Friday, March 30, 2012

My First VIDEO Post: How to Frost Cupcakes Using a Large Closed Star Tip

Cupcake Collage
I dunno if I've mentioned, but P got me a fabulous present for our 5-year anniversary back in February =). Right around that time I'd been coming across some helpful videos for everything from cake decorating to distressing metal and quickly became eager to try making videos of my own. P was sweet enough to get me the equipment to get started: an easy-to-use Flip Video Camera! I will confess to having some difficulty adjusting to automatic settings...I suppose the control freak in me got spoiled by all the manual controls on my dSLR ("What do you mean I can't adjust video exposure in-camera?!?" hehe, poor P). But in all seriousness, I'm delighted to have this new "toy" to take my first steps into becoming a multi-media blogger =D.

My first foray into the world of video is this simple demonstration of 3 basic ways to frost a cupcake using a large, closed star piping tip (my favorite is Ateco #849). One of the first lessons you learn when you frost a lot of cupcakes is that bigger is almost always better when it comes to piping tips for cupcake frosting! I believe the #849 tip is the largest closed star tip that Ateco makes, or you could use the Wilton equivalent if you'd prefer.

You'll probably recognize the first technique as my "signature swirl" of sorts. As the photos in this post illustrate, I've used this swirl time and time again for cupcakes on the blog (and off). It's easy, quick, and absolutely classic -- so I really hope you'll give it a try! Sometimes we all want a little variety, though, right? That's the reason I've also included 2 alternative techniques in the video using the same closed star piping tip. The drop star (probably not its real name ;p) method is especially useful for the times I'm asked to "go light" on the frosting, and the "ruffle wiggle" method is just plain fun to do.

I hope you enjoyed my first video and are as excited as I am for the others to come! I'm looking for ideas, so please leave a comment or shoot me an email if you've a topic in mind that you'd like to see me cover. And please subscribe to my Youtube channel to be notified when I post new videos!

Cupcake Collage 2

Thursday, March 29, 2012

WANTED: The Perfect Carrot Cupcake (Round 2)

Back in November of last year, I shared with you that P's cousin K had offered me the honor of baking cupcakes for her wedding in October. I decided to start testing recipes almost a year early 'cause I'm sometimes *cough* be a bit *cough* of a procrastinator O=). While I enjoyed the simplicity of the first batch and had a LOT of fun fashioning realistic carrot toppers out of marzipan, the flavor of the cake itself didn't have quite as much OOMPH as I wanted. It was inevitable that there would be a Round 2...I did declare after all that "I [wouldn't] rest until [I'd] found the perfect carrot cupcake for K's wedding day!"

Round 1 had covered the plain and simple end of the Carrot Cake Spectrum, so the goal for Round 2 was to really explore the options when it came to add-ins and alternative prep methods. Early on I was intrigued by a unique recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook that called for steamed and pureed carrots rather than raw, shredded ones! But what I wasn't taken with were the copious amounts of sugar, oil, and sweetened coconut in the original. Being the irrepressible tweaker you should know me as, I went directly to the cutting board and I think it's accurate to say I went BIG. By the end of this surgical session, I'd cut 1/3 of the sugar, 1/2 the fat, and 1/2 the coconut along with pinches of salt and baking soda.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes (Round 2!)
Having wrapped up Round 2, I can now declare these to be The Best Carrot Cupcakes I've Ever Eaten =D. A feast of flavors from freshly mashed carrot and crushed pineapple to toasted nuts and (subtly) textured coconut. Dense and moist but absent any oily mouthfeel or excessive calories. I credit the texture in no small part to the pureed carrots, and that's not the only benefit to this unusual way of preparing them. Even if there were no benefit as to taste, I'd pick pureed carrots for my cake anyday for the time it saves me from slaving over the box grater!

