Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bonding, Brownies & Birthdays

This was quite a weekend, packed with activities and special celebrations and where there are special occasions, there is dessert. My cousin came to visit for the weekend and in honour of her visit I decided to make her something. I inquired what her favorites were and the first on the list was brownies, so I decided to make some. While contemplating the type of brownies I would make, I thought of the activities my cousins and I had planned to do this weekend and thought hmmmmm, girls flex, clubbing, alcohol AHA! I will make brownies with alcohol! I came upon a recipe for Irish cream brownies and decided to try it out but instead of using irish cream, I used Sangster's Rum Cream, one of my favorites.

 This weekend there were also two birthdays in the family. My mother's and my grandmother's. My mother lives abroad so it wouldn't have been practical to bake her something. I decided to bake Grandma a birthday cake and what says birthday more than a good layer cake. I chose carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

I started with the brownies. I whisked the dry ingredients together then put the butter and chocolate chips to melt in the microwave. I only found it necessary to microwave it for one minute, stirring after 30 seconds instead of the 1 1/2 minutes the recipe stated. Then I added the sugar and the liquid ingredients. I used one egg and an egg white instead of the egg substitute like some of the reviewers. Then I put it in the microwave to melt the sugar. It took two minutes, stirring every 30 seconds before the sugar dissolved.

 I combined the wet and dry ingredients, poured them in a 9x9 non-stick pan sprayed with baking PAM and baked them in the oven for 20 minutes. Then I set them to cool.
 After they cooled, I cut them into 16 squares and took a taste. How did they turn out? I was disappointed. They just tasted normal, regular. If I take the time to bake from scratch it should taste way better than the boxed version and these didn't. Not that anything was wrong with them, they were good but nothing special. You couldn't taste even a hint of the rum cream in it either. I am sort of puzzled why reviewers rated this recipe so highly, I was not impressed. So the hunt is still on for a better brownie recipe that'll knock my socks off and have me swearing off box mix.

While the brownies baked, I started grating carrots. Unfortunately, I don't have a food processor so I grated the carrots by hand. This part, I must admit, was not fun. It began to hurt my elbow at which point I'd switch to the left hand which was awkward but I got through it without any permanent injuries. I toasted the pecans in the oven which made them smell amazing.

After that, I whisked the dry ingredients together in a bowl. I particularly enjoyed the scent of the cinnamon as I incorporated it with the other ingredients. I beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and in a measuring cup I combined the liquid ingredients.

Then I combined the three mixtures together with, added the carrots and pecans, and divided it into 9" pans lined with foil and sprayed with PAM for Baking. It took 55 minutes for the cakes to bake. They had that nice warm brown colour you expect from a carrot cake. They were also quite moist. I removed them from the pan and put them to cool while I made the frosting.

The frosting was simple to make. I creamed butter and cream cheese together, then added vanilla and icing sugar. Now for the assembly. The cake pans I used had 2" sides, when the cakes rose, they developed a tiny muffin top that I had to trim a bit. Then I placed the first layer top down on the cake holder and frosted the top and sides. Then I placed the second layer on top and frosted the top and sides of the cake and placed it in the fridge.

Since this cake was a gift, I couldn't cut it right away, I had to wait until today at our family gathering to taste my masterpiece. This was difficult since I really wanted to find out how it tasted. It also made me nervous because it meant that others would be tasting the cake with me, on a special occasion, so the pressure was on. How did it turn out? Really good! Just the right amount sweetness, fluffy, moist, perfectly complimentary frosting and I got compliments all around the room. I would have paid for this cake. Best of all, my Grandma liked it, which was the whole purpose of the carrot cake.

I had a thought while making this layer cake, after the six months of baking adventures I may want to learn cake decorating techniques so my carrot cake can look as beautiful as it tastes :-)

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