Sprinkled Chocolate Party Spoons

Chocolate Party Spoons via Sweetapolita

Admit it: you are even just a little bit happier in the presence of sprinkles. Right? Me too. Add pink spoons, jelly beans and good chocolate to the mix, and that’s my kind of party. What are they? Well, nothing more than a fanciful spoonful of delight that you eat straight from the spoon. They’re perfect for birthday parties, party favours or Tuesday afternoons. Now, I didn’t invent the chocolate party spoon, but wo-man, I sure wish I did. Honestly, why didn’t I think of that? I spotted the idea for these spoonfuls of happiness a few months ago, when Melissa shared them after seeing them on a really neat blog called Delicious Delicious Delicious. Mr. P explains that he saw them a in a baking book in Toyko, and that he had to give it a try. Even if it gave it my all, I could never resist giving these a go–they are just way too easy, too yummy and too awesome. I’m going to be making a heap of these for an upcoming February dinner party we’re attending, so I thought the girls and I could make a few yesterday, just to see how much time they take and to test them out.

These were one of the quickest but most rewarding treats I have ever made, rivaling even this sprinkled goodness, which I didn’t think possible, and talk about yummy, sprinkle-induced joy. The girls and I made a bunch of these yesterday (Note: If you want to infuse some happiness into the lives of 2 and 4-year old girls, tell them on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon that you’re pulling out every sprinkle and wee confection you own so that they can toss them onto warm, melted milk chocolate sitting in a delicious pool on a Barbie-pink spoon.) and brought them to dinner with a few close friends and their kids. Everybody wins!

Chocolate Party Spoons via Sweetapolita
So on a whim I snapped a few quick photos, and decided to share these little beauties with you (staying true to my spread-the-sprinkle-love gospel). There are really only 3 steps to happiness: melting your favourite chocolate (white, milk, dark, extra dark), spooning it into the plastic spoon of your choice (to keep it level, you can rest the spoon handles on a book or, if you’re doing a bunch of them, you can even rest them on the rubber spatulas you’ve laid out on a cookie sheet), and tossing in your favourite sprinkles, jelly beans (I used Birthday Cake Jelly Beans, among others), dragees, or pretty much anything small enough to fit in the spoon. I say, sprinkle spoons for everyone!

I love the visual, of course, but I also love the texture. Every bite is different and no two party spoons are the same!

Sprinkled Chocolate Party Spoons

Yield: 24 chocolate spoons

Ingredients

  • 6 oz. (180 g) quality chocolate (milk, dark, white--anything!), chopped
  • sprinkles, jelly beans, confetti quins, small chocolate candies, or any other small confection
  • You will Also Need:
  • 24 coloured plastic spoons
  • cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  • some spatulas (or a book) for resting party spoons while filling

Instructions

  1. Place your plastic spoons on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, resting the spoon handles on a rubber spatula or book, to level them out while filling.
  2. Temper your chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave (or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove), by warming for 20 second intervals and stirring in between. When the chocolate is almost (80%) completely melted, remove from the microwave and keep stirring until the last few pieces are completely melted and the chocolate is smooth.
  3. Spoon melted chocolate into your plastic spoons, about 80% full (the sprinkles and candies will fill the rest)--any more than that, and they will likely overflow (trust me, it happened to me).
  4. Add your sprinkles, candies and more. Place cookie sheet in the freezer or refrigerator for about 20 minutes to set.
http://sweetapolita.com/2012/01/sprinkled-chocolate-party-spoons/

Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • If you choose to add any chocolate bits to the melted chocolate spoons, be sure to wait a few moments for the chocolate to cool in the spoon, so your chocolate additions don’t melt.
  • When adding jelly beans, wait a few moments for the chocolate to start to set, so they don’t sink.
  • I recommend using a good quality chocolate–nothing crazy expensive, but just something that tastes great.
  • Use any colour spoon to tie into any party theme or idea.
  • Get adventurous with the sprinkles and candy you add–anything goes!
  • Spoon in the melted chocolate and then let kids do the rest. A perfect birthday party (or even rainy day) activity!

Good luck & enjoy!

