The final learning project post!

This week I made my final cake for my learning project. After looking back on what I have previously made I feel like I’m not going out with a bang…even writing this last post is tough, but I managed to make it through! This week I decided to make a no-bake cheesecake. I chose this cake partially because some of my peers commented on my blog from last weeks’ cake which was a homemade New York style cheesecake that they have only ever made the no bake variety, partially because this particular cake kept showing up in my Facebook feed and partially because I am short on time. This no-bake cheesecake has a graham crumbs crust, cream cheese and whip topping center and is topped with blueberry pie filling. It is super simple to prepare, the longest part was waiting for it to set up in the fridge.

It was pretty good, but it wasn’t as good as my mile-high New York Cheesecake.

When I look back over the semester I am super impressed by the first cake that I made which was a layered chocolate cake with raspberry filling and chocolate ganache icing. It was an amazing cake to start off with! Making this cake took a long time to but it was absolutely delicious! For this cake the instructions were super clear and the blogger had actually posted videos of her putting everything together which helped me quite a bit because it was a fairly ambitious undertaking. This website was really great and I think that I could have perhaps changed courses and just stuck with this one website for all of my cakes, but at the time I thought that having a variety of sources would be better.

Chocolate Raspberry Cake

 

Another really great cake that I made was the homemade angel food cake. This is a very labour-intensive cake and I couldn’t help but think of how hard it would have been to make this cake 100 years ago. To think of all the technology available at my finger tips is quite astonishing! From finding the recipe online, to watching a how-to video to learn how to make the cake and finally to be able to use an electric mixer to whip the egg whites (which is a tedious task in itself) is quite amazing to me! When I was making this cake, I was constantly reminded of movie called Julie and Julia where a young woman sets out to work her way through Julia Childs cookbook called “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”. In the movie, there is a scene where Julia Child (played by Meryl Streep) makes whipped cream by using just a hand-whisk! That would have been so much work! If you have a chance, check out the movie, it is pretty good!

One of my cakes that went awry was my upside-down peach cake that leaked all over the inside of my oven. Ugh… not so much fun having to clean up that mess, but that is life I guess. I think this annoyance could have been avoided by having explicit instructions because I was unsure how much parchment paper to use and it ended up that I didn’t use quite enough.

You can see the cake batter smoldering away on the bottom of my oven

I’ve noticed that as the semester progressed I began to make more straight-forward cakes like my banana pudding icebox cake and I didn’t realize at the time that I had gotten away from making “professional looking cakes” as I mentioned I would in my very first learning project blog post. In hind-sight, I should have revisited my first blog post each week to make sure that I was sticking with my original plan. I think one of the reasons that I got side-tracked was because there are just too many options and a lot of information to sift through on the internet. Another tricky part of online learning is when you are only accountable to yourself, it is tempting to take the easy way out.

 

The overall process of online learning can be hugely beneficial and I can see why so many people take to the internet to learn skills such as how to build a deck, play the ukulele or paint portraits just to name a few. For most people, the internet and google searches are pretty accessible since the only other way to learn independently would be by purchasing a “how-to” book. Another benefit to online learning is the fact that it can be done on your own time. As I stated earlier, this can be a bit troublesome too, but for the most part if an individual is committed to actually learning something, they will see it through to the end. There are some disadvantages though, like poor instructions and sometimes it is hard to tell if you are learning from an expert or from someone who thinks they are an expert. Either way, it is a good idea to gather information from multiple sources.
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It is always a good idea to check your sources!

My experience with my learning project has been both positive and negative.  I really enjoyed making my first cake, but after that I was kind of ready to move on. I think that I could have challenged myself more instead of becoming complacent and it would have been a better experience. I found that I was rushing to finish the cakes and I should have just slowed down to enjoy the process more. What I have learned this semester in terms of my baking skill level is that I am a pretty good baker! In the past I have always used box-mix cakes and so I think I will use the homemade version going forward since it is way tastier! I did find reading a printed recipe is way easier than reading it off of my phone since the font on my phone is so small. Overall, it was a great experience with some highs and lows along the way!

Here is a picture of Cole with his “cake” creations!

 

 

 

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New York Style Cheesecake

For my learning project this week I thought that I would try to make a traditional New York style cheesecake. I have never tried to make a cheesecake before and so I thought that this would be a good opportunity to try something new!
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As I was searching around on the internet I found this recipe on Pinterest. The blogger website is called bakerbynature.com. One of the reasons that I chose to use this recipe is because the steps were super clear and laid out in a well-organized fashion. The website is really nice with many pictures and videos. In fact, there are so many good recipes on here I think I may bookmark the website and come back for some more inspiration for my final post. Also, I’m pretty sure that I have used this website before with good results and so I thought that I had very little to lose.

