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TILT: My two favorite cake piping tips

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Welcome to another edition of Things I Like Thursday (TILT)! Today begins a series containing the many things I love to use to make cake & cupcake decorating quick and easy.

I’m going to start with just TWO piping tips, because I use them for nearly every cake, and/or cupcake I make. They are very inexpensive, and worth the small investment. Each of these have had about twenty five years of use between my Mother and I, and have stood the test of time. I would not be nearly so fond of making cakes and cupcakes if it weren’t for these tips.

The first is Wilton’s “Icer Tip” #789. I used it to frost both wedding cakes above, and nearly every other cake I’ve ever made. It’s wide and flat and you use it to pipe frosting in an even layer in stripes all over your cake.  This means you don’t have to crumb coat it, it means that once you stripe your cake, all you have to do is smooth the lines.  (Don’t forget my water bottle trick for a perfectly smooth finish on your frosted cake!)  You can see me in action using my trusty icing tip in the video below.

The second is just as invaluable to me, as I now go the easier route of cake-making, doing cupcakes instead.  All it takes is 1-2 seconds per cupcake to pipe on a pretty swirl and voilà! You’re done. It’s probably the fastest thing you’ll ever do with this nice a result.

white cupcakes 6-27-11

I use Wilton’s Tip 2110 (1M) for nearly all my cupcakes, as I just prefer the size of swirl it makes, and I also use it to decorate my most popular cake on this site, the Cookies ‘n Cream Cake, along with CW’s Strawberry Shortcake, and many pies, like Key Lime Pie, and yesterday’s Strawberry Cream Cheese Pie. Pretty much anything requiring a swirl of whipped cream, this is the tip I use.  I have a video tutorial on how to use it to frost cupcakes here if you want to see this tip in action.

I hope this TILT was helpful, and that you haven’t been overwhelmed with the sheer amount of links I was able to provide in just one post. Ha! Catch you next week with another cake-y edition of Things I Like Thursday.

Some links are affiliate. All opinions are my own, I wouldn’t recommend something I didn’t stand behind 100%.

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Things I Like Thursday: USA Pans

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I’m starting something new!  Things I Like Thursday. TILT.  I like it. :)  I hope you like it too.

First off, I’m a thrifty person, as we are a family of four (don’t forget the dog – she is almost as expensive than the toddler!) living on one small income, so I try to buy things that are lower in price.  However, I am also willing to save and pay more for something that is really good quality because I’ve learned over and over, the hard way, that you almost always get what you pay for.  Not always, but usually.  And you actually do end up saving money, and getting better results, by paying more for high quality pans that last a lifetime than paying for $5 pans over and over and over.

Which leads me to my favorite pans.  I have bought a lot of cheap pans and the results I got with them were OK, not great, but I’m a good baker, so it wasn’t terrible.  I finally decided, after the state fair judges told me for the millionth time not to grease the sides of my pans (and finally disqualified me for doing so after many warnings), that it was time to buy some really killer pans that baked goods would actually come free of, even if I didn’t grease the sides.

I did some research, comparing different brands, and I was swayed by the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon for the USA pans.  So despite them costing more than I’d usually like to pay, I used some of my state fair winnings money several years ago to purchase a loaf pan and two muffin pans.

USA Pans 6-Piece Bakeware Set

Oh my wow, people.  These pans are amazing.  I actually had previously purchased an even higher priced Williams-Sonoma Goldtouch Nonstick Loaf Pan with a gift card I got for a birthday, and these pans beat the pricey Goldtouch pans out of the park.  Yes, the Goldtouch pans are nicely nonstick, and they give breads and muffins an excellent rise, but they also consistently over-browned the sides and bottom of my baked goods.  And dark brown on the sides, golden on the top is just not a good look for baked goods.  State Fair judges are definitely not fans of that look. The pans also tend to collect yucky stuff in the corners that was a lot of work to get out with a toothpick.


USA Pans 9 x 5 x 2.75 Inch Loaf Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

The USA Pans are not only fabulously nonstick, and give your baked goods an excellent rise, but they do not over-brown the bottom and sides of your baked goods, and do not collect gunk in the corners.  I have also had no problems with rust, and my pans are still in the same condition they were when I bought them two years ago.


USA Pans 8.5 x 4.5 Inch Aluminized Steel Loaf Pan with Americoat Loaf Pan

I can now present my quick breads to the judges without having the “fry line,” as they call it, on the sides, and last year I was not disqualified.  In fact, my Black Walnut Banana Bread got third place. (Yes, the blue ribbon STILL eludes me! One day, people, one day. Here is the main part of my Banana Bread adventures if you’re unfamiliar with my epic quest for a blue ribbon and want to catch up.)