It's pretty obvious I'm really taken with this recipe, right? But the funny thing with The Best anything is that there might always be an even better version out there -- and you'll never discover it unless you keep an open mind! So if anyone's convinced their mom/granddad/friend/neighbor's carrot cake is the best thing since the invention of cake, please DO shoot me a message and I may test it out! I certainly have time for Round 3 as K's wedding's not for 6 months 8).

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Favorites and New Temper Trap Single!

You may've noticed with all my recent music posts that I get pretty excited over great songs. In fact, that crazy person you see sometimes on the bus with their eyes closed and swaying and singing (silently!) along to their iPod...yea I'm one of those XD. I'd like to think of myself as having pretty distinguishing taste (ha!) so it's not often that I immediately fall head over heels for a song. I'm not joking, either, I just listened to this new single from The Temper Trap's coming album no less than TEN times in a row. For your own sanity, I hope you love it but not quite as much as me. If you enjoy this, I recommend checking out their first album, Conditions, as well as keeping tabs on their website for news about their upcoming self-titled album! Oh and before I start replaying "Rabbit Hole" again and are some food photographs I enjoyed in the last week! =)
1 PAB-Blood Oranges on Tree, Macarons Ingred
2 MarieClaireAu via Dustjacketattic-Choco Espresso Coffee Syllabubs Flakes Bar Idea
Table Setting with Pears, Persimmons, and Kohlrabi Photographs from Wayfare Magazine
3 WayfareMag-Pears Persimmons Dining Table
Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes from Crumbs and Cookies
4 CrumbsandCookies-Choco Cherry Black Forest Cupcakes Teacups Idea
5 JourneyKitchen-Winter Squash Pumpkins Sweet Potato, Outside Ingred

Sunday, March 25, 2012

November Wedding Photo Shoot with Janice Cui

Wedding Photo Shoot 1
Today it's my delight to finally be able to share a few of the gorgeous photos from a wedding photo shoot to which I contributed desserts. I'm always trying to expand my repertoire, so I jumped at this chance to make ruffled gumpaste flower cake/cupcake toppers inspired by My Cake School. Thanks to wedding photographer Janice Cui for capturing everything wonderfully (I can't get over the bokeh in that first photo of the bride, can you?) and for getting me involved with this project to begin with. All the vendors involved did a splendid job, and I encourage you to check out their sites (linked below). Hope everyone had a nice weekend!
Wedding Photo Shoot 2
Event Coordinator: Elegant Party Plans
Photographer: Janice C Photography
Flowers: J. Morris Flowers
Bridal Gown and Accessories: Layne Corban Bridal
Cake and Cupcakes: 6 Bittersweets
Hairstyle: A Cut To Dye For

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Latest Music Obsessions: Gold & Youth, D.L.I.D., and Lamb

Two recent favorites for this week's music post plus a favorite oldie from Lamb =).

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Favorites (Plus My NYC Visit)

I wasn't able to get too much baking done this week because I was up in NYC having a blast with friends, old and new. I was finally able to meet the beautiful and very talented food photographer/stylist, Melina of Licking the Plate, as well as Asha of Fork Spoon Knife. Melina and I had a great time food prop and clothing shopping, while Asha introduced me to an awesome little tea shop with a Mad Hatter theme (so fun!). I'm thankful to these wonderful ladies as well as all my older friends for helping me squeeze every drop out of my 4-day trip! I'm exhausted but so glad I went =D.

We Believe in Sherlock! (NYC in Times Square)
In case you're wondering, I'm under the "E" in "WE" ^_^
Speaking of getting every drop's worth out of the trip, my very last was to get together with dozens of Sherlock (both the books and BBC show) fans for a delicious Irish brunch, drinks, trivia, and photo shoot on Sunday! Thanks, Sherlock NYC for hosting an amazing get-together! We even got to meet some experts in the subject, lovely ladies who'd created their own Sherlock society in the 1960s when the foremost organization of the time, the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) refused to accept women. Their society, The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, is active to this day, and their members were eventually invited into BSI (it took 25 years!!). Anyway, sorry to geek out on you so much, but I thought it was interesting to learn how women's equality played out in such a specific arena. Fortunately, these days, fans of all ages, ethnicities, and sexes can share in our love of Doyle's timeless stories! It's always great to meet others who understand your passions, whether they be food, photography, or great detective stories!

