Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dell Hell

First of all I would like to apologize for being away for so long. I will be putting all the blame on Dell. You see I was recently in Dell Hell. My computer broke on August 16, 2008 and was fixed on September 15, 2008. This was after complaining a numerous amount of time to Customer Service. I kid you not, I called them at least 10 times and each time it took me 3 hrs to find someone to help me. That was only after being transferred from one agent to another, and every time being disconnected. When I asked to speak to a manager I was denied access to one, but I was transferred to another agent. This happened on 3 different occasions. A case was opened and I was told a technician would call me within 48 hours. After 2 weeks of waiting for a technician to call me, I finally called back again. I was then told my case had been cancelled and no technician was going to be calling. I asked to speak to a manager. Guess what happened? You guessed it I was transferred to another Customer Service Agent. This agent seemed to know what he was talking about. That was a good sign. Well, two days later I received a call it was an automated system from the company Qualiserve. It said, " Due to high volume of service called in your area we are unable to service your computer today. We are rescheduling your service date to ( then they would put in the following days date). So I was told every time that they would be calling by noon the next day to let me know what time they would be here in the evening. This went on for a week. I finally called Dell, again I was on the phone for 3 hours this includes the 10 times they transferred disconnecting every time. I finally spoke to an agent who then called Qualiserve. She called me back within 1 hour and informed me that a service agent would be calling me shortly. He did call. He was there the next day. I know what your thinking, I was thinking the same thing. But, we were wrong. He did not fix it. He did install the wrong operating system. I don't know much about computers but I have an Inspiron 1200 and the operating system said Inspiron 2200. Anyways, he said he couldn't fix it because the screen didn't turn on. So, the nightmare continued. Five minutes after he walked out my door the screen went on again. I again had to wait for another service guy to come by. After, getting calls from Qualiserve for a week again. I called Dell again( you guessed it 3 more hours wasted). Finally a service agent was sent out again. He told me your LCD screen is not messed up. Dell did not send me the right equipment to fix your computer. He said," Your computer is messed up and I don't know what is wrong with it. They should give you a new one." He was able to download Windows XP to allow me to go on line. He said it was a temperary fix and would not last. I had no sound, no other programs. That is when I realized I am officially in DELL HELL! I should have realized it long before, but I still had faith that they would fix my computer. I don't think I mentioned this but my warranty expires on September 26, 2008. How convenient that this whole problem has dragged out this long. So, the repair guy said I would have to call again and start up a new case( even though he did not fix the problem). I did not want to be on the phone for 3 hours again, so I tried logging on to Dell Customer Service. This worked well. It only took 1 and a half to have him call me. He then was able to take control of my computer and download the drives I needed. My computer now works. Does it work as good as it did before? No! It is so slow. All the programs that came with my Dell are not here anymore. Well, I will not be buying another Dell. I originally bought this computer because I heard their Customer Service was great. I have yet to see a good customer service. Now, I know that this has nothing to do with cakes, but I thought that I should share my experience with you.

Thank you for reading.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Tristan's Birthday Cake

Tristan's Birthday Hamburger Cake

I know I am a little late on posting this because Tristan's birthday was last month, so I am sorry. Last month, was a busy month. Tristan ( my 11 yr old) was undecided about his birthday cake until a week before his birthday. I am glad to say he picked Shrimp Pasta for his dinner, and a chocolate flavored hamburger cake. They were both excellent choice. A simple dinner, that was very tasty.

Now, I made his hamburger cake with a delicious recipe I found in Martha Stewart Cookbook. It is called One Bowl Chocolate Cake. I like this recipe because it is more sturdy than cake mixes out of the box. And the flavor is great. I have done a cake test on my own. I had six people each was given a piece of chocolate cake from the mix and a piece that was made from scratch. Each liked the cake from scratch better.

Chocolate Cake
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour 1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/4 unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 cups vegetable oil plus 2 tablespoons
2 1/2 cups sugar 1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 1/4 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 salt
2 large whole eggs plus 1 egg yolk

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Add all ingredients to mixing bowl and mix. Grease and flour pans. Fill about 1/2 ways. This is such a simple cake. And it taste great.

