Beckoning Spring With Baked Goods

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As I was headed to the store today for more butter I stepped outside to thick, puffy SNOWFLAKES!  This has been a long, draining winter and I am so ready for Spring to really be here.  We have had a few teaser days but then snow keeps coming back.  At least it felt like Spring inside my house this weekend.  I had colorful flowers on the table and I made this cake with handmade flower, butterfly and bumblebee decorations.  This is the first time I added this type of detail to a cake and it was so fun to make.  I was making cupcakes too so I made many, many flowers, bees and butterflies.  I still have to practice lots of techniques but I can see where I am improving.  Practice makes perfect.

To make this cake I tried several new things.  First: this is a surprise inside cake.  There are two flavors: White Cake and Lemon Cake.  Using my Cake Pop Maker  I made cake balls with the lemon cake batter that was tinted yellow and sat them in the freezer while I made the white cake batter.

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I intended to make a small personal cake for my boss’s birthday but I wanted to make sure there was enough space for the yellow cake balls inside so I chose 6 inch by 3 inch cake pans for this project.  In each pan I spread a layer of the white cake batter, then placed 4 cake balls and covered them with more white cake batter.  Since I knew I was decorating and giving this cake away I knew I wouldn’t be able to see the results of the inside of the final cake so I baked one extra that I could cut.  Luckily there was just one that was a little messed up coming out of the pan so that’s the one I cut.  Below is a cutaway of that cake.  The final cake is two layers so, hopefully (fingers crossed), you will see two layers of yellow circles throughout the cake and it will look really cute and better than this one.

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I also used both flavors with the cupcakes., putting a layer of each. For the frosting I made a lightly-lemoned buttercream.  There is a hint of lemon without it being overpowering.    The decorations were made using a pre-made colored fondant.

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My youngest son does not care for lemon flavored cake so I let him make a few cupcakes with the white cake batter.  He chose green icing with sprinkles and decorated them himself. 🙂

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With this winter weather I have been doing a lot of baking and a lot of gobbling but no running, and boy is my body feeling the effects.  I have to balance out all of these baked goods!  Come one SPRING!  I rarely run in cold. Haha.

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract!

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This is one of the most wonderful things I have ever discovered!  It is so quick and simple to make your own vanilla extract.  The only hard part is waiting the 2 months for it to be ready to use.

All you need is:

3 vanilla beans per jar

Vodka or Bourbon

Glass jars with tight lids or corks

Using a paring knife, slit the beans down the middle, leaving the ends intact.  Place them in the jars and fill with Vodka or Bourbon.  Vodka will make it taste like your typical extract.  Bourbon adds a deeper flavor. Experiment with both to see which suits your tastes best.

Be sure to store them in a dark, cool place, giving them a shake every once in a while.  You will notice the color deepen over time.

I like to find different shaped jars at craft stores for this to make cute gifts.  I designed and printed labels on the computer and I have a space to write in the date it was made and the date when it will be ready to use.  I always keep several jars on hand for my own use and to have some to give away.

Now you have no need to get store-bought vanilla extract again unless you need clear extract to ensure a white cake is absolutely white.

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A couple of other uses for Vanilla Beans:

1. Slit a couple of beans down the middle and place in a jar with granulated sugar and you will have vanilla sugar.  I love this in my coffee!

2. One trick I learned to help keep a cake moist is to brush with simple syrup before frosting.  You can use vanilla beans to make a vanilla simple syrup.  I keep some simple syrup in a little squirt bottle with a couple of split vanilla beans inside.  Before I frost and decorate a cake I drizzle this all over the top and let it  seep into it and the frosting seals in the moisture.

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