USA Pans 5-1/2 by 3-Inch Mini Loaf Pan, Set of 4

I will say that the one drawback with the muffin pans is that they won’t fit side by side in a regular-sized oven if you want to bake two dozen muffins or cupcakes at once. Which I often do.  It hasn’t slowed me down though, I just put one in the middle rack on the far right, and one on the very top, far left. The bottom one gets done first and I move the top one down to finish, or sometimes just leave it up there to slowly finish.  It really upset me when I discovered they wouldn’t fit side by side, but I don’t mind it at all now.  Since it bothered me so much, though, I wanted to make sure to mention it so you guys don’t have any surprises if you decide to buy them!  They are definitely my favorite muffin pans, even with the unfortunate size problem.


USA Pans 12 Cup Cupcake/Muffin Pan, Aluminized Steel with Americoat

I highly recommend USA pans to anyone that enjoys baking.  They are definitely “Things I Like.” :)

Check back next Thursday for another kitchen edition of TILT! After that I might get all wild and crazy with posts on cloth diapers and essential oils. I be so crunchy! :D

Full disclosure: I’m not being paid to provide this review, nor was I provided with anything free to do it.  I just really LOVE these pans and want to spread the word.  There are affiliate links contained in this post, and I will earn a commission if you decide to purchase any of these items through the links I provide, but again, the thoughts and opinions stated here are 100% my own. Thank you for supporting my blog! :)

Meatloaf PupCakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

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Jessie turned ten earlier this month and I decided that I was finally, finally, going to throw her the birthday party I’d always wanted to throw her ever since we got her.  I had invitations I meant to use for it so long I finally ended up selling them at our garage sale last year, thinking I would always have too much going on to actually do it.  Ironically, I ended up throwing her a birthday party the year I’m most busy, with a little human puppy taking up most of my time.  Just goes to show, you always have enough time for whatever you put your mind to.

I plan to do a whole separate blog post about the party because it was the sauce, if I do say so myself, but first I wanted to share the recipe I made for the PupCakes.  Rather than make something flour-based, I decided I wanted to go with meat-centric PupCakes because, let’s get real here, it’s a rare dog that prefers a flour & fruit-based treat over a meaty one.  Jessie is alll about the meat.

So I just threw together a bunch of stuff that seemed like it might make good dog-friendly (i.e. no onions) meatloaf into a bowl, mixed it up, and took a tiny taste test after baking.  Wow, I was impressed!  The only salt in the recipe comes from the ketchup, so I thought it would be rather bland, but these are so good I wished I’d made extra to enjoy along with the pups!  I added a mashed potato “frosting” that I thinned with yogurt.  So healthy and delicious, and the dogs devoured them! (Don’t be fooled by Doc giving up his to Jessie in the video, he’s so sweet that if Jessie even looks at him when he has a treat, he drops it so she can have it.  Kind of breaks my heart, actually! lol)  Even the little tiny dogs ate an entire PupCake by themselves. I’d say they are definitely dog-approved. :)

Meatloaf PupCakes with Mashed Potato Frosting

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 ½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely diced zucchini
1 egg, beaten
1 lb 93% lean ground beef
½ cup quick oats
1 teaspoon parsley flakes
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 cup ketchup

Frosting
2 large russet potatoes, peeled
1 cup plain yogurt
Milk to thin

Optional garnish: real bacon bits

Remove ground beef from refrigerator to allow the chill to come off while you begin the recipe. Heat oven to 350°F. Line 9 muffin cups with foil liners; set aside.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, red pepper, and zucchini, and sauté until softened, about 5-10 minutes. In large bowl, combine the cooked veggies with the remaining pupcake ingredients until well combined. Roll mixture into 9 large balls and place in prepared muffin cups.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted in center of loaves reads 160ºF. Cool slightly in muffin cups.

While loaves are baking, cut potatoes into large chunks. Place in 3-quart saucepan, cover with water, and heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cook potatoes until fork-tender. Drain; return to saucepan. Add yogurt and beat with an electric mixer, adding milk as necessary, until creamy and smooth like frosting.

Place potatoes in a 10-inch decorating bag and snip the tip as large as you want it to come out. Alternatively, you can place them in a Ziploc bag and snip the corner. Remove the pupcakes from the muffin pan and place on serving plate. Starting at outside of each cake and in a circular motion, pipe potatoes onto each meat loaf. If desired, garnish with bacon bits. Serve warm or room temperature.

A Veronica’s Cornucopia original

Coffee & Cream Cupcakes

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I’m terrible about using recipes from cookbooks.  I own quite a few but hardly ever go to them when I need a recipe, instead I go to blogs and Pinterest and Google searches.  But I vowed I would make at least one recipe from the Pioneer Woman’s Food From My Frontier cookbook.  It’s the only cookbook I own that I paid more than $15 for (I get them used or as gifts) and even though it’s cool to have as a memento since she signed it, it still felt like wasting money if I never used it.