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How to Make a Fondant Asparagus Cake {a Tutorial}

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

This post makes me giggle. Well, not the actual post, since I haven’t written it yet, but the fact that I am still inflicting innocent and unsuspecting passersby with what seems to be the endless life of the Asparagus Cake–the trompe l’oeil cake I made as, really, just a joke for Grant’s sister, Mary, or as we call her, Mar. When I initially shared this crazy cake idea back when I first started this blog just over a year ago, and then again when I recreated and revisited it (above) this past May, I never really expected that anyone else would want (or have a good reason) to make this cake themselves, which is why I didn’t include tutorials in either of those posts. Then, something unexpected happened: I began getting emails from readers asking me for a tutorial and explaining that they indeed have the perfect reason to make this cake. This makes me very happy! I love that some of you actually have reasons to make one, and that some of you simply want to. Yep, I kind of love that. Long live Asparagus Cakes!

Just to recap on why I made this cake the first time, Mar had been training for a fitness competition for many months prior to her show in November, and this poor foodie, fellow lover-of-sweet had been eating more asparagus than one could even fathom. She’s amazing, though, and stayed more focused and disciplined than most of us (and by most of us, I mean me) could even dream of, so the girl earned herself some serious post-show cake. So, for fun, during her training months we would chat about all of the delicious things she couldn’t wait to eat after the show, and more specifically at our house the next day for a celebratory lunch. When I asked her what she wanted for dessert, she said “I’d love something with chocolate cake and vanilla buttercream, but other than that, whatever you think!” So, my first thought was something pink and girly, you know, a real show-stopping dessert for a fitness queen, but then it dawned on me: Asparagus! It simply could be no other way and, if you know me, you know that nothing was going to stop me from making this happen. It just made too much sense, and I love a challenge. I was so excited with the way it turned out, and it was actually a little easier than I expected.

The real asparagus I referred to while making this cake–this photo is not fondant asparagus, and I promise I would not put this real asparagus, or any other real asparagus, onto a cake!

Referring to actual asparagus (above) was the most important step in the process of creating this cake. I learned a few things the first time around and made some notes on what I would do the next time to improve it. My main issue with the first one was that I felt the spears still looked a bit too green, even though I did add hints of red, because if you look, I mean really look, at real raw asparagus, they are filled with some neat red and many purple tones. Since I wanted them to look as realistic as possible, I knew that they had to look raw, because cooked asparagus takes on that bright green colour, and well, cooked asparagus wouldn’t be presented in a bunch–it was definitely about the details. Life is in the details!

I think the key to making this cake look hyper-realistic, aside from the rolling and snipping, is the shading, which I achieved by brushing on a few different petal dust colours (those typically used to create very realistic sugar flowers) once the “asparagus” were dry–that is when this cake came to life. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that, when I took that photo, I’d shaded the full spears but not the tips yet–do you see the dimension that gives? I think had I gone with the straight green and undusted asparagus on the cake, it would have looked like a neat cake that looks like a bundle of asparagus. By shading it all, it took it to looking much like an actual bundle of asparagus, which is what you want if you’re looking to wow some folks. I’ll tell you a secret: I continue to get very passionate emails from people who believe this cake is a farce, and who swear I have manipulated it, or the photos, in some way. They can’t believe that it’s not real asparagus and are so angry with me for trying to get away with Asparagus Cake fraud (who knew that was a thing?) that they send me hate mail. Can you imagine? I swear this to be true. So, I suppose the moral of the story here is that, if you want to make people really angry and get Asparagus Cake fraud hate mail too, you really better shade those spears!

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

So, believe it or not, this cake is not difficult to make, and it’s a very simple process, albeit time consuming. Essentially, your making fondant asparagus and attaching them to the outside of a green cake, followed by covering the top of the cake with small 2″ fondant asparagus tips that fill in every inch of exposed cake on top. Once all of the spears and tips are on the cake, you will see it magically transform into a life-like bundle of asparagus. The finishing touch, for both function and form, is the ribbon–it holds the asparagus in place while they are setting on the cake (and while displayed), and it also mimics the string or elastic that typically ties real life bunches together.

If time is on your side, I recommend making your fondant asparagus over the course of days or even weeks, to break it up. Once made, you can keep them in a dry open-air spot, out of the sun, indefinitely. If you are creating the entire cake all at once, you would let the asparagus dry overnight, if possible, and then you would dust to shade them, and assemble. I covered my buttercream covered cake with green fondant, but you can also skip this step by colouring your buttercream green and simply pressing the asparagus straight onto the cake–this may even be easier, but I have yet to do it this way. Since wet fondant becomes a glue of sorts, attaching the asparagus to your fondant-covered cake does work. One thing I would do differently next time would be taper the tops of the full stalks a little less, so that there is no under-cake showing through. I think the slightly tapered top is important, but just a bit less would have been perfect.

