Autumn Leaves

On a visit to The Cleveland Museum of Art I was astonished by the painting View of Schroon Mountain, Essex County, New York, After a Storm - Thomas Cole (American, 1801-1848). The intense colors of fall represented in a dramatic way are beautiful and impressive. Cole declared about the autumn theme on his painting: "one season where the American forest surpasses all the world in gorgeousness”. In my tropical country there is no colored autumn like in the north hemisphere. I think maybe that is why I am passionate about everything related to this season. I really like to feel the spice flavors, the cinnamon smell, and to observe the change of the colors.

This is my second autumn in US and I feel pretty lucky to live here. As I already mentioned on the last post, fall it’s really special for me. Visit the Cleveland Metroparks to see the beauty of the foliage and pick up apples and pumpkins at Patterson Fruit Farm are already essentials and delightful habits acquired for me and my husband.

Some days ago I resolved to take a stroll on the condominium were I live to photograph some trees. I was fascinated with so many different leaves shape and colors. After an hour I came back to my apartment with my pockets full of leaves, happy with my photos and an idea: to make painted leaves fondant. So I bought some cutters, made the marshmallow fondant again and with some food coloring I tried to recreate the essence of this time of the year. Then I used these edible cute leaves to decorate some delicious chocolate cupcakes with cinnamon frosting. I also use them to cover some cookies.

Chocolate Cupcakes 
(adapted from My Baking Addiction)

 Yield: 12 cupcakes

1 cup cake flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
2/3 cup vegetable oil 
3/4 granulated sugar 
1 egg 
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 cupcake wells with paper liners or spray pan with spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. Sift together cake flour, cocoa powder and salt.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine oil and sugar until well-blended. Add egg and mix until combined.
4. Turn your mixer down to the lowest speed add vanilla then slowly add in the food coloring. Note:If you are using liquid food coloring, it will take about 2 tablespoons of coloring to get a dark red shade. I used about 1 tablespoon of gel dye to achieve the shade in the photographs. Add the dye slowly and color according to your preference.
5. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches; scrape down the side of the bowl. Continue mixing until just combined, taking care not to over mix.
6. Add the baking soda and beat for about 10 seconds.
7. Using a medium scoop (about 3 tablespoons), divide batter among between the 12 wells, filling each well about 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be careful not to over bake.

Cinnamon Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Once the cupcakes have cooled, prepare the frosting. In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, sugar, cinnamon and milk until smooth and creamy. Add the vanilla and beat to combine.

Sugar Cookies
(from Sweetapolita)

Yield: Approximately 30 medium/small mixed shape cookies
*Note: recipe reflects a recent decrease in baking powder, which creates a more compact cookie that won’t lose shape when baked.

6 cups (750 grams/1 lb +  10 ounces) sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
2 cups unsalted butter, (1 lb, 454 grams, 16 ounces) softened for about 2 hours at room temperature
2 cups (400 grams/14 ounces) sugar
2 large eggs (straight from refrigerator)
2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 mL) pure lemon extract

1. In large bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
2. Use an electric mixer to cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in eggs.
3. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Stir in vanilla and lemon extract.
Steps to the perfect rolled dough (again, modest, I know):
4. Remove 1/2 of dough from bowl, make a ball, and place on a large piece of plastic wrap on counter.
5. Wrap the sides of wrap over the ball, then press down with the palm of your hand and make a disc about 2″ thick. Finish wrapping the disc with the plastic wrap. Repeat with 2nd half of dough.
6. Chill both discs of dough for about 45 minutes.
7. Remove one disc and remove plastic wrap. Place on top of a large piece of parchment paper (I use a silicone rolling mat underneath to ensure it doesn’t slip while rolling, but you can even dampen counter so the parchment sticks a bit.), then place 2 wooden dowels on either side of your dough, then another sheet of parchment paper.
8. Roll dough (this will require a bit of elbow grease for the first few minutes until it softens up a bit) so it’s flush with dowels–they will ensure that your dough is even thickness.
9. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Slide your parchment paper and dough onto a board, then place in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
10. Remove from fridge, and cut your shapes using the cutters of your choice, placing them on a baker’s half sheet lined with a Silpat Mat, with 2″ clearance around each one and the edge of sheet.
11. Place sheet with cookies into freezer for 15 minutes before baking. Then bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.
12. Cool sheets on wire racks for 10 minutes, then gently remove cookies and place on wire racks to finish cooling.
May be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. They also freeze well.

Marshmallow Fondant 

10 oz mini marshmallows
1/4 cup water
2 lbs of powdered sugar
2/3 cup shortening

Drizzle the water over the marshmallows and microwave 1 minute and 25 seconds. Transfer to a mixing bowl, and add 1 bag (2 lbs) of powdered sugar and 2 tbs shortening. With the paddle attachment, mix about 2 minutes. Finish on the table, use more powdered sugar if necessary. Wrap in plastic wrap or bag, and store at least 2 hours or overnight before using. Always knead fondant before using.


A Cake to Celebrate Fall - Cinnamon Layers with Sweet Potato Cream

Fall brings me fond remembrances of the beginning of my marriage. One year ago I started to live in US. I was newlywed and I embraced all the changes to hone the life with my beloved husband. The excitement to enjoy the pristine home and to learn a new culture was grand and comforting, although the longing for my family and friends still remained. Fortunately, the breathtakingly beauty of the colorful fall enhanced even more the happiness of this great moment of my life.

So, a cake that unites some of the best ingredients of this season is certainly a befitting way to celebrate its beginning and the good thoughts that it has brought me: cinnamon layer cake with sweet potato cream.  I saw this cake recipe with cinnamon and sour cream from baker Matt Lewis of Brooklyn's Baked bakery and I thought it would be a good pair with sweet potato cream. I was inspired by the purple sweet potatoes candies that my mom used to prepare. This cream basically consists of one medium sweet potato, sweetened condensed milk, nutmeg and milk. It was a perfect combination with the cinnamon flavor from the cake.

I’m developing quite a liking for making flowers and decorating cake with fondant. It has been delightful and such a surprise. I created these flowers without using a blossom cutter. I just used a knife to cut small pieces of gum paste to model in triangle shapes. My goal now is to learn how to make a rose using wired petals.

I would like to thank all you for your adorable comments on the last post. I’m glad that my first cake decorated had pleased you.

Cinnamon Cake with Sweet Potato Filling
(adapted from here)

Makes one 8-inch round layer cake

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, room temperature, plus more for pans
All-purpose flour, for pans
1 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans; line with parchment-paper rounds. Butter parchment paper and lightly dust pans with all-purpose flour, shaking out excess.
In a large bowl, sift together cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and both sugars on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until just incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with sour cream and beginning and ending with flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
Pour batter into prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Set pan on a wire rack to cool for at least 20 minutes before loosening sides of cake from pan and inverting onto a wire rack. Remove parchment paper and reinvert; let cool completely.

Sweet Potato Cream

1 medium sweet potato
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 can evaporated milk
fresh ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon corn starch

Cook the sweet potato in water and puree until smooth. Pour the condensed milk into a medium saucepan and place over medium heat.
Add the sweet potato puree, nutmeg, evaporated milk and corn starch. Stir the mixture until it starts to show the bottom of the pan when you scrape it with a spoon. As you scrape the bottom of pan with the spoon, the mixture should be thick enough to show you the bottom the pan for a couple of seconds before the mixture levels out again.
Pour the mixture in a bowl and leave aside to cool. Place it in the fridge until decoration.


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