Being a coffee and cake lover, the first thing that called to me was her Coffee Cream Cake.  Two layers of coffee-flavored cake with a cream filling and a coffee frosting.  Yum.  I decided to turn it into cupcakes, putting the cream filling in the center of each.  Her recipe has a drippy frosting that is more like a glaze that thickens as it cools, but I wanted a fluffy buttercream frosting on the cupcakes so I made up my own coffee buttercream recipe for these.

The cupcakes are great, mostly because of the cream filling and frosting.  I could tell from how thin the cake batter was that it would make sturdy cupcakes, not the light and fluffy ones that a thicker batter will make.  While the cake part isn’t my favorite (I’m pretty picky when it comes to cake), it does work well overall.  I always state my honest opinion on recipes so that you’re fully informed, but I want to assure you that you will like these cupcakes as is.  I doubt any one besides a cake connoisseur would notice the crumb.  There isn’t anything really wrong with it because it is nice and moist, but it’s just not as light and tender as I like my cake to be.  The taste is fabulous, so fabulous that my coffee-hating husband couldn’t get enough of them.

So make these, you will love them if you love coffee, and perhaps even if you don’t.  Or, if you’re like me and prefer a lighter cake, you might try a different recipe for the cupcakes.  Personally, I’m either going to use chocolate cake next time, making them into mocha cream cupcakes, or sub really strong coffee for the water in a white or yellow cake mix recipe to get the texture I like.

To get this white streak effect, I used the same piping bag for the frosting that I used for the filling.  The residual white filling lined the bag and made a streaky look when I piped the buttercream onto the cupcakes.

Coffee & Cream Cupcakes

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons instant coffee crystals
1 cup boiling water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Cream filling
4 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup powdered sugar
½ cup heavy cream

Coffee Buttercream
¼ cup Kahlua (here is a recipe to make your own)
1 tablespoon instant coffee crystals
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 lb. powdered sugar
Dash of salt

For the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350F. Line 24 cupcake tins with paper liners; set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, then stir in the instant coffee and boiling water. Let the mixture bubble up for a few seconds, then turn off the heat. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and salt. Pour the hot butter/coffee mixture over the top and stir to combine. Mix together the buttermilk, eggs, baking soda, and vanilla and add it to the bowl. Whisk until smooth (batter will be very thin). Using a levered ice cream scoop, fill the cupcake tins half full. You will have extra batter, which you can bake more cupcakes with or a small cake if you have a 6” cake pan. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Allow cupcakes to cool for a few minutes in the tins, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely.

While the cupcakes cool, prepare the filling. Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the powdered sugar and heavy cream and beat on low until sugar is moistened, then on high until light and fluffy. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a round tip (or a squeeze bottle) with the filling. Push the tip or nozzle into each cupcake and squeeze filling into the center, pulling back once the top starts to rise, and stopping when the filling bursts through the top of the cupcake. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.

For the buttercream, bring the Kahlua to a boil and stir in the coffee crystals. Set aside to cool completely. Once cooled, beat the butter in a large bowl until creamy, then add the sugar, Kahlua mixture, and salt. Beat on low until sugar is moistened, then beat on high until smooth and creamy

To complete cupcakes, pipe swirls of coffee buttercream on top of the filled cupcakes. Serve at room temperature.

Adapted from the Coffee Cream Cake in Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond

Andes Mint Cupcakes

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Guess what???  It’s Monday and I have the day off with my husband.  I’m SO excited!  Before I became permanent and my schedule changed, we had the weekends off together, but now we only get one day off together once every five weeks so it’s cause for celebration.  I’m going to relish it.

Speaking of my husband and celebrations, I made these cupcakes for his birthday in December, and everyone at the party fell in loveMel calls these “over-the-top” and I’d have to agree.  It starts with a moist, deep chocolate cupcake.  Then there’s the cool & creamy mint frosting.  Garnished with peppermint ganache and an Andes mint.  But there’s more to these cupcakes than what meets the eye, and my only regret is that I did not have the chance to snap a photo of the inside to show you they are also filled with the same peppermint ganache that is drizzled over the top.  Making them, you might say, over the top. :)

These would be great for your St. Patrick’s Day festivities!