A note about your choice of fondant for this cake: When I made this the second time (above), I used my favourite brand of fondant, Satin Ice. One of the reasons I normally love Satin Ice brand the best is because it dries the most porcelain-like on my cakes, but in this instance, for the fondant asparagus, I would have preferred them to be a little less porcelain like, as they were the first time I made the cake. I found they were so firm with the Satin Ice that they didn’t adhere to the cake as well as the first time I made the cake. So, in this case, I would recommend using any other brand for this project, as every other brand I’ve tried is softer, even when dry. This also makes slicing the cake a bit easier–that coupled with the fact that Satin Ice is the most $$, it’s just a great idea to avoid it for this cake.

Fondant Asparagus Cake via Sweetapolita

What you do on the inside of the cake is totally up to you, of course, but I personally feel that a rich dark chocolate cake, paired with vanilla buttercream offers a pleasing contrast for all of that green. And, as always, splitting your layers to create a 6 or even 8-layer cake will add even more drama to an already dramatic cake. This cake is just too much fun to not make. If you have someone in your life, like Mar, who is an asparagus-eating king or queen, then it just makes good sense.

A few more reasons for when to make this cake and have it make even a little bit of sense (Sweetapolita *chanting* let’s make, let’s make, let’s make an asparagus cake!):

  • For someone who simply takes healthy eating very seriously
  • For someone who just happens to love asparagus
  • Fitness enthusiasts
  • For kids! This is a hilarious joke to play on a kid who isn’t quite as passionate about vegetables as they are about cake–birthday or not
  • A garden party
  • For anyone who works with veggies for a living: chef, farmer, grocer
  • For those who love to garden
  • For a quirky wedding, garden wedding or groom’s cake (I almost cried when I saw this wedding online–oh, how perfect this cake would have been for them and their perfectly quirky wedding)
  • Just because!

So, now that we have many reasons to run to the kitchen and whip up this asparagus confection, let me explain how we do it. This may look like a lot of steps, but honestly, this cake isn’t about complexity, it’s about time. Sweet, precious time. Simply put, it takes a lot of it (how much time depends on how fast you work, of course), but it is pretty straightforward, and it’s worth it.

Here we go (and wheee!):

How to Make an Asparagus Cake         {click to print}

You will need:

  • a round layer cake–~4-5″ high and diameter up to you (the one in photo was 8″ round) either covered in green fondant (~1 lb + 12 oz) or green buttercream
  • fondant for asparagus (this depends on the size of your cake, but ~1.5 lbs–I recommend having an extra lb or more, just in case)
  • gel colours: AmeriColor Leaf Green, Sugarflair Gooseberry
  • petal dust colours: Foliage Green or Moss Green Petal Dust, African Violet Petal Dust, Flame Red Petal Dust
  • fondant work mat (I use Ateco 24 x 36 Inch Fondant Work Mat for all of my fondant work and more), optional
  • a small sharp knife
  • 3 wire racks or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
  • pair of small scissors (such as manicure scissors you designate for food)
  • 3 small-medium paint brushes for dusting colour, 1 medium-large brush for water
  • ribbon of choice
  • cornstarch or icing sugar for dusting work surface (if not using fondant work mat)

Method

Make your fondant asparagus (you can make these as far in advance as you wish):