As it happens, I had a little helper with me to make the cheesecake so things took a bit longer to put together, but it wasn’t really a huge deal because he made it that much more fun!

My little helper

 

The first thing that we had to do was prepare the graham crumb crust. That was easy enough to do, just combine the graham crumbs, sugar and butter and press down into the springform pan.

Next cream together the cream cheese and sour cream. Add in the sugar and eggs and mix until creamy and smooth. This part works the best if all ingredients are at room temperature.

Once it is all combined, pour the batter carefully on top of the crust and bake in a water bath in the oven for 1 hour and 25 minutes. You may recall the debacle I had last week using my springform pan and so I was extra, extra careful to make sure that the springform pan was sealed. And, since I was immersing the pan in a water bath, I wrapped a few extra layers of tinfoil around the pan for good measure.

The cheesecake had a few cracks in the top but I think that it turned out pretty well I would say!

The next morning, I prepared the strawberry topping and whipped cream. The recipe for the strawberries called for a ¼ cup of sugar but I always find that way too sweet, so I cut the sugar back by half.

Once it was all ready to go I took it with me to class. I don’t need to be eating a whole cheesecake by myself and I think the rest of the students appreciate a treat once in a while!

Peach Upside-down Cake

For this week’s Learning Project, I decided to try to make an upside-down cake. I checked out a few different websites and looked around on Pinterest but nothing really caught my eye until I came across this Peach Upside Down Cake recipe on the Food Network website. I’ve never before made this type of cake and so it was a chance to try something new. And, my kids really love peaches, nectarines, plums… basically any type of fruit that has a pit and so I thought that they should enjoy this cake, which works for me because I definitely don’t want to be eating a cake a week by myself!

One of the best parts about making this cake is it doesn’t require a whole bunch of expensive ingredients. In fact, the only ingredient on my shopping list was a can of whole peaches in light syrup that I picked up at Walmart for only a few bucks.

Ingredients

 

I found that the instructions for this cake were minimal. There weren’t any pictures other than the end result and there wasn’t much for step-by-step instructions. I can see how for some, making this cake, using this recipe and instructions could be a struggle.

Although some upside-down cake recipes involve using a molded pan the instructions for this recipe require that it is baked in a spring-form pan. The first step is to cut a piece of parchment paper in a circle the same diameter as the spring form pan is and placed it on the bottom – keeping in mind that this will be the top in the end! Then melt a quarter-cup of butter to line the parchment paper. Next, sprinkle a half-cup of brown sugar over the butter. This will make a carmel-y sauce once it is cooked. Then slice the peaches and place over the brown sugar in a concentric pattern. Again, keeping in mind that this will be the top of the cake once it is cooked and so I had to take the time to make a nice, symmetrical pattern.

The rest of the recipe comes together fairly easily.  Beat the butter and sugar and then add the eggs. Cream together until smooth and well combined. Then I sifted and the dry ingredients and then combined them with the wet ingredients. Easy-peasy!

Then I carefully poured the batter over top of the peaches and placed it in the oven.

Here is where things went sideways… I was just about to head over to my neighbor’s house for a quick visit while the cake was baking and just as I was walking out the door I started to smell something burning. Then, the fire-alarm went off (which is super sensitive by the way, I can barely make toast and it goes off)! My husband has trained our children well, because they all yell up from the family room saying “Mom’s cooking!!”. Turns out, I hadn’t sealed the spring form pan well enough and the cake batter was steadily dripping out of the pan and burning to the bottom of the oven!

You can see the cake batter smoldering away on the bottom of the oven

UGH! I had to think quick and realized I didn’t have very many options and I definitely did not want to chuck it out and start from scratch. So, I just wrapped tinfoil around the outside of the spring-form pan tightly enough to seal up the leak, cleaned up the bottom of the oven and walked out the door.

 

I came back thirty minutes later to a perfectly baked cake! Later, that evening the famjam and I went down to the neighbor’s for a visit and share up the cake. It was delicious!