1 Appledrane-Thai Carrot, Green Papaya Salad Propwish Peeler Pewter Juicer
Celtic-inspired Wedding Cake via Elizabeth Anne Designs
2 ElizabethAnneDesigns-Celtic Wedding Cake Idea
3 DolceVita-Tri-Color Farfalle Bowtie Spinach Feta Pasta Salad
Eggs and Herb Frittata Photographs styled by Dietlind Wolf
4 Dietlind Wolf-Eggs Ingred, Omelette Frittata

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Latest Music Obsessions: Bonobo, BBC Sherlock Series 2 OST, and Despicable Me 2 Trailer

As long as I feel like even 1 person is being introduced to music through my blog, I'll keep these posts going. Hope you hear something you like =D.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday Favorites

Spring is definitely on its way to my part of the world, and I think you can spot the influence of the recent gorgeous turn of weather on this week's picks. Hope you find them as inspiring as I do! In fact, I'm tempted to make the pesto shrimp toast right this second!

Toast with Pesto, Shrimp, and Garlic from Everything Fabulous
1 EverythingFabulous-Pesto Spread Dip Toast Bruschetta Shrimp Garlic
Crushed Raspberry Cocktail from Three to One
2 ThreetoOne-Crushed Raspberry Cocktail Idea Propwish
3 Ruffled-Wedding Macarons Metal Wire Cake Stand Birdcage Idea Propwish
Cheddar-Herb Biscuits from Hungry Cravings
4 HungryCravings-Cheese Chive Biscuits Handheld Idea

Sunday, March 11, 2012

St. Patrick's Day Recipe Round-up

As you probably know already, St. Patrick's Day is coming up on the 17th. Not only do I love this holiday because the "P" in...well...P stands for Patrick, but also because it's a lovely, once-yearly excuse to celebrate all things green and/or Irish (including their whiskey =p). For any of you in search of drinks or desserts for Saturday's festivities, here's my handy dandy round-up of St. Paddy's Day-friendly recipes here on 6 Bittersweets. Have fun and be safe this weekend, my friends!

Homemade Irish Cream
Birthday Dessert Table
Thin Mint Shamrock Cupcakes
Fudgetastic (Happy Holidays =D)
5. Homemade Coffee Liqueur and Black Russian Chocolate Kahlua Cake
***This one's just in here 'cause of reasons booze O=)
Black Russian Kahlua Vodka Cake
Mojito Cupcakes

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Rediscovering "Booze Cake" (Black Russian Bundt Cake with Homemade Kahlua)

Phew, I've done it -- I've jumped back onto the blog-wagon! maybe it's a bit premature to celebrate when it's my first recipe post in weeks. But I'm the kind of writer who considers the first page the hardest. So let's just say I have good reason to expect smoother sailing from here on out 8).

Part of the delay lay in the history behind this unassuming cake. It was, in fact, the first cake I fell in love with. We met freshman year of college, when my roommate brought her mom's famous "booze cake" back to our dorm. Dense and unbelievably moist, every bite of it brought a warm kick of coffee liqueur against a milder backdrop of chocolate. It was pure heaven. But alas, this was before I started baking, blogging, or even drinking alcohol [legally at least *cough* haha], so I didn't think to ask for the recipe.

Seven (yes, seven) years and countless Google searches for "booze cake" later, I asked my friend on a whim if her mom still had the recipe. Within a few days, there it was! Just sitting in my inbox (like magic)! I suppose that was my rather drawn-out lesson that I should just try to ask when I really want something ^_^.