Things needed for this cake:
9 inch round cake 1 1/2 inch high
8 inch round cake 3 inches high
1 stainless steel bowl
sharp knife
Serrated knife ( or you can buy the gadget from Wilton's to torte a cake)

Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 shortening
16 oz of powdered sugar ( 1 box of confectioner sugar or 2 cups)
3 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Blend the butter, water, vanilla and shortening until creamy (about 3 minutes). Add half of the sugar, blend for about 3 minutes. Add the other half of the sugar, blend for another 5 minutes. Butter Cream will become fluffy after being blended for a while. This will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for six weeks. You will need to have enough to cover the cakes and make the ketchup and mustard.

Marshmallow Fondant:

16 0z of small marshmallows
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla( if you are coloring a light color use clear vanilla)
2 lb bag of confectioner sugar
shortening ( Crisco)

I needed to double the marshmallow fondant recipe in order to have enough, but I had to make it one at a time because my mixer is not big enough.

Rub shortening in microwavable bowl then add marshmallows. My microwave has a special button to melt marshmallows, but if yours doesn't use the defrost button to melt them. You might try in increments of 3 minutes. When using defrost you do not need to stir them. While these are in the microwave rub shortening on your mixer bowl use dough attachment. If you do not have one you are going to knead the sugar into it. Add marshmallow to mixer bowl. Add 1/2 of the sugar to bowl mix on low speed. Once incorporated add other half of sugar. Be sure not to over heat your mixer. Stop mixer put fondant on greased surface and knead. Once, kneaded make into a ball and rub shortening all over. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a plastic bag. Let sit for awhile. It is better if it sits overnight. But if you need to use it, it should be fine. It's best to have your fondant colored before you start with your cake. Otherwise, it's a huge mess. For the color of the hamburger bun I used copper and brown. For the patty I added 1/3 cup of unsweetened chocolate powder to half of the fondant and added brown food gel to get the appropriate color.

I doubled the mix in order to have enough for all the cakes. For the 9 inch pan it should be done in 35 minutes. The 8 inch will take about 1 hour. The The pans should take about 45 minutes for the 9 inch. The bowl was filled about 1/3 of the way. I can't give you the exact baking time because your bowl size might be bigger or smaller. It took about 80 minutes for mine to cook. You just have to keep checking it.

Let the cakes cool in pans for about 8 minutes. Then transfer to cooling rack. Once cooled completely level the top of each cake.

First, you need to cover the bottom bun. Make sure you have it frosted in Butter Cream. Next, roll out fondant about 1/8 inch thick( make sure it is already colored)enough to cover the sides of the bun. Cover cake and smooth out any wrinkles. Put a dab of Butter Cream on cake board to keep from moving. Once covered put on cake board, make sure the uncovered part is facing up. As shown on picture. Get patty ready. I pinched out little pieces from around the sides to give it a patty look. Roll out chocolate fondant and cover patty. Place on top of bottom bun. Next, you want to roll out lettuce , tomatoes, pickles, and onions. Place on cake. Now prepare your Butter Cream and color so it looks like mustard and ketchup. Now squeeze it over the cake. Frost the top bun. Roll out fondant and cover. Make sure to smooth out wrinkles. Once this is done place on top of other cakes. Next, all you need to do is put the sesame seeds on the bun using Butter Cream.

Now you should have a hamburger cake like mine.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Birthday Traditions

Birthday Traditions.....................