  1. Colour your fondant 3 shades of green using the AmeriColor Leaf Green & Sugarflair Gooseberry. Make 1/3  of your fondant 50/50, then make two additional shades: 1 with the slightest bit more Leaf Green and the final with the slightest bit more Gooseberry. Keep all your 3 shades of green fondant well-sealed (I use medium plastic seal bags) while not in use, and only work with small amounts at once.
  2. Removing only a golf-ball-sized bit of fondant from the bag, soften it by working it in your hands for a moment, and then, on a fondant work mat or clean countertop, roll into a long, even rope, about 1/2″ thick or so, using your hands or a cookie sheet (this creates a very even rope) in a back-and-forth rolling motion. *If your fondant sticks to your countertop, use a light dusting of icing sugar or cornstarch. If you use a fondant mat, you won’t have this issue.
  3. Cut into 5″ long pieces (you should get 3 or so per rope) and cut remaining “rope” into 2″ pieces. Using the palm of your hand, roll “neck’ of each piece gently, so that it tapers a small bit and then do the same to the very tip, so it becomes slightly pointed. Don’t worry if they aren’t all the exact same length, as we’ll be trimming them a bit before putting them on the cake.
  4. Working quickly, and while keeping the pieces on the counter, make many tiny snips the tapered ends of each piece and sporadically along the stalks. *Be sure to not actually cut the flaps of fondant off when using the scissors, as you want the little “triangle” flaps to pull away from the spear, but not come off. So now you have your first spears and tips (woohoo!). Now, simply repeat a few hundred times. Kidding! Sort of. Set each one on a wire rack or parchment-lined cookie sheet (they simply dry faster on rack, but if you are doing ahead of time, use cookie sheets as they are easy to move around) to dry. The quantity needed depends on the diameter of you cake and how thick you rolled your asparagus stalks. I believe I used about 75 full spears (for the outside of the cake) and ~400 tips to fill the center. Let dry overnight (or up to weeks in advance) in a cool, dry place–exposed to air.
  5. Using small dry paintbrushes, generously dust each spear with green dust at the tip and randomly over stalk (where you snipped), then with hints of African Violet and Flame Red. *Refer to your real bunch of asparagus as much as possible. You will be adding a final round of dust after the cake has been assembled, so you don’t need to go overboard with the dusting.
  6. Pat yourself on the back and celebrate with a fancy beverage of some kind, because the worst, my friends, is over–you have just made hundreds of fondant asparagus + tips!

Assemble the Asparagus Cake:

  1. Cover your cake in either green vanilla buttercream or vanilla buttercream covered with green fondant. *I used green fondant that I coloured white fondant using leaf green to gooseberry green 50/50. Don’t stress too much about your fondant or buttercream job being perfect, because not one inch of this part of the cake will be visible, but do your best to start with a fairly smooth and even surface. Place cake on the plate or pedestal you plan to serve it on, and chill cake for 30 minutes, or so.
  2. If you finished your cake with green vanilla buttercream, that will essentially be your glue–you can go ahead and places your full spears, one by one, directly around the cake, as close together as possible. You may want to trim the bottom of certain spears before sticking them to the cake, to ensure they all sit at the same height–you want your spears to sit about 2″ above the top of your cake (see photo). If you finished your cake with green fondant, you will use a medium-large paint brush or pastry brush and wet sections of the cake before gently pressing the asparagus to the sides–the wet fondant is your glue. You may have to hold each one or few for a moment until it sticks, or tie a ribbon around the outside of the spears and cake to set (see photo).
  3. Once you have placed spears all the way around the perimeter of the cake, tie the ribbon firmly around the cake to help them set.
  4. You will now place the tips tightly together on the top of the cake, one by one. Remember that you don’t want any of the under-cake exposed, as this is what makes it look so real. Fill every inch you can with the tips, trimming the bottoms before placing on the cake, if necessary (you want them to be as close to the same height as possible).
  5. Add any last shading with your petal dusts to enhance the tips, bases and spots where you snipped.
  6. Voila! Now, please, have another fancy beverage and piece of cake to celebrate (Asparagus Cake, anyone?). You did it!

Sweetapolita’s Notes for a successful Asparagus Cake:

  • Use real asparagus as your guide–this was key for me. Had I gone by memory, I never would have thought to include red and purple shading, which I think makes it.
  • Make all of the spears fairly consistent (in terms of length and diameter), but each one should be slightly different (shading, snips, etc)–think organic shapes and colours–not overly engineered.
  • Sugarflair Gooseberry green gel is the best I’ve found for a realistic green shade of base fondant. If you can’t find this, try adding a tiny bit of black to your Leaf Green colour gel, or experiment with mixing different shades of green.
  • Shading, shading, shading–this gives the cake that real trompe l’oeil dimension that freaks people out (hehe).

Love Asparagus? Check out these lovely handmade asparagus finds:

Good luck, enjoy & Happy Asparagus Cake Day (not really, but imagine if I had the power to create such a thing?)!

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Bring Me Flours

Bring Me Flours via Sweetapolita

The funniest thing happened this week: I received over a dozen emails in the course of a few days (and many before that) asking me about cake flour–what it really is, if there are any substitutions, what flour I use, and more. So, even though I have a pretty delectable cake waiting to be eaten photographed, I thought now would be a good time to shed some light on flour in general, or at least some of the more common baking flours that you will come across on my blog. Since flour is likely the most commonly used ingredient in baking and flour mishaps (too much, using the wrong type, etc) are more common than one could even imagine, the topic is too important to neglect.  I won’t be getting highly scientific, but I would love to share what I know in hopes to answer some of the more frequently asked flour questions I receive. Since there is a lot to this topic, this post will likely be the first of many parts, but, for now, let’s get to it and talk flour:

 

What the heck is flour?