My work wasn't done yet, though. It turned out that the (ultimately not that) elusive "booze cake," better known online as "Black Russian Cake," required not only a lot of the "good stuff" (i.e., coffee liqueur and vodka), but also cake mix and instant pudding mix. It's a personal commitment of mine to make my desserts from scratch whenever possible. Thus, with the virtual guidance of like-minded bakers, I successfully reverse-engineered a from-scratch version of my First (Cake) Love. I hope you'll find it as unforgettable as I did!

Black Russian Chocolate Kahlua Cake (From Scratch!) [Printable Recipe]
Cake adapted from Rum Cake from Always Order Dessert

XIAOLU'S NOTES: I actually made a 1/2 batch of this recipe using an 8-inch wide Bundt pan. Aside from halving all the ingredients, the only change I made was to reduce the baking time to 35 to 45 minutes, or just until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out mostly clean (a few moist crumbs are fine).

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/3 cup dry milk powder
6 Tbsp Dutch-process (dark) cocoa powder
Scant 1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup PLUS 2 Tbsp canola OR vegetable oil
3/4 cup milk [NOT skim]
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup vodka
1/3 cup coffee-flavored liqueur (such as Kahlua OR Homemade Recipe below)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp water
6 Tbsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp coffee-flavored liqueur (such as Kahlua OR Homemade Recipe below)
***you can use up to 1/2 cup liqueur if you like your booze cakes to be well-soaked
Sifted powdered sugar, to garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 10 to 15-cup Bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder; set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, dry milk powder, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and white sugar. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla to the dry ingredients and beat with an electric mixer on medium the batter is smooth and uniform. Add the eggs, and continue beating until well incorporated (no more than 1 minute). Finally, add the vodka and coffee liqueur, then mix until evenly combined.

Pour into the prepared Bundt pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 25 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack. Let cool for 30 more minutes.

While the cake cools, wash and thoroughly dry the Bundt pan then prepare the syrup. In a large saucepan with high sides, combine the butter, water, granulated sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter completely melts and the sugar dissolves. Let reduce slightly, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t boil over. Remove from the heat and stir in the coffee liqueur (it may bubble).

Quickly place the clean pan over the cool cake and invert the cake back into the pan. While the syrup is still warm, poke holes across the top of the cake with a toothpick or fork and brush/pour the syrup evenly over the cake. Let soak for at least 4 hours (ideally, overnight), then invert the cake back onto a serving platter, sift powdered sugar on top (if desired), and dig in! Keeps covered for about 1 week at room temperature.

Homemade Coffee Liqueur
Adapted from Liv Life
Makes about 5 1/2 cups

2 cups water
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp molasses
3/4 cup instant coffee OR espresso powder
1 split vanilla bean OR 2 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups good quality vodka

Stir water, sugar, molasses, and coffee powder together in a medium to large saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the sugar and instant coffee powder dissolve completely. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, being careful to stir as it’s cooling to avoid crystallization of the sugar. Add vanilla and vodka. If you notice any grains of undissolved sugar, you can strain them out using a fine-mesh strainer. Bottle and cap tightly, then store in a cool, dry place. If using the vanilla bean, allow the liqueur to develop for 3 to 5 weeks, then strain out the bean, re-bottle, and enjoy straight or in recipes calling for coffee liqueurs such as Kahlua. If using vanilla extract, let the liqueur rest for at least 1 full day to allow the flavors to meld before drinking.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Latest Music Obsessions: Matt Corby, Of Monsters and Men, and Lana Del Rey/Nas Mash-up

Just another 3 of my latest music discoveries. Happy Hump Day! As Arthur Shappey would say, hope your week's been BRILLIANT so far! My spring break starts tomorrow, and I can't wait to visit my best friend in NYC next week =D. And don't forget to check back later this week for a really delectable cake I'll be posting!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Favorites!

