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Friday, June 9, 2017

Celebrating Dads . . and Summer!

It's June.  Spoken as someone who was born in the Northeast, raised in the Midwest, and now continues to live here, let me just say: Thank God.  My digits are finally beginning to thaw.  And it wasn't even a bad winter!  I can just see all the real troopers out there in Iowa, Wisconson, and the Dakotas rolling their collective eyes at my fragility.  I mean, it's practically tropical out here in Ohio in comparison.  But yet -- it is June, and I am happy.  Another thing that brings me joy? The fact that I'm going to be able to spend Father's Day with my dad.  And in honor of that very special occasion, I'd like to share a cake from a Father's Day past.  A sprinkly vibrant concoction in honor of that special father-daughter bond.

This was a standard bulked up cake-mix cake.  The real fun came with decoration.  This is a great technique for any birthday or celebration cake.  And of course, for anyone who loves sprinkles.

Make sure the cake is on a cake board before frosting.  After frosted, pop another cake board on top of the cake.  Yes, on top of the icing.  Relax, it won't hurt it.

Then, depending on how messy you want to get your kitchen (and how long your countertop is) you have a couple of options.  You can either coat your countertop with sprinkles, making sure to cover a length at least as long as the circumference of the cake. (So for a six inch like mine -- 20 inches should be fine.)  Width should be equal to the height of the cake.

For those of you who are having a stroke right now at the thought of the millions of little sprinkles getting into every nook and cranny of your kitchen, here is the second way. (Which is the way I did it -- mainly because my husband also almost had a stroke when I told him how I planned to do it -- the first way.)

Fill the bottom of a large sheet pan with sprinkles.  Get the largest sheet pan that you have available. When you've coated the bottom of the pan, turn the cake on its side by gripping the cake by the two cake boards.  Then ROLL the cake from one end of the pan to the other.  Depending on how long your pan is, you may have to pick the cake up and redo whatever side hasn't been covered.

See, no muss, no fuss.  But, the other way would have been so much more fun. . .

Finally, place the cake right-side-up within the tray of sprinkles and dish them over the top.

I used some white fondant to shape 3D letters and put them on cutouts of daisies.

There you have it -- a fairly simple cake to make and enjoy with your dad.  I certainly enjoyed it with my dad!  And even though I don't have a cake ready for this Fathers Day, at least we can enjoy the memory of it together!

Friday, June 2, 2017

And They Lived Happily Ever After. . .

A couple weeks ago, I had the immense pleasure of attending my little brother's wedding.  It was a full-fledged Indian affair -- an almost a week long festivity, chock-full of vibrant colors, mouth-watering foods, and a near-constant atmosphere of delightful ebullience. A perfect celebration of love and a promising start to their "Happily Ever After."  It's really wonderful to attend a wedding of someone you love, while not actually being the one getting married. You get to fully immerse yourself in the experience, while experiencing not a bit of the actual stress.  Which is one of the reasons why, when asked if I would make the wedding cake -- I said 'no.'  It actually broke my heart a little.  Because if there is anyone in the world who I would love to make a wedding cake for, it's my little brother.  But after taking a moment to really, really think it through, I realized that: a) I didn't want to be responsible for the potential food poisoning of 300 people and b) I really didn't want to be the one that ruined the wedding if something horrible happened in either the composition, transit, or placement (or all three) of the cake. So I decided on a compromise.  I'd make a dummy cake.  Still a little stressful in that the final product would have to be as close to perfect as possible (and anyone who has read this blog over the past few years knows that that's not a given -- ever.) But at least it's slightly less stroke-inducing to transport sturdy styrofoam cake tiers over 200 miles than tender fluffy layers of cake (not to mention the sheets of slippery buttercream.) I also wouldn't have to worry about that food-poisoning thing. (I'm the type-A sibling, if anyone had any doubts about that.) And most importantly, I'd still be doing something special for my very special brother -- he sang at my wedding, and I had already resigned myself to the fact that I'd never be able to top that (if you've ever been unfortunate enough to hear me karaoke you would whole-heartedly agree) -- but this was something small that I could do at least.

The cake was to be in the "love-story" style.  It first was featured a year or two ago, and had become very popular, since the story of the couple can be (very briefly) told in the illustrations on the tiers. My brother and his fiancee (now wife) met while in college and dated when in medical school.  They got engaged during a post graduation celebratory trip while in Prague, and now were getting married.  Obviously, (very) abridged version -- but there's only so much you can fit on cake. The tiers were covered in a red fondant with a gold splash finish to go with the wedding colors, and, while love-story cakes typically use black Mexican gumpaste to create the story silhouettes, I went with white to create more of a contrast.   Lastly, were the almost half a dozen sugar flowers to crown the monogrammed top tier (made of about a million petals, give or take).

After all of that even, I still managed to break a petal off of one of the flowers while transporting the cake to Michigan (which my perfectionist husband, insisted -- no really -- insisted I fix -- even though it was in the back of the cake, and no one at all would have seen it.  I mean I have 20/15 vision, I made the thing and I freakin' didn't even notice it!) And then in an entirely unexpected twist of fate (as they always are,) the rear window in my Jeep decided to independently roll itself down and refuse to go back up.  Not sure how many of you have driven in Michigan but the expressway may as well be the Michigan International Speedway since everyone thinks they're driving for NASCAR. (Including me -- I mean, don't get me wrong, MI drivers are the most skilled best-est in the world and I love them, but this just wasn't the greatest time.) But in spite of the wind tunnel that was my car, the cake managed to get to the venue unharmed.  And I got to celebrate the fantastic event that was the wedding, while focusing all my energy on admiring the lovely bride and groom!