Simply put, flour is a powder made from finely grounded and sifted meal of different grains, nuts and more, with the most common being wheat. Flour is an important ingredient in baking, as it provides the structure and volume we need for successful baked goods; absorbs the liquid ingredients we add to a recipe; and adds flavour, nutrients and some colour to our baked goods. There are several dozen types of flour out there, but the most widely used is wheat flour.

 

What are the most commonly used flours in baking?

When reading different baking recipes, you will most often come across these types of flour (they are also the variations you will typically find here on my blog):

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Cake Flour or Cake & Pastry Flour
  • Bread Flour
  • Self-Rising Flour

 

What are the main differences between these types of flour?

Different flours contain varying quantities of protein and gluten (typically, the more protein the flour has, the more gluten it has), which aide in giving baked goods elasticity and volume. So, the higher the protein content, the harder the flour (and ideal for breads and such), and the lower the protein content, the softer the flour (best for certain cakes and cookies).

When talking flour, we refer to the protein content in percentage, with cake flour having the lowest % of protein, bread flour having the highest % of protein (from the types mentioned above), and all-purpose sitting in between. This is because, typically we want more elasticity, or “chewiness” in things like bread and rolls and the least in our cakes and pastries, as we want those to be tender and more delicate. All-purpose flour (as the name suggests) is suitable for a broader range of baked goods such as some breads, cookies, bars, some cakes, etc. with protein levels that are in between cake and bread flour. Just to confuse us all, you’ll notice that Canadian flour protein is higher than in American flour, yet our flour still bakes up light and fluffy baked goods. I hope to solve that mystery at some point, but for now, here’s what I know about each type:

Cake Flour

  • A soft wheat flour also referred to (in Canada) as Cake & Pastry Flour (there is also “Pastry Flour”, which is different)
  • Not as readily available (such as in the UK, Australia)
  • Protein content usually between 6.5-8% in the U.S. and 8-10% in Canada
  • It is typically bleached to heighten baking performance and to lighten its natural ivory tone, which helps create a desirable white cake or biscuit
  • Ideal for high-ratio cake recipes (where there is more sugar and liquid than flour in a recipe)–the chlorinated cake flour helps absorb the additional liquid ingredients that would, without the chlorination, be too much for such a low protein flour to absorb, but that are necessary for a moist and tender cake using so much sugar
  • Gives baked goods a tender crumble and minimal stretch

All-Purpose Flour:

  • Also referred to as “flour” or “plain flour”
  • Most often a blend of both hard and soft wheat flours (in Canada about 80% hard, 20% soft)
  • Protein content usually between 9-12% in the U.S. and 13.3% in Canada
  • Most commonly used and readily available flour for baking
  • Available in bleached and unbleached form (and are interchangeable, however bleached will have slightly lower protein %)
  • Ideal for many cakes, cookies, muffins, biscuits and more (with such high protein content in Canadian all-purpose flour it’s even suitable for bread)

Bread Flour:

  • Also referred to as “strong” flour
  • Made from hard wheat
  • Used for baked goods that require strong gluten formation and good rise
  • Protein content typically 11-12.7% in the U.S. and 12.5-14+% in Canada
  • Available in white, whole wheat, organic, specific for bread machine baking and more
  • Available in bleached and unbleached form
  • Ideal for breads of all kinds, pizza and more

Self-Rising Flour

  • Also referred to as “self-raising flour”
  • Two types: self-rising flour and self-rising cake flour
  • Cake or all-purpose flour that has baking powder and salt added and premixed for baker’s convenience
  • Not as readily available (many countries don’t have access to this)
  • Self-rising cake flour typically made up of 1 cup cake flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Self-rising flour typically made up of 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Ideal for muffins, scones and more, but I tend to avoid using it whenever possible–it’s hard to find and I like to control the salt and baking powder in recipes

 

Ooh, flour protein content? How fun! How can I determine the protein content of the flour I buy?

The easiest way to do this is to refer to the nutritional label on the bag of flour, or on the flour company’s website. Take the protein in grams and divide it into the serving size on the label, and you have your flour’s protein content in %. You’ll see below that the protein on this Robin Hood All-Purpose Flour is listed as 4 grams per 30 gram serving. 4 / 30 = 13.3%, but it is said that companies are able to round up on their labels, so it’s likely that the more accurate protein % is slightly less.

source: robinhood.ca

 

But I don’t want to stock up on 4 types of flour–are they interchangeable in a recipe?