The finished product

 

 

 

Homemade Angel Food Cake – It takes patience…

For my learning project this week I decided to try something that I have never attempted to do before – make an angel food cake from scratch! Just about every grocery store had strawberries on sale and nothing is better than angel food cake, fresh strawberries and whip cream! And, as it happens I was invited back to where I used to work for a potluck lunch and so I figured that I would have some people to share the cake with!
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mmm… strawberries

The first thing I did was I started to research homemade angel food cakes on Pinterest. Quite a few recipes came up and I was thinking about making a coconut angel food or even layering the cake. But, then I figured that since I was sharing it at the potluck lunch I should just stick with the old-fashioned strawberries and whip cream recipe because it always goes over well!

The recipe I used was an adapted from the Food Network by a blogger that I found on Pinterest. The recipe required a dozen egg whites at room temperature. I separated the eggs and then saved the yolks for another recipe. Once the egg whites had come to the proper temperature I began to assemble the rest of the ingredients. First, I placed the required amount of sugar into the food processor for about two minutes to grind it down to be a bit finer and then I began to put together the flour mixture.

making the sugar fine by using a food processor

The recipe called for cake flour, which I did not have on hand and so I quickly googled how to make my own. Turns out that you can make cake flour by measuring out one cup of flour, removing 2 tablespoons of flour and then adding two tablespoons of corn starch. Easy enough! Then you need to sift the flour, salt and sugar together.

Sifting the sugar, flour and salt

Most baking recipes ask you to sift the ingredients together and I always skip this step! But, today I thought that I should probably follow the recipe since I’ve never made it before and I wanted the cake texture to be light and fluffy

The most difficult part of making this cake is using patience! This is not a cake that can be whipped up in a couple of minutes! It takes time because you have to whip the egg whites together until stiff peaks form. Then, you have to add the dry ingredients to whipped egg whites about a tablespoon at a time. So, patience is necessary when making an angel food cake from scratch!

Egg whites are beaten until stiff peaks form

As I watched my KitchenAid mixer do all the work for me I was thinking about how labor intensive making an angel food cake would have been a hundred years ago without electricity! Oh, how far we have come with technology! Which got me to thinking… when was electricity invented?

Here is the cake in the meeting room

Anyways, the angel food cake turned out perfectly. A nice golden-brown on the outside and light and fluffy in the center. Topped off with homemade whipping cream and fresh strawberries with a bit of sugar. It was a hit at the potluck lunch!

Golden brown on the outside, with a light fluffy center

Angel food cake with strawberries and whip cream

 

Banana Pudding Ice Box Cake

So, this week we were in Calgary visiting my sister’s family. Here we are in the family van, at the beginning of the seven hour trip! 

Poor Cole is already asleep! You can just barely see the top of his head!

We went to Calaway Park,  Millennium Skate Park and South West Leisure Centre. The kids had a blast riding all of the rides at Callaway Park. They also had a great time skate boarding and swimming. I think that we have three dare-devils on our hands! 

 

Me, Cole, Khloe and Ashley on the last ride of the day, Timber Falls!

Since we were going to be away I was trying to think of a cake that I could make while at my sister’s house. I wanted to make something that was not too difficult and again, I don’t like having to purchase a whole bunch of weird ingredients. I was searching around Pinterest, trying to come up with an idea of what to make and I kept coming across “Ice Box Cake” recipes. Sounds interesting right?! Since the cake I made last week was a hit, I decided to try the Banana Pudding Ice Box Cake recipe from the same blogger.

My sister had the main ingredients on hand, but I still needed to pick up a few things like whipping cream, instant banana pudding, vanilla wafers and a nine-inch spring form pan. Thankfully, my brother-in-law offered to run to the grocery store to pick up these items for me because I do not know Calgary very well and I don’t like to drive if I don’t have to! The biggest problem that I had making this cake is that we couldn’t find instant banana pudding. I think that since this blogger is from the States, she can get things down there that I cannot find up here in Canada. So, I learned that when getting a recipe from the internet to keep in mind that I may not be able to find a few ingredients. It wasn’t a biggie though because I substituted the banana pudding with vanilla and it still worked out.

Once I had everything I needed, the cake came together rather easily and quickly.

It is a layered cake and so it is a bit fussy in the sense that you have to take the time to whip everything up separately. There is a layer of pudding and sliced bananas. Next, is a layer of cream cheese and whip cream and then a layer of vanilla wafers.

