use five cake layers (as you can see below) for the bottom tier. Reason for this being that the bottom layer somehow looked smaller otherwise. This is something you should keep in mind when you calculate your sizes, I had to add one extra layer to my bottom tier!
Lesson #5: If the bride tears up when she sees the cake, I feel you have done a good job. And let me tell you, making a three-tiered cake requires a lot of work. I think I spent about 20 hours on this cake, let alone the many hours I did research, tried different cake recipes, checked many flavors, etc. Many of the guests came to me thanking me that this was the first wedding cake ever tasting fresh and fruity and was not so overly sweet. Of course each layer had a different flavor combo and as requested by the couple, I had used very little buttercream, but cream cheese, etc. for the filling. Below you can see how popular the wedding cake was, coffee time was not over yet when I snapped that picture.
If you are interested in further details or would like to know the recipes, feel free to leave me a comment. Update: I finally gave in and posted the recipes for the three-tiered wedding cake here. Also, I did do a whole series on the first wedding cake I made, you can check it out here:
In the last part about how to sucessfully bake a wedding cake at home we will have a look at assembling, transporting and decorationg the cake. Just to recap, these were the previous parts:
Part 2: How to plan a baking schedule
For this part, let’s start with the assembling
Tip #1: Divide your fillings prior to frosting so that each layer is equally thick
My 26cm chocolate cake consisted of three thick cake layers and therefore only two layers of filling. This meant I knew I had to evenly divide the filling between these two layers. I didn’t need to coat the cake with any of it as I was going to use Swiss meringue buttercream instead so this was pretty straight forward. If you plan on using the same frosting for the filling as well as the outside of the cake, as a general rule of thumb you need at least double the amount for the outside tan for one layer. So if I were to use my filling also for the outside, I would have divided it by four.
My 18cm carrot cake had four cake layers and thus I had three layers of filling, which I divided by three before applying. I did use the cream cheese frosting, which I made like the Ermine buttercream, so has a flour base as I wanted to be extra sure that it would be stable. I use it also for the frosting of the carrot cupcakes. The regular cream cheese filling I usually use for the carrot cake is a bt too thin as it only consists of whipped cream mixed with cream cheese. I was too scared that my cake would not be stable enough and was happy to report that it worked out perfectly well, even in the middle of summer in Spain. I even had enough frosting to apply a very thin outer layer on the cake before I generously frosted it with the Swiss meringue buttercream.
In this series I will explain how you can prepare a wedding cake at home. In the first part I already explained how I knew how big the wedding cake was going to be and how I decided on diameter, height, etc. The below blog post is going to explain how I planned the baking part and which utensils are essential when you bake a wedding cake at home. Let’s do a small recap before I dig into the details of planning and scheduling everything:
Top tier: 18cm/ 7 inches diameter, 15-18 pieces, height about 12cm/ 5 inches (not including decoration), recipe: American carrot cake
Bottom tier: 26cm/ 10 inches diameter, 40-45 pieces, height about 13.5cm/ 5 inches (not including decoration), recipe: chocolate caramel cake (Whisky was replaced with coffee)
Outside: Swiss Meringue Buttercream with 1 kilo (!) of butter and 12 egg whites. There was some left, but I think this was a good calculation. Obviously you will need less if you are going for the semi-naked look. But since I wanted this to look like a ruffled bridal dress, I needed a thicker coat. You can’t see the orange/brown color from the carrot cake or the brown color from the bottom tier.
Total: About 55-63 pieces
Tip # 1: Make a trial run (or several)
As I was going to bake this wedding cake in another country, I needed to be extra sure that everything was going according to plan. Since I needed to get used to the oven, I made a trial run and also tested the ingredients (which often have a slightly different texture in another country). I did a mini carrot cake a few days beforehand and was pleased with the oven. It did take longer than mine in Germany, but it was doing its job and that was the main thing. Obviously, I had tested a lot of recipes beforehand and made a lot of trial runs back at home in Germany. For that reason you do find quite a lot of layer cakes on the blog recently. You need to feel comfortable when you make a wedding cake so practicing is key. Practice every part of it, not only trying different flavors, but also how to stack it, how to decorate, etc. It doesn’t matter if the wedding isn’t going to take place for months, feel free to start early so you are really prepared well. You should feel comfortable with all parts and have tried them at some point or another.Continue Reading…
Cookie boxes are my thing! I love shipping cookies to friends and family during the season! I have been doing this for years. And since this year is so special and you may not be able to see everybody you hold dear, how about shipping a cookie box instead? This post will let you know which type and size of box to choose, which cookies are best to ship with lots of recipe suggestions, how you make your cookie box look nice and give it a personal touch and how your cookies make it safe and sound without breaking or going bad. Let’s have a look:
#1 Which box is best to ship cookies?
It may sound counter-intuitive, but I do prefer rectangular boxes, even if round cookie boxes seem so much more common here in Germany. I find rectangular boxes so much better as you can easily create smaller compartments by cutting out some carton (yes, you can use an old cornflakes box) and by placing them inside your cookie box to create smaller compartments. So stacking the cookies becomes much easier as each has its small compartment and is protected even better. You probably could create something similar with a round cookie box, but I am very bad at this. This is not to say that you can’t use round boxes, but as stated, for shipping rectangular boxes are better.