I definitely don’t recommend switching up the flour type that is called for in a recipe, as you will likely be disappointed with the result (think tough cake or crumbly cookies). The only substitution I would feel comfortable making would be using all-purpose flour in place of bread flour, if necessary, but not vice-versa. See, all-purpose flour (particulary Canadian high protein all-purpose flour that has even more protein than some American bread flour) has enough protein to work just fine in some bread-type recipes, but the results may not be as ideal as if you used the called-for bread flour. However, if you used bread flour (which, again, has the most protein) in place of all-purpose flour for, say, a cookie recipe, then you may end up with a very unpleasing and chewy cookie. The good news, though, is that there are a few ways you can make some flour substitutions in a pinch:

  • To make your own cake flour — for every needed cup of cake flour, measure 1 cup of bleached all-purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons from that cup (some bakers prefer to replace those 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons cornstarch, but I choose not to), so 1 cup bleached all-purpose flour minus 2 tablespoons = 1 cup of cake flour
  • To make your own self-rising cake flour (as mentioned above) —  mix together 1 cup cake flour + 1 1/2 teaspoon + baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt for every cup needed (source: here)
  • To make your own self-rising flour —  mix together 1 cup all-purpose flour + 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder + 1/2 teaspoon salt for every cup needed (source: here)

 

What is the best way to measure flour needed for a recipe?

Well, you probably know what I’m going to say, right? Measuring by weight is by far my first choice, and I think weighing flour is possibly the most important of all ingredients. It’s not always possible, though, if you’re following a recipe that is only written by volume (although you can always convert to weight), or if you don’t have a digital scale. So when weighing your flour isn’t an option, I recommend the “spoon-and-sweep” method of measuring (below). Because flour naturally compacts in the bag or canister, it is so important that you don’t just scoop it up from its compact form and measure it that way–a recipe made with even a hint too much flour can be tough or even fail.

Spoon-and-sweep method: Start by aerating the flour in your canister or bag by moving a knife around and loosening it up a bit. Then, using a spoon or scoop, place spoonfuls of flour into your measuring cup, until it’s overfull, then level it using your finger or the back of a knife. *Never give in to the urge to pack it in or tap it down. For a photo-look at this method, my talented friend, Annalise, has covered this on her blog in the past (here).

 

Do I really need to sift my flour?

When I weigh flour for a recipe (which is 99.9% of the time), I don’t sift my all-purpose flour (unless the recipe says specifically to sift), but I do sift my cake flour. This is mostly because the soft texture of cake flour tends to clump up. I do, though, always aerate my flour, regardless of type, by whisking for a few moments (usually with other dry ingredients) before incorporating it into any wet ingredients (either with a fork or whisk). Since I am a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s (baker supreme and author of The Cake Bible, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes and more) reverse creaming method (starting with the dry ingredients in the mixer), I simply run the dry ingredients in the mixer for about 20-30 seconds before I add any of the other ingredients.

As Rose explains, if a recipe calls for “1 cup cake flour, sifted” then you would measure your cup of cake flour, and then you would sift it. If a recipe calls for “1 cup of sifted cake flour,” then you would set your cup (cup for dry measure) on your counter and sift the cake flour into your measuring cup until it mounds over, then level it off with knife.

 

How much does flour weigh?

Every type of flour has a different structure and, therefore different weight. The truth is, you will likely find many different numbers out there if you google search flour weights, but here is what I go by, after measuring and weighing each type on my scale. Note that my cup weights (before sifting) are after using the above spoon-and-sweep method for filling my cup. *Note: When I dipped the measuring cup straight into the compacted flour, leveled it off and weighed it, I ended up with about 15% more flour than I when used the proper spoon-and-sweep method, so imagine how that can affect your baked goods, and not for the better (dry cake, anyone?).

*Note: I use a US cup of 237 mL

All-Purpose Flour  

1 cup = 125 grams (4.5 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 115 grams (4 ounces)

Cake Flour

1 cup = 115 grams (4 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 100 grams (3.5 ounces)

Bread Flour

1 cup = 130 grams (4.5 ounces)

1 cup sifted = 121 grams (4.25 ounces)

 

What is the best way to store flour?