In my family we have a birthday tradition. When it is your birthday you get to pick out your favorite dinner ( homemade of course with the exception of pizza), the flavors of your cake, and the theme for your cake. My son Johnny ( 15 yrs old) picked Chinese food, chocolate cake with chocolate filling shaped like a guitar. My daughter Caitlyn( 14 yrs old) picked lasagna, chocolate cake with chocolate filling shaped like a gift. My nephew Mark wanted sausage manicotti with chocolate cake and chocolate filling, shaped like an over easy egg and waffles. With Tristan's birthday coming up I asked him," What kind of cake you want for your birthday?" He replied," Strawberry shortcake shaped like a hamburger or army tank." I tried to explain to him that you can't shape strawberry shortcakes like a hamburger or tank. He did not understand. I even replied back," Grandma could do it." So, this weeks cake was a Old fashioned berry cake from the Martha Stewart baking hand book. I only used strawberries. In hopes of getting Tristan to change his mind about the flavor of the cake he wants. And for those of you that think strawberry filling with white or yellow cake will do for his birthday cake, you are wrong. He wants the strawberries over flowing with whip cream, too. This weeks cake inspired by my son in hopes of changing his mind about his birthday cake. I made the cake last night. It was not a hard cake to make. It was very light and not too sweet. I did have some strawberries left over so, I dipped them in chocolate served them with a slice of cake.

For your Old Fashioned Berry Cake you will need:

unsalted butter, for pans 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup all purpose flour 1 vanilla bean ( optional)
1/4 cup cornstarch 3 pints small strawberries, hulled
6 large whole eggs, plus 4 large egg yolks 1 cup granulated sugar
room temperature 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract 3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 quart (4 cups) heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans: set aside. Into a large bowl, sift together flour and cornstarch; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the whole eggs, egg yolks, granulated sugar, salt, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Beat on high speed until thick and pale(it should hold a ribbon like trail on the surface when the whisk is raised), about 5 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bow as needed.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture. With mixer on low speed, beat until just combined. Add oil in a steady stream, mixing until just combined. Remove bowl from mixer. Using the whisk, fold mixture several times.

Divide batter between pans and smooth with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pans halfway through, until the cakes are springy to the touch and a cake tester inserted in he center comes out clean, about 30 minutes.

Immediately invert cakes onto a wire rack. Then re-invert the cakes, and let them cool completely, top side up.

In theo bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine cream, confetioners' sugar, and remaining teaspoon vanilla extract. Scrape in vanilla bean, if used. Starting on low speed and gradually increasing to medium-high, ship until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, trim the tops of the cakes to make level. Slice each cake in half horizontally in two layers. Place on of the bottom layers on a serving plate. Spread a quarter of the whipped cram over the layer; arrange a quarter of the mixed berries on top. Repeat with remaining cake layers, cream, and berries; garnish top with mint leaves, if using. Serve immediately; slice with serrated knife.

I liked this cake because it was not a really sweet cake. As for the rest of the family they all loved it. Good luck to you if you try it out.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beating the Heat with Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

It is officially summer and here in Monterey County we rarely see high temperatures, much less in the triple digits. It was about 106 degrees here and we don't have air conditioning in our house. With this said it was way too hot to turn the oven on.

My mission this weekend was to figure out a way to cook some cupcakes without heating up my house. While talking to my mother she had mentioned baking in my Nesco. So, I decided to give it a try. My cupcakes turned out great. The house stayed cool. My kids( The Judges) were happy to see cupcakes in the home again.

My cupcakes for this week are Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. The cake has a hint of lemon with Lemon filling and topped with a meringue frosting.

Here is what you need:
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp of Lemon Zest
  • 3 1/3 cups of Baking Mix ( see recipe on first blog)
  • 3/4 cup of Milk
Preheat oven or Nesco at 350 F. Mix together for 2 minutes. Fill cupcake cups half ways. Bake for 18 min. If using a Nesco you will need to bake for 22 minutes.

For Lemon Filling:

  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Corn Starch
  • 1 1/2 cups Cold Water
  • 3 Egg Yolks, Slightly Beaten
  • 1 Grated Lemon Peel
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Butter or Margarine
Combine sugar and corn starch in saucepan. Add water stir until smooth. Stir in egg yolks. Stirring constantly, bring to boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat add lemon peel, juice and butter. Let cool down for about 15 min.

