Baking Ahead to 2013

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This has been a magical year for me. I wrote my first cookbook, Baking Out Loud, received a James Beard award nomination for Outstanding Pastry Chef, created seasonal recipes for the Cooking Channel, was featured on Season 3 of Unique Sweets, appeared on the TODAY show and most importantly, experienced having the love and support of so many people I’ve met along the way.

Some of my favorite FN Dish blog posts of 2012 included Baking in Jars and  Food Tastes Better on a Stick. Both of these articles were inspired by my real-life job as Executive Pastry Chef for Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami. The restaurant is always busy, so necessity has been the mother of invention; and putting pies in jars allowed me to be creative and eliminate storage issues, while dessert on sticks helps keep people on the go.

With all of that said, here are some things I'm most excited about for 2013:

• Baking with olive oil
• Pickling fruits
• Smoking honeys, nuts and flours
• Continuing to develop portable baked goods

As 2013 quickly approaches, my schedule is heating up with food and wine events across the country. I’ll be serving hundreds of hungry guests in a short period of time, so I try to create desserts that are both seasonal and easy to eat. Oftentimes, ticket holders are forced to juggle glasses of wine while balancing flimsy plates of food — at best this is a difficult feat. Enter Cake-in-a-Box: a simple, foolproof method of baking, decorating, transporting and balancing while eating. It’s also a great idea to ensure school lunchbox survival 2.0.

Here's how you create a Cake-in-a-Box:

1. Purchase small or miniature Chinese food containers — those white boxes with wire handles. Prepare your favorite cake or cupcake recipe, but instead of baking it in traditional pans, pipe the batter directly into the box about halfway up, saving room for the frosting and for closing the top. Bake these small cakes as you would their bigger sister cakes, keeping in mind that they will bake faster due to the smaller size.

2. Once cooled, the fun begins. You can top the cakes with your favorite frosting, buttercream or meringue. You can even hollow out the center and fill the cake with marshmallow cream, chocolate pudding or peanut butter. Have fun and think of unusual ideas for finishing off the cakes. Keep in mind that the container hides all decorating imperfections, allowing the novice decorator to feel like a pro.

3. Serve the cake with flat wooden spoons tucked into the boxes.

What's next for me? Meet me this February in South Beach for Food Network’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival. I could sure use your help!

Please make 2013 the year of experimentation. Whether you choose to use cool new ideas or simply combine flavors in a different way, be bold and bake out loud.

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