Happy Anniversary Mom & Dan

One year ago today my mom got married. The week of rain parted to make way for a sweet, small ceremony in one of her new relative’s backyards. I had fun, especially since you don’t necessarily get to plan your mom’s wedding! So, given this great power (insert maniacal laugh) my sister and I had a great time, and I couldn’t resist making her cake! I had big aspirations of baking it all in advance and carrying-it-on the plane. My mom thought is was sweet but illogical. She was right of course, and my sister got to help. In the midst of baking cakes, cutting and gluingĀ invitesĀ (thanks Michael), making bouquets (thanks Lauren), we somehow managed to make three charming wedding cakes! (and not without the great frosting help of Kim!). Why is it that planning a do-it-yourself style wedding always seems so easy to start but makes you a little crazy the day of? Well, it turned out beautifully. My mom a beautiful bride, and Dan a lovely groom. Congrats on your one year, and wishing many more to come.

Wedding Photos By Michael Townsend

to Cake Pop or to Pake Cop

I made another wedding cake this weekend. It was great fun, except that in addition to the wedding cake, I made a cake for my co-worker’s son’s birthday. I don’t think I’ll overbook myself again and I’m asking all of you to hold me accountable. I can’t imagine another week of working 10+ hour days, then standing in the kitchen for another few hours each night in preparation. The birthday cake was fun and gigantic, and I’ll be sure to share some photos and recipes later. The wedding cake was much less stressful than my first, and it turned out well. I guess you learn a little bit each time, right?

I’m working on a post for the wedding cake, but was hoping you all might have some great ideas for all of my leftover scraps. You know, the rounded portions of the cakes you have to sacrifice to make each layer perfectly level. As much as I love cake pops, I wanted to make something a little less sweet (pake cops). Maybe incorporate chocolate ganache into the batter instead of frosting? I want something a little more grown-up. I’m guessing Michael would prefer to keep sprinkling the scraps on top of ice cream…

Ok people, I’m all ears and a bit brain-dead. Looking forward to two more cakes and a pie this week. hehe. (now in your best mad scientist voice) I. Will. Never. Stop. Baking!

My Top Ten of 2009

Today is the first day of 2010, so Happy New Year to you all. I thought today would be a good day to reflect on the past year of my blog and I have decided to recount my top ten recipes. Before we reflect, I’m going to tell you all about my baking plans for this year, resolution style. I don’t typically make resolutions because they tend to get shoved aside or are so unrealistic that they are on the skirts of achievability. Food related resolutions are new for me and definitely attainable. Do you all have resolutions for the new year?


I’m going to attempt to use more whole wheat flour. Not so much for health reasons, mostly because I tend to run out of all purpose flour all of the time and the whole wheat bag sits in the cupboard feeling unwanted and depressed. If I had a repertoire of more whole wheat recipes I would definitely cook with it more often.


I’m going to try hard and not skip the Daring Bakers Challenges for the whole year. This will require me to plan ahead, not procrastinate, and make some items I don’t like. It is difficult when you know the recipe at the beginning of the month and don’t have to post something until the very end. I might have to make up more reasons to celebrate with baked goods during the month.


I am going to make more bread. Plain and simple. I can’t really say quantity-wise what “more” is equal to, I’m just going to make more of it. I have a lot of great cookbooks at my fingertips and I enjoy bread a lot. (I believe I’ve mentioned before bread is one of my favorite smells). It would also be nice to have more home made bread with dinners or lunches. I’m not limiting myself to just hand made either, I’ll bring my bread machine to this challenge too. 


I am going to post at least one non baking item each month. M and I cook a lot and I think some of these meals you might enjoy too. We have a plethora of food delivered to us twice a month from our local CSA and we cook with it each week, so why not share it too? After all, people who read this might not have the itch to bake quite as often as I do.


I would like to celebrate food more. This means all of you in San Fran might gain a few pounds with me. In an effort to appreciate the Slow Food Movement, and because M and I like to host dinners, I want to have people over more often for food. Cooking and eating together, good wine, what more could you ask for? (I haven’t discussed this one with M yet, but I’m pretty sure he will be ok with it).