In the process of layering…

Then, all you have to do is repeat the layers and place it in the freezer. This is a no-bake cake, which means that I needed to allow it to “set up” in the deep freeze for at least five hours prior to cutting into it. Once it had set, my daughter and I put the final touches on it by decorating the top with the remaining whip cream, bananas and vanilla wafers. Easy-peasy! I attempted to pipe in whipped cream, and I watched this video to see how to do it using parchment paper. It was my first attempt at piping whipped cream. Trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks!

The finished product

The cake turned out delicious! It is a very definite make again and everyone was wanting the recipe!

Such a delicious dessert!

 

Everyone loved this cake and even my brother-in-law who is not a sweets kind of guy, couldn’t get enough of this dessert!  He called me the day after we left Calgary to let me know that he had finished it all off!

All the kids lined up at Callaway Park

A decadent dessert

For my very first learning project I decided that I was going to go with a classic chocolate cake. But it couldn’t be just any regular old chocolate in a 9×13 rectangle pan. It had to be extra special if I was going to learn anything at all. After doing some google searches and looking through Pinterest I decided that I was going to go all in and attempt to make a triple layer raspberry filled chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and chocolate ganache. This cake is the mother of all chocolate cakes. On the blogpost that I found on Pinterest the picture displayed this lovely triple-tiered chocolate cake with flawless, smooth chocolate frosting and uniformly drizzled chocolate ganache topped with plump raspberries. This cake was perfection. I took a deep breath and decided to just go for it.

Other than looking delicious, I chose to make this cake because it had a blog post that was well written, with lots of pictures and also a YouTube video. The recipe that was with the blog post looked like it could easily be followed and contained ingredients that I am familiar working with – no coconut oil and almond flour here!

The first thing that I had to do was go out a grab a few groceries. I already had many of the ingredients on-hand, but I needed to pick up natural cocoa, raspberries (four pints worth!), semi-sweet chocolate chips, whipping cream and three eight-inch round cake pans.

A few of the ingredients to start off

My original plan was to make this cake on the weekend so that we could enjoy it for dessert after supper on Mother’s Day but the day got away from me and then I ran out of time. So, I ended up baking the cake on Monday and then finishing it off Tuesday morning.

Here is the cake with just chocolate icing and no other decorations yet

As I was making the cake I realized that it probably would have been a good idea to read through the whole recipe thoroughly because I was short a couple of ingredients, namely dark chocolate cocoa powder and icing sugar for the chocolate frosting. I decided that I would just use the regular cocoa powder I had already purchased for the and then I borrowed some icing sugar from my neighbour because I didn’t have time to run out to the grocery store again.

So thankful for my trusty neighbour!

Another thing that was really irritating while making the cake is that somehow my stainless-steel measuring spoons and my one-cup measuring cup have somehow disappeared. I realized that it is nothing short of a miracle when something that I bake turns out because I just don’t have all of the proper baking tools. Ugh. Anyways, what I learned is don’t procrastinate in the baking, read through the entire recipe, make sure that I have everything I need and buy some new measuring utensils!

In the end, the cake turned out pretty darn good! I took it to class on Tuesday to share with everyone and then brought the rest home for my kids. Oh, and I even ran a piece down to the neighbour who gave me her bag of icing sugar! Everyone thought it was delicious and I’m actually happy with how it turned out… even if it was a bit lop-sided!

Here is the finished product!

Let the baking begin!

After much consideration in thinking about what would be the best, most rewarding learning project for me, I have decided that for this project I will learn how to make various cakes from scratch. I have a love of baking and… well of eating that baking too. This learning project will give me an excuse to bake up some fabulous cakes and it will also give me the opportunity to share the cakes with family and friends.

 I would consider myself to be a fairly good baker. I have made cakes before although most of them are the store bought variety and have come from a  box like Betty Crocker! For this learning project I will challenge myself to make what I would consider to be professional(ish)-looking cakes. The inspiration for this project comes from my daughter since her and I have recently watched the first season of Nailed It. You can watch a video about it here. This Netflix original series is where contestants compete for $10,000.00 by re-creating the most extravagant, complicated cakes. The show is quite hilarious and we have shared many giggle-fests watching it! Even though I’m not going to go quite that far, I love the thought of challenging myself in the kitchen!

 My plan is to bake one cake a week for the remainder of the semester. I will research and plan out my cake by using Pinterest, blogs and YouTube videos for recipes/instructions and then I will post blogs and videos on my progress. Then, I hope to share whatever I create with family, friends, neighbours and colleagues as I definitely don’t want to be eating an entire cake a week on my own! That would be a lot of extra calories!

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