Andes Mint Cupcakes

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 recipe of your favorite chocolate cake*, baked into 24 cupcakes and cooled completely

Chocolate Mint Filling:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Mint Buttercream:
1 cup (2 sticks, 16 tablespoons) butter, softened to room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
2 lbs. powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
Green food coloring

24 Andes mints for garnish

For the mint filling, place the chocolate chips and heavy cream in a small microwave-safe bowl and heat for 1 minute at 50% power. Stir. Repeat the process until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the peppermint extract and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. Let the mixture cool to room temperature (but don’t let it get too stiff) and pour it into a disposable pastry bag fitted with a small round tip, or a squeeze bottle with a tip.

Insert the decorating tip or tip of the squeeze bottle into the center of the cupcake and press gently to fill the middle of the cupcake with the mint ganache.  You can be pretty generous, squeezing until you see the top of the cupcake start to rise a little. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

For the frosting, in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and mix until smooth. Add the heavy cream and peppermint and vanilla extracts. Beat until light and fluffy. Add green food coloring until the color you like is achieved.

Frost the cooled, filled cupcakes with frosting (using a large star tip, I used Wilton # 1M) or simply spread the frosting in a large dollop (again, you can be generous-there is plenty) with a butter knife or flat spatula. Garnish with a drizzle of leftover ganache (make sure the ganache is completely cool or it will melt the frosting when you drizzle it on top of the cupcake), and an unwrapped Andes mint.  Serve at room temperature.

*I used a devil’s food cake mix, but this is my favorite from-scratch chocolate cake recipe.

Recipe source: adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

***

I had to share a few more photos from his party, which was actually only half for his birthday (our preacher and his wife had a holiday dinner/birthday party combo).  One of the games we played was holding paper plates on top of our heads and trying to draw a picture of Dennis playing his guitar without looking.  You have no idea how difficult this is until you try to do it!  This is what I ended up with:

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/375983_10150501251206480_541706479_10934912_410175853_n.jpg

However, this is what his best friend, Jack, came up with:

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/386399_10150501252261480_541706479_10934919_836445075_n.jpg

Highly suspicious.

Here’s Dennis and Jack trying to look natural after I urged them to try embracing each other for a photo.  I don’t think this is natural for most men, but they pulled it off better than I expected. :)

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-snc7/s720x720/384593_10150501252876480_541706479_10934928_1748743330_n.jpg

And here’s Dennis practicing his Kung Fu moves with our preacher’s bat’leth (a Klingon weapon…as in something a Trekkie would totally recognize but me, not so much) shortly before we left (and yes, this thing is super sharp and dangerous! Yet he was swinging it like the pro he is.):

http://sphotos.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/s720x720/382966_10150501256611480_541706479_10934943_332731381_n.jpg

Your Klingon Kung Fu is strong, honey.

***

Reminder: this is the last week to get your postcards out to Beverly! You can get the deets here if you missed the announcement: Operation Postcard for Beverly.

Quick & Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes

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These aren’t your typical pumpkin muffins disguised as cupcakes with a swirl of frosting.  Using a cake mix not only makes these a cinch to throw together, but gives the desired light texture of a cupcake.
Libby’s Quick & Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes
from www.verybestbaking.com
1 (18.25 oz) spice cake mix
1 can (15 oz) Libby’s 100% pure pumpkin
3 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup water
1 container (16 oz) prepared cream cheese or vanilla frosting (I made my own with this recipe)

PREHEAT oven to 350° F. Paper-line or grease 24 muffin cups.

BLEND cake mix, pumpkin, eggs, oil and water in large mixer bowl until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, filling 3/4 full.

BAKE for 18 to 23 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (mine were done in 17 minutes). Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Spread cupcakes with frosting. Decorate with assorted sprinkles, if desired.

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YUMMY!!!

I used pumpkin spice icecream topping to drizzle over the top of those in the photo before the recipe.  It’s a seasonal item and if you can’t find it, you could use caramel topping and mix in some pumpkin butter & spices.


Easy Banana Cupcakes

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Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
The black walnuts are optional, but I really think they add a wonderful depth of flavor to the cakes.

Cake
1 yellow cake mix
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 T sour cream
1/3 c oil
3 eggs
¾ c water
1 c black walnuts (optional)

Frosting
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 stick (1/2 c) unsalted butter, softened
2 lbs powdered sugar
Pinch salt
1 t vanilla
Milk, as necessary

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin cups with liners.

Put all the cake ingredients, except for the black walnuts, in a mixing bowl and beat on low until moistened, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Stir in the black walnuts and fill muffin cups 2/3 full.  Bake in preheated oven for 16-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack in the pans for 10 minutes, then take out of the pans and cool completely on rack.

For frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together until creamy.  Beat in everything but the milk until well blended and fluffy.  If it is too thick, you can add milk 1 teaspoon at a time until you get your desired consistency.  Frost the cooled cupcakes.

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Banana Cupcakes, with and without nuts.

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