Saturday, November 29, 2008


It's the end of another month and yet another Daring Bakers Challenge. This challenge marks my eighth challenge with Daring Bakers. I have learned so much about baking with making just one different recipe a month. These recipes have ranged from the Filbert Gateau, a really heavy decadent dessert, to lavash crackers and a vegan dip. I not only have gained knowledge from the challenges, but also confidence and about 3 extra inches on each thigh! (Time to start exercising!!!) This months challenge was to make a Caramel cake with a caramelized butter frosting! Yeah, if that doesn't make you run to the Weight Watcher's Meeting, I don't know what will! Since it was my 29th birthday (for the 6th time) just last week, I decided to treat myself to this cake.

This month's challenge was hosted by Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater featuring her signature Caramel Cake Recipe with Caramelized Butter Frosting. Co-Hosted by, Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo:, Jenny of Foray into Food ( And since none of us know jack about alternative baking, we’ve once again turned to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go (

I got all of my ingredients together and started in on making the cake. With doing so, I had to make a simple caramel syrup, which I burned because I had little distractions! (Have any guesses who and what they were?) Burning the caramel sauce/syrup proves to be my strong point with recipes...check out the Filbert Gateau post and you will see that I burned up the praline hazelnuts! I quickly made another batch and it came out just amber in color and not burnt. I creamed up the butter, sugar and salt. Next, I added the syrup, eggs and vanilla. At this point I encountered a problem, I poured all the flour/baking soda mixture into the Kitchen Aid bowl all at once.....needless to say I have a gooey mess flour ball. I got the milk out and redeemed myself..I thought it was a goner! I needed to follow the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method....I followed the hurried Lori method and I wouldn't recommended that!

I finally got the cake in the oven, a BUNDT for this recipe, and got started in on the frosting. I wonder how many WW points just a lick of this stuff is! 12 Tablespoons of Butter, 1 Pound Confectioner’s Sugar, 4-6 tablespoons heavy cream, 2 Teaspoons Vanilla, 2-4 Tablespoons Caramel Syrup and some salt to taste. I didn't think that I really liked the taste at first, but it quickly grew on me and I put away more than I am willing to admit! Now, you are wondering just where are the photos of this Caramel Cake with the fine Caramelized Butter Frosting? They are only in my mind....since leaving the camera at my son's school Turkey Day Party I only have mental images. It was yummy, I don't know that it is something that I would crave, but it was yet another challenge for me to defeat! I love ya, Daring Bakers! Bring on the December Challenge!!!
Here is the recipe~

CARAMEL CAKE with Caramelized Butter Frosting

10 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, room temp
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup*
2 each Eggs, room temp
splash Vanilla Extract
2 Cups AP Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 C Milk, room temp

*Caramel syrup recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350F
Butter one tall 9" cake pan.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.
2. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
3. Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl.
4. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5. Sift flour and baking powder.
6. Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dries.
7. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time.
8. Add another third of the dries, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dries. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}
9. Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds. making sure batter is uniform.
Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.
Cake will keep for three days unrefrigerated


2 Cups SUGAR
1/2 Cup WATER
1 Cup water for "stopping"

1. In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand.
2. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
3. Turn on heat to highest flame.
4. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.
5. When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and prepared to step back.
6. Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}
For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons Unsalted Butter
1 Pound Confectioner's Sugar, sifted
4-6 Tablespoons Heavy Cream
2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
2-4 Tablespoons Caramel Syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

1. Cook butter until brown.
2. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.
3. Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.
4. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.
Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light.

Friday, November 14, 2008

List of NEEDED items by our Soldiers!

I have compiled a list of things needed by the soldiers from the website. I was stay away from liquid products because of the chance of the container breaking during shipping. They also don't recommend highly scented items being sent with baked goods.

Products to stay awake during missions
Blank greeting cards
Toothpaste (Colgate) & Toothbrushes
100 calorie snacks
power bars
Lip balm ( chap-stick)
Blank cards
Laundry powder
Gatorade singles or ANY beverage drink powders
Cd's of country or rock copies are fine
Cheese and peanut butter crackers
DVD movies
Beef jerky
Board games or anything to keep us entertained
Tinactin foot spray/powder/ointment
AA batteries
Microwave popcorn
Hand Sanitizer clothes
Nail Clippers
Razors & Shave Gel
Ink pens

Beanie Babies!
No kidding! A really good excuse to get rid of those things (don't buy new ones, collect them from your house and ask your friends)!! Send some in every package to ALL units as they are really easy for the Soldiers to carry with them and give to the local kids who love them. These are better then small plastic toys which will break easily and are not as easy to carry in a pack. There is NO more effective ambassador for our country than a Soldier helping the local folks. This is done far more often then the press shows, and quite probably the most important thing a Soldier will ever do.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More info on Operation Baking Gals

I am posting this letter that I received from Val over at Just Add Nuts. This is the "Team" that we will be working with on the Operation Baking Gals website. Go to Operation Baking Gals and click Join a Round 4 Team Here then click Join a Round 4 Team (26) and then select the Team Just Add Nuts. You can see the other members of the team. If you want, you can sign up on the site or I will just let them know the number of bakers that we have that will be sending packages. Or, I will let them know the number of packages that we are sending, make sense? Here are a few emails that I have had with Val:

That's great that your friends want to get involved! The way Baking GALS works is that each team sends to a different soldier. That soldier receives 10+ boxes, depending on the number of people participating for his host's team; he or she then distributes the stuff to the other soldiers around him. I have a thank you letter that I just received from Alex's wife saying he had begun getting boxes and was sharing with other soldiers. I'm going to ask her if I can post the letter on my blog so all of you bakers can see it.