All of the flours listed should keep well tightly closed in a cool, dry place (such as a pantry) for, ideally, no more than 6-8 months. If kept in the refrigerator, you can extend the shelf life to 12 months. You can even store flour in an airtight container in the freezer for 12+ months, however, due to the baking powder in self-rising flour, I would likely try to use that before 6-8 months, to ensure that the baking powder doesn’t lose its leavening power (again, another reason to avoid self-rising flour–just sayin’).

 

Fascinating Flour Tidbits:

  • The word “flour” is originally a variant of the word “flower,” with both words stemming from the French word “fleur” (source).
  • Flour dust extended in the air is explosive (there have been many flour mill explosions, including the infamous Washburn “A” Mill explosion of 1878).
  • Wheat grown by western Canadian farmers is prized throughout the world and bought by more than 70 countries. In fact, the Canadian Prairies are known as the breadbasket of the world (source).
  • Wheat grown on the Canadian Prairies is used to make doughnuts in Japan, pasta in Italy, bread in Mexico and noodles in China (source)
  • Canadian flours have higher protein content, across the board, than those in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean all of our baked goods are tougher than American baked goods, actually it seems it’s quite the opposite–since Canadian flour is known to be of superior quality, even our all-purpose flour still makes everything from tender cakes to the perfect pizza crust or loaves–now that is all-purpose!
  • Canada takes its grains pretty seriously: the Canadian Grain Commission is a federal government agency that regulates all aspects of grain quality (and much more), which I suppose explains the high standards we keep and premium flour we produce in Canada (so, we may not have Biscoff Spread or Cookie Crisp Cereal here in Canada, but, hey, we’ve got pretty awesome flour).

Well, that wraps up my riveting tale of flour, and I hope this info helps you in some way and answers some (or all) of your flour questions.

I’ll be back very soon with another post (pinkie swear)!

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The Year Flew by in an Instagram

So imagine this: Mrs. always-has-to-be-on-the-go, always-baking, always-productive (that’d be me) has been stuck in bed sick for almost 5 days. Yep. The bad news is that I haven’t been able to bake in many days. The good news is that I’ve been able to spend a lot of time on my iPhone and laptop organizing my digital life and going through photos from the past year. I, like many others, have been loving the Instagram app on my iPhone, which is really a fun way to share what you do and see in your day with friends and other Instagram followers, but all through photos (with fun filters and such). Here’s a snippet (and by “snippet” I mean the longest post ever) of my year in review by way of my iPhone’s camera (*Warning: This post is a tad long, so if you decided to go clean your pantry, bake a cake or hand-count your sprinkles right about now, I wouldn’t be offended. Pinkie swear.):

I took a lot of country drives with my two cakelets, Reese and Neve. I mean a lot. Like a whole lot. Turns out that little Neve will only nap in the car (parenting gurus look away, just look away), and so, since I love country drives, off the three of us (or two, if Reese was at school) would go everyday after lunch (with the exception of a few days with grandparents). Yep. In 2011, I took over 350 country drives. That’s a lotta cows.

 


And a lot of grass.

And the occasional storm.

 

Oh, and one enchanting and mysterious pie-selling establishment.

 

I bought and read a whole lot of baking books. Actually, I added 29 baking books to my collection in 2011. Is that normal?

 

I baked copious amounts of cupcakes (among other things) throughout the year–double chocolate, campfire delight, strawberry, vanilla, lemon, marzipan & pear–you name it.

 

Oh, and double chocolate & gingerbread cupcakes–one of my favourites of the year. I would give you a how-many-cupcakes-I-baked-in-2011 total, but then I would have to do the math on how many I actually ate… And we’re moving on…

 

Okay, that one I definitely ate. So I ate one cupcake in 2011, give or take.

 

I baked this cake (my current favourite), and a few other cakes while I was at it.

 

Well, I baked a whole bunch of cakes, come to think of it. In 2011, I used approximately 450 eggs, 200 pounds of butter and 100 pounds of sugar for the blog treats (and experimental blog treats) alone. Turns out I like to bake. A lot. I’m glad you do too, or else I’d have a hard time explaining to Mr. Sweetapolita where all of that butter goes.

 

But, of course I had a pretty cute baker’s assistant.

Or two.

 

And the best part was sharing most of our treats with our enthusiastic friends and family, because that’s what baking is all about.

 

I spent many hours watching little ballerinas and princesses embody innocence and inner peace in a way only children can.

 

Even when they’re sick.

 

Or hurt. There were definitely some hard times.

 

And some welcomed silly times.

Plus a few more silly times.

 

And too many belly-aching-giggle times to count, but never too many to be part of.

