Layer cakes are usually made with layers of plain, round cakes, stacked up to turn a simple dessert into a dramatic centerpiece. Occasionally, you will see a layer cake that uses square cakes for a slightly unusual look, but round is the standard for layer cakes. Williams Sonoma recently introduced layer cake pans with a little extra flair that will give your cakes a slightly different look. These Celebration Layer Cake Pans have scalloped edges, which make them look a little bit like large flowers before they’re stacked into eye-catching layer cakes. The pans are large and thin – 9 3/4″ wide and just 3/4″ high. The shallow depth makes it easy to ensure that your cake layers will all be the same thickness (instead of trying to eyeball the right amount of cake batter in a deeper pan), and it also makes the layers easy to remove from the nonstick pans. The pans will cool down quickly once the cakes are removed, so you can quickly clean and re-fill them to bake additional layers without needing multiple sets of cake pans to do so.
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There are many people out there who would prefer to keep artificial colors out of their food. Fortunately, there are a few options to choose from when it comes to natural food colorings, so you can still bake a red velvet cake. But sprinkles and other decorative toppings give you fewer choices when it comes to natural colorings – and sometimes there is nothing like a sprinkling of sprinkles to finish off a batch of cupcakes or cookies (especially if you’re serving them to kids). Williams Sonoma recently introduced a new line of all natural sprinkles. The sprinkles are colored with dyes that are derived from colorful edible plants, such as beets, spinach, red cabbage and turmeric. The range of colors includes pink, purple, orange, yellow, white, green and, of course, a rainbow confetti mix. The sprinkles don’t have any of the flavor of the vegetables that gave them their colors, so you can go crazy when decorating with them and don’t need to worry about your sugar cookies tasting like spinach.
The sprinkles are a bit more expensive than the sprinkles you’ll find in the baking aisle down at your local market, but they are sold in generous 3.3-oz bottles that will get you through a lot of decorating projects throughout the year.
Emile Henri is a French brand that has been known for their ceramic bakeware since the 1850s. Their products usually have a distinct look and come in array of bright colors, thanks to the shiny glazes that they use to finish their pieces. Their Artisan Ruffle Pie Dish, which is available at Williams Sonoma, caught my eye recently and I decided that I had to add it to my pie plate collection before the fall baking season got in to full swing this year.
The pan has a deep, ruffled edge that has a lot more movement to it than most pie pans. To be honest, my on concern about the pan was I wasn’t sure how that ruffled edge would work once I tried to lay a pie crust in it. You can’t fold over the edge of the pie crust to create a rolled or fluted edge the way you can with a regular pie plate. If you do, the finished crust will be very thick around the edges. The best solution is to simply cut the excess crust at the edge of the pie plate. You don’t need to create a ruffle because there is already one there, and the pie will look perfect without any fussing from your end. I found that this edge really streamlined the pie-making process and gave the pies a great look.
The pan is also fairly deep, so it can be piled high to create thicker fruit pies even though it is not a strictly deep dish pie plate. The best thing about this pie pan – in addition to the overall look, which is just lovely – is the fact that the glaze is nonstick and completely scratch resistant. This means that you can use a sharp knife to cut into your pie into clean slices without worrying about damaging the pan, and that those slices will slide easily out of the pan with your pie server. This is definitely a new favorite pie dish for me and one that will get a lot of use this season (and for many seasons after!).
The idea of a Do-It-Yourself Cookie Cutter Kit may sound a bit silly at first, because most cookie cutters allow you to “do it yourself” and punch out cookie dough in a variety of shapes and sizes. What makes this kit unique is that it allows you to do so many different things with your cookie dough when it comes to punching out shapes and embellishing it with unusual designs. These types of decorations are usually only available with specialty cookie decorating kits, and getting so many different options in one place sets it apart.
The kit includes three basic cookie cutters – a circle, a heart and a star – as the foundation for your cookie designs. The rest of the tools include cookie stamps, which stamp one of six designs into your dough, and cutter wheels, which again give you six options for either embossing, edging or cutting the dough in creative ways. There are also six premade words/messages that you can stamp into your cookies: Happy, Birthday, Holidays, Thank You, Congrats and I Love You. You won’t get this kind of detail with just any cookie cutter and once you start adding those little embellishments to a batch of simple sugar cookies, you can see just how dressed up they can make plain cookie dough look and how that basic cookie can turn into the perfect way to celebrate.
If you’re working with kids, this kind of kit also gives them a lot of new options when it comes to cookie decorating, since the stamps and wheels allow them to express a lot more creativity than putting a few sprinkles or chocolate chips on to the top of the dough.
Williams Sonoma stocks a wide range of premium baking mixes, most of which are from famous bakeries and restaurants. For instance, they stock many mixes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc. Recently, however, they’ve expanded their offerings to include some of their own baking mixes, including a line of cupcake mixes. I immedately liked the packaging of their new mixes, but I was also interested in the range of flavors. They include chocolate, vanilla and red velvet – staples for many premium cupcake mixes these days – and also offered lemon and coconut. Coconut is not a cupcake mix flavor I see often and, as a huge fan of coconut, I felt that I needed to give that Coconut Cupcake Mix a try.
The mix is made with your usual cupcake ingredients: organic flour, sugar, baking powder, unsweetened coconut, coconut flavor, vanilla powder, canola oil, sea salt, baking soda and nonfat dry milk. You add your own eggs, butter and milk to the mix, using the same cold butter technique that I use in my Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes. The finished cupcakes were super tender and had a great coconut flavor, exceeding my expectations for a coconut cupcake mix because the flavor tasted very natural, not artificial. These aren’t your average cake-mix cupcakes and they really do taste homemade.
The packaging, which is very cute, includes a recipe for a simple buttercream frosting. I added some shredded coconut myself to give the frosting a finishing touch and to let everyone know from a glance that these were coconut cupcakes.