As for a team having too many people, Susan tries to keep it to around 20 bakers per team. We had about 10 on our team this round who actually baked, so that would leave 10 slots to fill. I do have a couple of bakers who do the actual baking as pairs or groups but only sign up as one baker and send one box. That tends to work nicely for some because a lot of people want to bake but the shipping costs can get out of hand if you send too many boxes. The first round that Randy and I baked, we filled five boxes (one on our own to a friend of his), so we joined four separate teams, that way different soldiers got our variety, rather than sending all the boxes filled with the same stuff to the same soldier. So if you're all sending the same goodies, that's another option for you...not that I want to lose you from my team!!!!

Keep me updated as far as how many bakers you're getting and how you and they wish to handle it and I'll work with you. If we end up with too many bakers, I have more than one soldier who would love to receive boxes, so maybe I could give you two addresses kind of on the side. After the December round, if your people want to continue to bake, you might consider becoming a team host yourself. It's a little bit of work and organizing, but since you have a blog already (one of the requirements) you'll be half way there already. If you decide to go that route, let me know and I'll put in a word with Susan for you. If you think your people will only want to bake once in a while or if you don't feel like being a host, feel free to stay on my team and we'll just work it out each round.

Round five's mailing will be taking place from December 5-18, just in time for Christmas. I know the soldiers do like other things besides the baked goods, especially letters from home or just things to remind them of home. One of our team's bakers included some strings of Christmas lights in Alex's package this round and his wife mentioned in her letter that he especially enjoyed those. For ideas, check out They list soldiers who ask for the things their unit needs. If you read a few requests, you'll see that most of them ask for the same kinds of things, so you'll have a good idea what to include. The only thing is, don't send anything scented (dryer sheets, air fresheners, etc) or anything liquidy that could break (shampoo, hand cream, toothpaste) along with baked goods because it contaminates the cookies no matter how well you pack it according to reports. And with the any soldier site, they don't let you send home-baked goods to the soldiers there. It's all about keeping our soldiers safe...they aren't supposed to accept baked goods from people they don't know. That's why Baking GALS hosts have to come up with their own soldiers, so they can write ahead and let the soldier know the goodies are coming. That's also why I ask my bakers for their own address before I give them the soldiers....I don't want anything funny going down!

I think the thing besides baked goods and letters that they most like to get are fun things or things to fill their down-time. The services do a half way decent job most of the time of getting them the necessities like socks and soap, it's just the "extras" that they're missing. I like to send Holiday items, joke books, pictures from my four year old niece, toys (they hand them out to the kids there), games, DVDs, magazines, stationary (another favorite, so they can mail letters home), small sporting equipment, nail files, little posters, chap sticks (I'm iffy on that one but I think it would be safe to send with the baked goodies)...whatever you send, someone will appreciate it. Oh, and if you can find a good deal on those little packets of drink flavors to add to water bottles, they LOVE those! I'm trying to figure out how to make them.

As for suggestions for things that ship well, we're probably both in the same boat there. I'm doing guess-work at this point too. I have found a recipe for an oatmeal bar cookie that I've been making. They contain a lot of oil, so I figure they'll stay moist. The first round, we individually wrapped them; this round we cut them and reconstructed them as one sheet and packed each batch on top of the other. I got four batches in the box that way and we packed the sides with boxes of Christmas cards and some individual drink mixes. I'm trying to do some research on the net to find recipes that travel well, so I'll post my findings on my blog. I'll also ask Alex's wife for his input about what came over to Iraq in the best condition. If you come up with any good ideas in the meantime, please share. I'm thinking things that are dense and moist will be good. We sent some pumpkin pound cake to Randy's friend this month, so I'm waiting to hear how that turns out.

And another one:
The cost varies a little depending on what you send, but the postage would be $10.95. That's the cost of sending a flat rate priority mail box (12 by 12 by 5 1/2 inch size) to an APO address. The boxes are free from the post office and you can just stop in anytime to pick one up. Also, grab yourself a customs form while you're in there. The forms are easy to fill out, but we'll include instructions with the soldier's address just in case.

I will have to ask Randy how many cookies we got into each box, since he did the counting (and hopefully the remembering since I didn't!), but I think we got about 75 cookies in each box and also we put in some old DVD's from my dad and a few magazines from Randy.

I hope that helps!

So, I am ready to start planning!!! I thought that I would kit the dollar store for little puzzle books, water bottle flavorings and whatever little things I can get. Let me know if you are interested!!!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Have you heard of Operation Baking Gals? They are a group of bakers who bake goodies and send them to soldiers who are serving our country. After finding out about this group, I was very interested in joining. Most of my family members have served in the Navy, Army & Air Force and most actually served while a war was taking place. I would love to get a group together to do this for their December Round. I thought that December would be a great month since these soldiers are away from their families during the holidays. Please take a look at the Operation Baking Gals website for more information and please let me know what you think. I was also thinking that maybe we can all bake one type of cookie and then exchange cookies amongst ourselves so that each of our soldiers would have a variety of cookies. Please let me know what you think and if you can help out in any way if you are not interested in baking. I was told that they also appreciate Magazines, Cd's, Movies, Personal Hygiene products and other things that they might not be able to get while in another country.