OK my lovelies, I'm really committing myself to getting back on the blog-wagon this week. I'm tellin' ya! I will For Sure post a cake this Wednesday week (realized I have to visit my mom who recently injured her foot) and I want y'all to Hold Me To It!...please... Hehe I know the idea of putting out 3 posts in just one week will take a while to adjust to. But really, there's no need to fret over me. I'm young yet! But just as a precautionary measure, I'll be sure to stay hydrated, nap often, and overall accomplish nothing useful at all between posts =p. In the meantime I hope you enjoy these favorite food photos of the week. And don't miss my friend Nami's tutorial for making her showstopping Chirashi Sushi Cake!

1 Helena Llunggren-Salad with Soft-boiled Eggs Honey Dijon Mustard Dressing
Chocolate Cupcakes from The Sophisticated Gourmet
2 SophisticatedGourmet-Chocolate Cupcakes Handheld Frosting Idea
3 Bayaderka-Creamy Leek Potato Pureed Green Soup Chair Silverware Propwish
Spicy Peas Curry from Love Food Eat
4 LoveFoodEat-Spicy Peas Indian Curry Kadai

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Guest Post: Chirashi Sushi Cake and Temari Sushi

I love guest posts because they allow me to share a wide variety of cuisines with you guys that I'm not personally knowledgeable about as well as to introduce a wonderful array bloggers to you. Japanese cuisine is high on my list of favorites for its fresh ingredients, pure flavors, the elegance of its presentation. I'm especially fond of it because P adores it. After spending a year in Hokkaido teaching English to Japanese students, he simply couldn't get enough of Japanese dishes ranging from ramen noodles (the real kind!) to curry to sushi. I've given the other dishes a stab but haven't yet found the courage to try homemade sushi.

Luckily I was able to enlist my sweet friend and Japanese food blogger, Nami of Just One Cookbook, to show us how it's done. If you ever seen her work, you already know that her posts are bound to tantalize your senses, from vibrant photos to carefully detailed instructions to help you replicate the mouth-watering results. She's truly outdone herself with this knockout
Chirashi Sushi Cake. I gasped when I first saw it and I bet you'll follow suit. Please read on for all the delectable details from Nami!

Quick & Easy Chirashi Sushi
Hello everyone! My name is Nami and I share quick and easy Japanese home cook meals at Just One Cookbook. I was really honored when Xiaolu invited me to guest post because I’ve been a big fan of her beautiful blog ever since I found it.

This past Saturday was a special day for young girls in Japan. Every March 3rd the Japanese celebrate The Doll Festival called Hinamatsuri. For the festival many families with daughters display colorful Hina Ningyo, a set of the traditional Emperor and Empress dolls dressed in kimono, and celebrate this day to pray for the girls’ growth and happiness. Chirashi Sushi is often cooked on this day as a part of feast.

Chirashi Sushi Cake for 6bittersweets
Chirashi Sushi literally means “scattered sushi” and is served in Japanese restaurants. Each region in Japan serves a slightly different version of Chirashi Sushi with different ingredients and toppings, with most having various types of sashimi over sushi rice in a bowl. Since it’s very easy to make, it’s also the most common sushi made at home. Today I used Chirashi Sushi Mix (see below), which contains precooked lotus root, carrot, dried gourd strip, bamboo shoot, and shiitake mushroom seasoned with sweet vinegar.

Chirashi Sushi Mix
I usually serve Chirashi Sushi in a bowl (see above), but this year I made it a little more special for my soon-to-be 4 year old daughter who loves anything pretty (who doesn’t?). I made a sushi cake out of Chirashi Sushi thanks to my Japanese mommy friend who gave me this idea, and with leftover ingredients I made Temari Sushi using thin egg crepes (see my other examples of Temari Sushi here).

Chirashi Sushi Cake for 6bittersweets III
I am not much of a baker but this sushi cake was very easy to make. My daughter and I had a wonderful time making it and it was delicious! Thank you Xiaolu for inviting me today. Now everyone, let’s get ready to cook!