Here are a dozen places to visit in Downtown/Strip District, East End, South Side and South Hills for the best tacos in Pittsburgh.
An edible centerpiece -- how's that for a tasty dessert idea for Easter? I found the idea in the new "Cake Pops: 28 Great Designs from the Popcake Kitchen" by Helen Attridge and Abby Foy.
The recipe requires that you make a scratch cake and homemade icing rather than using a packaged cake mix and ready-made frosting. There are two basic cake recipes in the cookbook: chocolate and vanilla. I made one of each.
I made a few changes to simplify the recipes. First, the cake recipes call for self-rising flour. If you have self-rising, use it. I sifted together 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon baking powder for each cake.
Also, I didn't have superfine sugar on hand, so I made my own by processing granulated sugar in a food processor until powdery.
I experimented with another batch using a plastic Easter egg (about 21/2 inches long) as a mold. I opened it and very lightly greased the insides of each half with shortening, then filled each side with the cake mixture. I snapped the halves together, then removed the egg and rolled it a bit so it both sides molded together. That gave me a perfect egg shape.
EASTER CAKE POPS
For this recipe you will need about 12 ounces of chocolate or vanilla candy melts, candy sequins, 20 lollipop sticks and a block of foam about 12 inches long. The recipe below is the vanilla version. To make chocolate cake, replace 1/4 cup flour with 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. To make chocolate frosting: Add 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder to the mixture or melted chocolate to taste.
- 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 eggs, lightly beaten
- Scant 2 cups self-rising flour (or make your own as per above)
- 1 stick ( 1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch baking pan with wax paper (I used parchment paper).
Place butter and sugar in a food processor (I use an electric mixer) and mix on medium speed until white and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix.
Add half of the beaten eggs and flour to the mixture and combine well. Repeat with remaining eggs and flour.
Pour batter into pan; bake approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until a fork inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool cake on a cooling rack.
While cake is cooling, make the frosting.
Beat together butter, sugar and vanilla until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
Cut or tear off pieces of cooled cake and with both hands crumble the cake into a large bowl. Using your hands mix the frosting into the cake 1 tablespoon at a time -- you may not need all the frosting. Too much frosting will make the pops too wet to stay on the sticks when being dipped. The mixture is ready once it holds together when rolled.
Take pieces of dough about the size of a golf ball (about 1 ounce) and roll into egg shapes by angling your hands while rolling. Place "eggs" on a foiled or parchment lined pan and refrigerate. Once the eggs are firm to the touch they are ready to be dipped (about 2 hours).
Place the candy melts in a microwave bowl. Heat on medium about 2 minutes. Stir at 20 second intervals to make sure the candy melts evenly and doesn't burn. Stir a little vegetable oil 1 tablespoon at a time into the melted candy. This will help thin the candy and achieve a silky, workable texture. The finished candy should run off a spoon.
Remove cake eggs from refrigerator. Dip a lollipop stick into the melted candy, then push the stick into narrow end of the egg shape. Repeat with all the sticks and cake eggs. Poke the stick end of the cake ball into the styrofoam and allow to set. Then, dip each cake pop into the melted candy, tap of the excess and return pop to foam to dry.
To decorate the eggs, attach the candy sequins to the egg in a random fashion using the melted candy dabbed on with a toothpick.
Makes about 20 cake pops.
-- "Cake Pops: 28 Great Designs from the Popcake Kitchen" by Helen Attridge and Abby Foy (Spruce, 2012, $12.99)
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