Secrets Of A Master Baker

If you love to bake, Elisa Strauss is someone to turn to.

The founder and head designer of New York's Confetti Cakes (www.confetticakes.com) is well-known for her unique, imaginative, whimsical dessert creations.

Her new cookbook, "The Confetti Cakes Cookbook," is full of recipes, tips and tricks for her elaborate treats.

Strauss, once a designer for Ralph Lauren, now applies her creativity to sugar and flour.

Many of the cakes in her book have been featured in various magazines and TV shows.

The book shows how to sculpt a sweet delight for nearly any holiday or party. It has some basic recipes that serve as foundations to all of her more elaborate treats.

On The Early Show Tuesday, Strauss served up recipes for two fun but basic items sure to please everyone.

TERMINOLOGY

RED VELVET CAKE is a type of rich and sweet chocolate cake with a distinctive dark red or red-brown color. Common ingredients include buttermilk, butter, flour, cocoa powder and often either beets or red food coloring. It's most popular in the American South, though known in other regions. The most typical frosting for a red velvet cake is cream cheese icing.

FROSTING is the American sweet, light icing used on cakes and pastries. Usually composed of icing sugar, butter, shortening, milk or cream, and flavorings.

RECIPES

RED VELEVET CAKE

Yields three 9-inch rounds, 1 half sheet (13 x 18 inches), or 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 cups Cake Flour
1/2 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Salt
2 cups Canola Oil
2 1/4 cups, plus 1 tablespoon Granulated Sugar
3 Large Eggs
1/3 cup Red Food Coloring
1 1/2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1 1/4 cup Buttermilk
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
2 1/2 teaspoons White Vinegar

METHOD:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the bottoms and sides of the pans with melted butter and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the oil and sugar and beat on medium speed until incorporated.

4. Set the mixer to low speed and add the eggs, one at a time, scraping thoroughly between each addition.

5. Add the red food coloring and vanilla in a slow stream and beat until incorporated.

6. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk in two batches, starting with the flour. Scrape down the bowl between each addition and beat until thoroughly combined.

7. In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and vinegar. Set the mixer to medium speed. Immediately add the baking soda mixture and beat for 10 seconds.

8. Divide the batter evenly between the cake pans or muffin tins. For 9-inch cake pans, bake 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean; for half-sheets pans, bake 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean; for cupcakes, bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until they spring back after being touched.

9. Allow the cake to cool for 20 minutes. One the cake is cool, release it from its pan by running a metal spatula or knife along the sides of the pan or cake board and peel away the layer of parchment.

CUPCAKE FROSTING

Yields frosting for 24 cupcakes

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup Unsalted Butter
8 cups Confectioners' Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract

METHOD:

1. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth.

2. Turn the mixer to low speed and add 1 cup of the confectioners' sugar and beat until combined. Scrape the bowl thoroughly.

3. In a small bowl, combine the mild and the vanilla. Add to the butter-sugar mixture. Set the mixer to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy.

4. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar, adding as much as you need to achieve a smooth and stiff consistency.

5. Use immediately, store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days, or refrigerate for up to 10 days.

for Sports Cupcakes, go to page 2

[Editor's Note: There have been requests for the recipe for the sports-themed cupcakes that Strauss displayed during her segment. Making the decorations requires knowledge of cake-making skills from Strauss's cookbook that were too involved to include on the website. However, we are including the directions for those who have worked with these ingredients before. To get the full directions from "The Confetti Cakes Cookbook," refer to the following pages:

Dyeing fondant and gum paste (page 40)
Creating a dome of filing (page 28)
Covering cupcakes in fondant (page 29)
Dyeing Royal Icing (page 40)]

Sports Cupcakes
CUPCAKES
1 cake recipe, any flavor
1 frosting recipe (see Page 1)
1/2 recipe Royal Icing

MATERIALS
2 pounds fondant
Shortening (for rolling out fondant)
Food-coloring gels: lemon yellow, sunset orange, coal black

EQUIPMENT
Cupcake tins
Red cupcakes wrappers
Toothpicks
Small offset spatula
Plastic mat
Small rolling pin
2-1/2 inch round cookie cutter
Gum-paste veining tool or scalpel
Pastry tips: #2, #3
Pastry bag and coupler
Red food marker

TECHNIQUES
Dyeing fondant and gum paste
Creating a dome of filing
Covering cupcakes in fondant
Dyeing Royal Icing

METHOD

1. Prepare the cake batter as directed. Line the cupcake tins with wrappers. Fill each halfway with batter and bake the cupcakes as directed by the recipe. Let them cool completely.
2. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting.
3. Divide the fondant into three equal portions. Keep one portion white and dye the other two orange and yellow. Work with one color and wrap the other two in plastic wrap until ready to use.
4. Frost the cupcakes with a dome of filling. On a surface greased with shortening, roll out the fondant to approximately 1/8 inch thick, working with one color at a time. Use the round cookie cutter to cut out circles of fondant.
5. Since the fondant dries quickly you will want to create the decorations for each cupcake as you cover it. Follow the directions for the particular sports cupcake you are making.

Basketball
1. Cover the cupcake with orange fondant.
2. Use the back of a scalpel or veining tool to make the four lines found on a basketball. The lines need to be 1/8 inch deep so you can fill them in with Royal Icing later.
3. Gently press a #3 tip into the fondant to create a texture of a basketball, staying within the lines of each section.
4. Dye half the Royal Icing black and put it in a pastry bag fitted with a #2 tip. Carefully squeeze the icing into the lines you created.

Tennis Ball
1. Cover the cupcake with yellow fondant.
2. Use the back of a scalpel or veining tool to make the seams of a tennis ball. The lines need to be 1/8 inch deep so you can fill them with Royal Icing later.
3. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a #2 tip with white Royal Icing. Carefully squeeze the icing into the lines you created.

Baseball
1. Cover the cupcake with white fondant.
2. Using a toothpick, outline the seams of the baseball. Using a red food marker, draw the stitching lines of a baseball on the white fondant. To practice, draw a circle on a piece of paper and create the lines before trying them on the cupcake. If you make a mistake, use a little water or vodka (don't worry – it evaporates) and a cotton swab to take the marker away. Let it dry and start again.

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