I think this is enough resolutions for now, I’ll let you know if I come up with more later. Now, on with this recap of my favorites from ’09. (What do we call 10 by the way? It seems so awkward without the “O” in front of it). Here they are in random order.


Savory Puff Pastry

I enjoyed this Challenge for Daring Bakers. We made puff pastry from scratch (which I may never do again) and I came up with this savory topping. I absolutely loved them. You can make it store bought pastry but I definitely recommend trying the filling. 


Wedding Cake

Making a wedding cake is one of the highlights of my year. The challenge of it was unreal. I would love to make another if the opportunity presents itself. 


Four Cheesecakes

I like cheesecake. I don’t make it often because it is so terrible for you (though most of the desserts I make are not “good” for you) so I made the most of it using 4″ mini spring-form pans. They were so cute and tasty. I’d definitely make some of them again. 


Cookie Cake Tower

Who would not like a three layer cookie cake for their birthday? I chose this one because I felt it was creative and good. Not to forget it traveled from California to Virginia in one piece! 


French Style Bread

Bread, one of the techniques I attempted to master this year. I can’t say I am a master yet (hence the resolution to continue making more of it this year) but one day I might make bread like my dad numero dos. This french loaf was one of M’s favorites his dad made growing up, and I wanted to continue the traditions. It makes two loaves so you can save one for later or feed a lot of people. 


Carrot Muffins

Are you wondering why there is a picture of carrots here? It is because carrot muffins come from my early days of the blog when I was not obsessed with taking photos of food (or they were so good we ate them all before I could snap a shot). I didn’t post the recipe in my original post so you are welcome to view it here


Frozen Lime Pie

Not only was this a wonderful dessert, it brings back lovely memories of the Grenadines. After a week of sailing we relaxed at one of the most beautiful houses on St Lucia. Check out these amazing pictures by M. Then be sure to check out the website for the house if you feel like taking an extravagant vacation (pictures on the website do not do it justice). The house comes with the chef and two other house staff (one of which created this recipe). She also makes amazing curry chicken and mahi mahi. I’d like to be there right now. 


Walnut Ice Cream with Tomato Caramel Sauce

This recipe was inspired by my desire to make our plethora of tomatoes into a dessert. It worked, it just was not as literal as eating a tomato for dessert. Hidden in a caramel sauce the tomato gave a new depth of flavor to this amazingly creamy ice cream. If you have the supplies I recommend trying it. 


Mini Fruit Pizzas

I used to make this dessert a lot. I changed the recipe a little bit most recently and enjoyed it more than usual, especially served cold. A crowd pleaser when fresh berries are in season. 


Cornbread

One of M’s favorites. It accompanies soups, jambalaya, gumbo, fish, and whatever else we can create to go with it. I think it would go wonderful with a new recipe I came across Pumpkin Turkey Chili. Give it a try, you won’t even know the pumpkin is in there. We like it so much I sometimes think we choose recipes just so we have an excuse to make it. A good reason to keep buttermilk on hand at all times. 