 

Heck, there were even some downright kooky times, such as, you know, spotting these goats balancing on wooden planks. Or, the un-instagram’ed moment when Pee-wee Herman tweeted and facebook shared my Asparagus Cake to his million+ fans. Or the time an elephant crossed a busy street directly in the path of my car as I was driving to the grocery store (turns out it was Limba the elephant getting some cardio with her trainer from Bowmanville Zoo for a winter show). 2011, you kept me on my toes.

 

In unrelated news, I also attempted to take an acceptable token iPhone self-portrait in the mirror, however I would never actually look into the camera.

 

Okay, I got a bit better at it as the year went on. Luckily that was the day I had makeup on and my hair done. Vain much?

 

There were many random catch-a-cute-kid-in-action shots, probably more than my girls had the patience for.

 

But they’re great sports.

 

Plus, I bribe them with peanut butter pie and stuff.

 

I bought many pretty things to bake and cake with. Some new…

 

Some old (and serious bargains).

 

And some very old.

 

And I always stopped to admire a few lovely baked goods along the way.

 

I took several drives to the peaceful farm in Prince Edward County (Ontario), to visit my in-laws, you know, to escape the hustle-and-bustle of our 4,000 people-filled town.

 

Where I happily photographed this Mad(ish) Tea Party and enjoyed the sounds of, well, silence.

 

Grant and I both had a busy work year, but we made sure to make as many cottage trips as we could with the kids, to take a break from chiropracting and baking.

 

Where, naturally, I baked more cake…

 

And soaked 3,600 Krispy Kreme calories in one bowl for the life-altering purpose of this bread pudding.

 

The year was also filled with many a cookie. Some simple, some fancy.

 

And a few cakelet-inspired ones along the way.

 

There were many brownies, chocolate-dipped and not, and there were sprinkles.

 

A lifetime of sprinkles.

 

There were many wedding cake projects on the go, big and small.

 

There was even a reason to make more fondant asparagus. Like you can ever have too many fondant asparagus.

 

Little 4-year-old Reese unleashed her inner artist, and managed to make one unnamed mommy teary, with her spirited and inspiring painting of these cakes.

 

I think I hit my yearly glitter quota (‘cuz we all have one, you know) when I created a few sparkly cakes for Wedding Bells.

 

But there’s always room for a little more sparkle, especially in the festive winter months.

 

Finally, we ended the year with a POP!

So that was my year (with a few more details in between). Bye bye, 2011–you were good to us.

Oh, and if you’re an Instagram lover like me, or if you just like cute-as-pie treats, check out these genius Instagrahams crackers from Bakerella.

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My 10 Favourite Posts of 2011

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For some reason, I can’t stop exclaiming “Happy New Year!” to anyone who will listen, or even just random passersby. I’m really on fire for 2012, and it’s only two days in. As for 2011, it was definitely a busy and fulfilling year. No major life changes, but a whirlwind of baking, cake decorating, writing, sharing, photographing and family time–a dream come true, really. In (even more) review and reflection of my first year blogging and the end of 2011, yesterday I posted Your 10 Favourite Posts of 2011, based on statistics. I always find that sort of thing so interesting, because sometimes the posts that are the most frequently shared or read, are different than the ones that I hold closest to my baked-good-loving heart. This realization came to me when one of my sugar sisters, Melissa, and a few other friends mentioned that I left their favourites out of last night’s list (you guys are too kind!). In most cases, my favourite posts are a combination of the yummiest recipes (for my taste) and, of course, my emotional attachment to each one, for one reason or another–yes, I am a tad sentimental. So, just for giggles, here is a list of 10 of my favourite posts from 2011:

#10. Chocolate-Dipped Brownies with Sprinkles

#9. Dark Chocolate Chiffon Cake with Fluffy Rosewater Frosting

#8. Campfire Delight: 6-Layer Rich Chocolate Malted & Toasted Marshmallow Cake

#7. Cinnabon-Style Gourmet Cinnamon Buns

#6. Bakery Style Vanilla Cupcakes

#5. Six-Layer Dark Chocolate & Strawberry Buttercream Cake

#4. Licorice Delight: Vanilla Almond & Anise Cupcakes

#3. Ruffles & Roses: A Mad(ish) Tea Party

#2. Autumn Delight Cake

And, maybe it’s the energy, the colours, the peanut butter Swiss meringue buttercream or just my little cakelets in action, but my favourite post from 2011 is…

#1. Art is Joy: Painted Chocolate Peanut Butter & Jelly Cakes

See you soon!

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