A tin can will work best and can be found in German stores during this time of the year. Once I even bought a cookie box already filled with cookies in a grocery store and replaced those with my own homemade cookies. So you can go with tin, thick carton, or wood. Paper is not thick enough, you may only use it if you want to wrap single cookies in some extra containers.
The size is also tricky, they shouldn’t be too small as you won’t be able to put in any cookies (and they fill up much faster than you think), but also not too large. I would suggest about 17-20cm in diameter and 8-10cm in height for round cookie boxes, these are the ones I liked a lot. For a rectangular box again height should be between 8-10cm, the largest I shipped was 17cm in width and 20cm long.
I am almost to ashamed to admit that I don’t have that many animal recipes on this blog even though I am a huge animal lover. For that reason today these cute little hedgehogs from pie crust need to be published. I am a huge fan of anything related to fall. I love to watch hedgehogs looking for heaps of leaves, it is so cute to see squirrels happily looking for nuts or birds being content that there still is enough food.
Today I am going to introduce you to dulce de leche. Never heard of it? This is Spanish and literally translates as “sweetness of milk”. In English it is often translated as milk caramel. Its taste is similar to traditional caramel, but since it is prepared with milk, it has a slightly different taste. Dulce de leche is widely used in Latin America and served with desserts, pastries, but also along cheese or as sweetener for coffee.
It has been a while since I last did a how to post. Shame on me. For that reason I wanted to give you twelve tips today to produce the fluffiest, lightest and best sponge batter. I love cakes with sponge batter, I especially love sponge rolls. If you would like to check out my recipes, please scroll down. I love sponge rolls, because they are fast to prepare, look all fancy and are perfect if you have company coming over. Sponge is also a nice and unassuming companion for any layer cake you want to create. It does not take over flavorwise, it holds back and nicely complements whichever buttercream or frosting you have in mind to fill it with. But sponge batter can be a bit hard to prepare. If you are not careful, it can get dry and it may not rise as much as you had hoped while baking. For that reason I have twelve helpful tips for you how your sponge batter is going to turn out perfect.
#1 Your eggs need to have room temperature
Eggs are what makes a sponge cake fluffy and light, so be sure to use the best eggs you can find and have them at room temperature. Why? Because they will be much easier to beat and will take less time. So be sure to use them at room temperature. If you are anything like me, you will most likely forget to take them out on time. So here is a little trick, put them in a mug with warm water while you take care of step two and you will be good to go.
Beating the eggs is one of the most important steps for fluffy sponge batter. This is because you are beating in air into the eggs so that they can lift the batter while it is baking. So if you don’t want your beaten eggs to deflate while you are rushing around finding utensils and measuring all remaining ingredients, prepare and measure out everything beforehand. Believe me, your batter will come together much better and you will be less stressed out when you start beating the eggs.
#3 Beat egg yolks and egg whites separately
There are different ways of creating fluffy sponge batter. You can either beat the eggs as a whole or you can do it separately. I seem to always get better results beating the egg parts separately, so this is why I recommend you doing it, too. I didn’t own a KitchenAid for many years, so I had to use a handheld mixer and believe me, if you want to beat the whole eggs, you will need to beat them for at least ten minutes or longer. Not so much fun with a handheld mixer, is it? Also, if you beat your egg yolks and egg whites separately, the total amount you need to beat is still much lower, so I still do it that why. And here is another tip, if you use a handheld mixer, start with the egg whites, you can then just continue beating the egg yolks without washing anything.
#4 Beat your egg whites in a fatfree enviornment and don’t beat them for too long
You need to be absolutely sure that your bowl and mixer are completely fatfree before you start beating the egg whites. If there is a little bit of egg white in your egg yolk, that’s no problem, but if you have egg yolk in your egg white, it may not get stiff. To help stabilize your egg white, I always recommend a pinch of salt or a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Here in Germany we don’t have cream of tartar, so this is our way to stabilize it. I usually add the salt when the egg white is foaming and changes color, becomin white, which usually happens after a minute or so. Originally I thought I had to beat the egg white until stiff peaks form, but I learned recently that that was a little over the top, you only need to beat it until soft peaks form (see picture below). This is another reason for me why I prefer beating egg whites and egg yolks seperately, it doesn’t take that long.
You have no idea what to do with leftover egg whites or egg yolks? Here are some recipes for you to use them up! Scroll down if you want to know how to freeze properly. And yes, it is possible to also freeze egg yolks, just use a little trick.
#What to do with Egg Whites
The easiest way to use leftover egg white is to make meringue. Meringue basically means beating the egg whites with sugar until stiff and firm and then drying this mixture in the oven at low temperature. There are a lot of delicious recipes with meringue, either as frosting, as an entire part of its own or as decoration for cakes. I give you some options below, click on the links to get to the recipes.
You would like to improve your food photography faster? Then these tips are for you. Often people are surprised when they hear that I started taking food photography seriously about a year and a half ago. The surprise stems from the idea that developing skills takes a long time. However, if you set goals, you will see that you will develop your skills much quicker. Just as an example, below are pictures from 2018 compared to 2017.
Same recipe of my favorite chocolate chip cookies, above from 2018, below from 2017
Do you see any difference?
This is because I set goals for my picture taking. If you are interested in getting five hands-on tips, head over to Emma on the blog The Food Blog Collective. Emma offers a lot of wonderful tips for new food bloggers, I wrote down my five tips how to improve your food photography with goal setting faster here.