I add filling to my cupcakes using a disposable decorating bag with a number 12 tip. Assemble tip and bag and fill bag halfway with filling. Insert tip 1/4 way into the top of the cupcake and squeeze. Add as much as your cupcake will hold. I stop when I see my cupcake starting to crack on top. The top will be covered with frosting.

  • 1 1/2 cups Sugar
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar Or 1 Tbsp White Corn Syrup
  • 1/8 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cups Water
  • 2 egg Whites
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 tsp Lemon Zest
  • Yellow Gel Food Coloring
Place sugar, cream of tarter or corn syrup, salt and water in metal or glass bowl. Mix with hand mixer for 1 minute. Place on top of double boiler. Make sure water does not touch the bottom of your bowl. Whisk mixture until hot to touch about 2 minutes. Transfer to mixer with whisk attachment beat on medium-high until cool with soft peaks about 5 minutes. When done add in gel food coloring and lemon zest. Mix again for 1 minute. Frost your cupcakes and enjoy.

Good luck to anyone who tries this recipe.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

My first post.

Today I thought that I would start a blog. Here I am trying to figure out how to do it.

I tend to bake often, so I started this blog with the intention of sharing my baking or ideas of decorating. I took some cake decorating classes at the local Michael's store about 10 months ago. I fell in love with the idea of baking ( which I already loved) on top of that decorating something that tasted great.

Today I will be making cupcakes from a basic cake recipe from scratch. I am trying out a new recipe. I found this recipe on This is a great place to find recipes. First it must pass the thumbs up test of my judges. The judges for today will be my nephew ( Mark), my son ( Tristan) and my baby ( Ethan). Believe it or not the one judge to impress is my son Tristan. He looks for flavor and moisture while the others really don't care.

Here's the thing I love the way cakes or cupcakes taste when made from scratch. However, I don't like the big mess that comes with it. Not to mention it seems to take longer. With kids at home that means a lot of unwanted breaks in between baking, so this recipe is perfect because it is half way done. This is the one thing that caught my attention about this recipe. You can make the mix ahead of time and store it. When the time comes to use it you just take out 3 1/3 cups of the mix add the eggs, milk, and vanilla.

8 c. all-purpose flour
5 c. sugar
1/4 c. baking powder
1 tbsp. salt
2 c. shortening

Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix in the shortening until it looks like crumbs. Place in airtight containers. Store in a dry cool place for up to six weeks.
Remember to only use 3 1/3 cups of the mix. This recipe yields 15 cupcakes or a two 9 inch layered cake.

For Yellow Cake you will need:
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 1/3 cups of mix

For Chocolate Cake you will need:
1 cup milk
1/3 cup cocoa
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 1/3 cups mix

For White Cake you will need:
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites
3 1/3 cups mix

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook for about 18 min if making cupcakes. If making a cake cook for 25 min- 30 min.

Good news.........
This recipe has received a two thumbs up review. I liked it because it wasn't really sweet. It was perfect.

I remember when I was young( many moons ago) my mother used to make a Jello Poke Cake. So, I decided to try Jello Poke Cupcakes. I used the yellow cake recipe above. Then I decided to use Passion Fruit Jello ( that's what I had).

Jello Mix
1 Six oz. box of Jello
1 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup cold water

Boil 1 cup of water and add the Jello. When it is dissolved add 1/2 cup cold water. Poke holes in the cupcakes or cake. I used a dowel to do this you can also use a fork. Pour Jello in the holes. Put them in the refrigerator for about 3 hours to set and chill.

I used a simple Butter Cream frosting. I love this one because you don't have to do any cooking.

Butter Cream Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 shortening
16 oz of powdered sugar ( 1 box of confectioner sugar or 2 cups)
3 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract

Blend the butter, water, vanilla and shortening until creamy (about 3 minutes). Add half of the sugar, blend for about 3 minutes. Add the other half of the sugar, blend for another 5 minutes. Butter Cream will become fluffy after being blended for a while. This will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for six weeks.

Good luck to anyone who tries this recipe. I hope you like it.