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September 27, 2012

Halloween Doughnut Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

I had a new cake pan to try out, so I thought I'd make this oversized Halloween doughnut as a thank you for a craft-loving friend who did a huge favor for me.  I made a basic spice cake from a mix to see how the pan would fill and brown.  

To make it a little special, I wanted to try a cream cheese icing from scratch, something I'd never done before.  The main reason for doing it homemade:  I wanted something a bit runnier than the can at the grocery store so it would resemble a doughnut glaze in the way it would lay down the sides of the cake.  I searched online and came up with an unusual recipe that utilized ricotta cheese.  It turned out supremely yummy!  I definitely want to bookmark this recipe so I decided to reprint it here.

I used some Wilton spray icing coloring to add a green glow, then layered graham cracker crumbs with Halloween pumpkin sprinkles.  I was really pleased with how festive it turned out! 

Cream Cheese Icing with Ricotta

2 tbsp softened butter
4 oz cream cheese softened
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1 tsp vanilla
2 c powdered sugar

What's your favorite recipe for icing?  Do you even measure out the ingredients precisely, or just pour until you reach a desired consistency?  Can you freeze leftover icing?  Please leave a comment below.

September 10, 2012

KCRW's Fourth Annual Good Food Pie Contest 2012

My entry to this year's KCRW's Good Food Pie Contest is a reprise, of sorts.   I had intended last year to have two entries, the first time I had been so ambitious.  My original idea was to make a pie from blackberries I'd grown in my own garden that summer.  But in keeping with my tradition of bringing favorite family recipes, I also wanted to bring my mom's Chocolate Marble Cheesecake, the dessert most requested on birthdays as I was growing up.  

I have very limited counter space in my small apartment kitchen, which mostly translates to my oven burners.  So I was overjoyed last year when a friend agreed to let me cook at her house for this competition.  I made both my pies there one evening, and the additional space to spread out left me room to experiment with a cheddar crust for my blackberry pie, while the cheesecake was in the oven.  The last step for this rather complicated dessert is to let it rest in the warm oven after baking, without opening the door to check its progress for fear of the heat escaping.  So I triumphantly turned the dial over on the cheesecake at the allotted time and took a glass of wine to my friend, promising I would soon be out of her hair.   What I didn't realize until the smell of caramelized sugars reached my nose some ten minutes later, was that I had turned the dial in the wrong direction, mistakenly landing it on broil!  That pie turned into a spooned pan of muck that I left as my thank you gift to my hostess ~ I can't believe my impunity as I was disappointed and mad at only mySELF.  Loving this recipe as I did, I decided to share it anyway, so it's been up on my blog in this post.  

There were a few major changes to this year's pie competition.  The most obvious was that they required two whole pies, one for the judges, and one for public tasting.  This meant that judges could base presentation on the look of a whole pie, when in past judging was based on only a single cut slice.  I found translating my springform dish into a standard pie pan was relatively simple--I doubled the crust, and made only a single batch of the filling, which split into two pies, perfectly fitting the requirement.  I've bought several stencils in the past, but never experimented with them.  This time I took my competition pie and tried to gently sift a bit of extra cocoa on top.  I did it before baking them, and didn't want my stencil to disturb the swirl of chocolate and vanilla flavoring, so I held the stencil a half inch or so from the surface.  That turned out to be too far away for a concrete edging, and I didn't like the look of it, so I used that pie for the public, saving the plain one for judging. 


Once again the event has grown.  This year it was held on the greenspace at LACMA, the LA County Museum of Art.  It was a lovely venue, but the pie tasting was offered to anyone who happened to be at the museum that day, so immediately demand exceeded supply.  To compensate, all "tasters" had to line up well in advance and receive two tickets, which were to be exchanged for only two samples.  With sampling limited, tasters became choosy, and the whole experience turned into a popularity contest.  I stood begging people to try my beautiful and yummy cheesecake, until finally I decided to forgo ticket exchanging so I could get on with it in hopes of being free to try a piece or two myself.  The whole thing was humbling rather than uplifting.  The event has gotten out of hand to the point where I'm not sure I'll be participating again.

The tastings were also spread around into multiple separate covered tents, arranged randomly according to arrival.  This helped with the crowd control, but made it impossible to get a scope of what was there, or to ever find someone you knew. 

 Review past years' Pie Contest blog entries here:

2011's Black Rose Pie
more 2011
2010's Peanut Butter Custard Pie with Apricot Glaze
2009's Grandma's Impossible Pie

September 3, 2012

Teatime and Hat Decorating

I met a lovely group of exuberant women yesterday thanks to the Meetup group 4L.  Our host came up with a great theme for a party--hat decorating at teatime!  We had a potluck buffet of tea time baked goods and dainty sandwiches, with a mound of creative supplies laid out on the craft table, including felt, feathers, rhinestones, silk florals, and ribbons of all types to add to our own hats we'd brought to decorate.

What is the most creative themed party that you have attended or thrown?  Please leave a comment below--I can't wait to hear your stories!
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