Wedding Cake Part 3: Delivery

Finished! Thankfully. Making a wedding cake is quite a bit of work! I was pretty exhausted Saturday night once we got home from the wedding. The cake turned out well, though not without a few little mishaps in transit….
I must not have been working fast enough because I was about 30 minutes behind on my frosting. The more I frosted, the more I began to despise Shannon’s great Aunt Lou. This frosting may be suitable for a small birthday cake, but it just doesn’t hold up well, or cover well, or smooth well enough for a wedding cake. I manipulated some of the frosting with powdered sugar to attempt to give more structure for the final coat, but it wasn’t completely worth it. It may have helped a little, but time was running out. I got the cake to a certain point and Michael suggested I do finishing touches at the site. We got in the car and not half a block down the cake started to slide on its base! I guess I should have secured it to the board better! oops. Needless to say I ended up with a death grip on the bottom tier while Michael drove as gingerly as possible. Thankfully we didn’t encounter much traffic or we might have been really late. We got there in enough time to make my ugly duckling cake into a true swan. Disaster averted (if you don’t count sticky fingers).
I hurriedly patched the frosting and evened out corners whilst my dearest assistant kept my nerves down and helped me finish the decorations. The florist as planned had left some curly willow and orchids for me to finish the cake and decorate the table. I had brown, green and white cymbidium and dendrobium orchids and might I say that decorations do wonders for a boring old cake. My chocolate branches turned out well and tied into the table decorations too. I don’t think I stopped shaking until I stepped away and took the supplies back to the car. Yes, I was really nervous, and I wasn’t normal again until I had a bite of cake later that night.

Shannon (bride) and Ali (groom) both loved it and that made me really happy. She said it was so pretty she wanted to cry – which we both laughed at but was really sweet to say. Lots of people told me how beautiful it was and that was a real treat. It makes me happy that my first attempt was not a failure. I thought it was going to be in the car the whole way there… but constant prayers for 3 days of work not to be ruined in one short stop worked wonders. I’m pretty sure I would do another cake – but definitely with more say in the frosting choice! I might also consider a better method of travel and stick the cake to the board with super glue (or some hard-drying frosting like Royal Icing).
I found this experience very challenging and fulfilling. I spent a lot of time researching the “how to’s” of cake construction (while missing the piece on attaching it to the board). I enjoyed baking the largest cake of my life – the 14″ square cake – which holds about 13.5 cups of batter. I was also pleased with the proportions of the layers, the largest being chocolate and the top tiers lemon poppy seed. The baking part of this challenge was by far the easiest even though it took the most time. Luckily I had Friday off as well to finish everything else. There is definitely a method to this cake business and I may have learned it the hard way.
There are likely to more photos in the near future, but for your viewing pleasure now… here are some amazing pics taken by my lovely photographer, best friend, support system, decorating assistant, stress reducer, and husband. Thanks love for all your help.

Wedding Cake Part 1: Tasting

Some of you may know already, but I thought I’d inform the rest of you…. I’m making a Wedding Cake!!! It is coming up soon and I have done a lot to prepare – probably not enough but I’m trying not to think about it. I am getting a new mixer in the mail soon. Mine died (my fault) and I decided this was the best opportunity to get a Kitchen Aid. yea! Anyways, I had a couple of tastings with the bride and groom before they made their final flavor choices. This was quite fun. I made 4 different cakes based on the bride’s favorites: Red Velvet, White Cake with Raspberry filling, Chocolate Cake with Whipped Chocolate Ganache, and Lemon Poppy Seed with Lemon Curd filling. The last flavor developed after they couldn’t decide between the other 3. We had the second tasting earlier this week and they revisited the chocolate (which they thought they were going to toss) and decided instead to keep it. They chose two flavors for the three-tier cake. Poppy Seed and Chocolate.

The bride made one special request, to use her Great Aunt Lou’s Buttercream frosting recipe. Her family is obsessed with it and they are all really excited I am going to use it on the cake. It has good flavor, but I am not in love with the texture. The recipe calls for regular sugar and I am the kind of person that prefers a smooth frosting vs. something with a gritty texture. But hey, it’s not my cake, so I’m making it. It is a very old fashioned way to make buttercream as well, with cornstarch and milk for body, and a combo of butter and shortening. I think it will frost nicely though. It is fairly thick and will smooth out nicely. Did I mention they all love it?
I am about to order my pans…. the tiers will be 14×14, 12×12, and 8×8. I am also going to experiment with a heating core (which has been recommended for larger pans than 10×10 but if any of you have insight that says otherwise please let me know!
I hope this cake will be a success. I’d like the opportunity to do a few more, especially if this one comes out straight and pretty. I think that wedding cakes offer a great deal of creativity, and even more of a challenge. I’ll keep you posted on my practice this month.