Courtesy of Rosy and Shaun Wedding Photography

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's Not a Party Without Cake

Alright my friends.  This post is for all of you who swear up and down that you can never do one of my projects in your own kitchen because they're too complicated, or take too much time, or require too many tools that you don't have access to.  This project? This one, my friend requires only a grocery store, a craft store, and Etsy.  I know you have access to all of those.  Intrigued yet?

I thought you would be! So, I recently had the pleasure of attending two bachelorette parties.  And you know what?
Yup, from the lips of the cooking Goddess herself.  If Julia Child said it, who am I to disagree?  Of course, there had to be cake. Normally, I would make the cake myself.  But if there's anything I fear more than a party without cake, it's making everyone deathly ill by food poisoning -- and with the fact that the cakes would have to be made in advance, then taken across the country on airplanes with questionable climate control, and then stored without refrigeration in desert and subtropical climates. . . well, I didn't feel up to that kind of pressure.

Here's the secret.  Lean in, and listen closely.  Ready? Okay. . . it's Giant Eagle.  Okay, okay, don't get too disappointed.  No judgy eyes.  The grocery store cake may not be the sexiest pastry out there, but it's just the base.  The foundation.  And -- I know that every single one of you out there has access to a grocery store cake.

Here's where the magic comes in.  It's in something called a frosting sheet.  You know what a frosting sheet is, even if you don't think so.  Ever see (or enjoy) one of those cakes with someone's picture on it? That's a frosting sheet!  It's basically a very thin, compressed sheet of frosting that you can print on.  I've used it in the past, both for the wine bottle cake and for the library cake.  It's perfect for small details and artwork. And it's so very perfect for sprucing up a generic grocery store cake.  And it can be custom ordered from Etsy (for less than $10)! Okay, so now you know what you need from the grocery store and what you need from Etsy.  Lastly -- the craft store.  Just get cake decorations.  Sprinkles, sugar pearls, cake sparkles.  And some structural things -- edible glue, and gumpaste.  But if you're feeling really frugal, you can even skip the glue and the gumpaste.  More on that later.

As I mentioned, these cakes were for bachelorette parties -- so I did a little bit of a Google search and downloaded a couple of darling pictures of bustiers.  I sized them in Word (it's amazing what you can get done in Microsoft Word) and sent them off to Etsy.  Less than a week later, I had itsy-bitsy frosting sheet bustiers in my hands.

The process:

Roll out a piece of gumpaste just larger than the size of the graphic.  Then use a sharp knife to cut out the picture and set aside.  You can use scissors too, as long as they are small enough for fine detail.

Take the backing off of the frosting sheet and put a thin coating of edible glue on the back. If you don't have edible glue, you can use water. Place the cut out picture on top of the rolled gumpaste. Let it sit for about 10 minutes to dry.

Now comes the decorating. Paint edible glue on the details that you want to bedazzle. Generously coat the area with sequins, sparkles, etc, and then gently shake the gumpaste to remove the excess.
Carefully dip one side of the sugar pearls in the edible glue and place on the picture where desired.

Now, finally, cut the gumpaste along the edge of the picture.  Give yourself a little bit of a border to avoid irreparable damages to your piece of art.

After drying, the image should stiffen up.  Place on a bed of cornstarch to avoid any sticking until you place on the cake.

When the cake is ready, place the cut-out onto the cake and press gently to adhere it to the frosting.

And right there -- is the best looking grocery store cake you'll ever see.  😍

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

One a Penny, Two a Penny

Those of you who follow the blog may have been disappointed recently.  Far from my initial plan of two posts per month, there haven't been any since New Year's Day.  😟 Sorry about that.  I'm in a temporary apartment right now, and, well, the kitchen leaves a lot to be desired.  (Understatement of the year.)  To put it into perspective -- the oven shakes anytime anyone walks anywhere.  Results? Sad me, and really sad excuse for baked goods.  Luckily, the end is in sight.  By the end of the summer, I hope to be drowning in oceans of perfectly puffed croissants, airy angel cakes, and those oh-so-delightful cream puffs.

Until then, luckily for me, I have a few select posts that have been languishing on the sideline.  Creations of my previous vastly-under-appreciated oven.  Today? The perfect time to share some hot cross buns.  No recipes, unfortunately -- this is another result of that too-perfect cookbook Bouchon Bakery.  Copyright laws are cramping my style. . .

So just a bunch of beautiful pictures of pillowy brioche, stuffed with the juicy currants and raisins, and encrusted with ribbons of glaze.

If you really want a recipe for this coming weekend, you should try my most-favorite (ever) carrot cake recipe.  It's the featured post on the sidebar -- even the bunny can't get enough of it 😉. And if you're looking for other things on the blog to explore -- check out the new philanthropy button on the right -- the nonprofit beneficiary will change every month or so, so keep an eye out! Feed your soul as well as your stomach 💗

The key to delectable hot cross buns? 
It all starts mounds of luscious, sweet, jewel toned fruits.

Next, swaddle lovingly in a blanket of buttery brioche.

Smoosh (official terminology) all together just like in these blurry action shots!

Admire the beautiful mess of buttery sticky soon-to-be amazing-ness

Divide, and nestle the buns into a 1/4 sheet pan.

Inhale. Exhale.  DON'T dive in.  Yet.

Alright, now, they're hot cross buns.  
You know, maybe I'll give my sad kitchen another shot. . . 
These little lovelies may well be worth it 😍

Happy Easter!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Best New Year's Ball Game

Happy 2017 all!  Resolutions anyone?  I'm trying to be more socially conscious, so one of my resolutions is to support one nonprofit organization every month.  I'll try to feature it here in sidebar for anyone interested (although in the spirit of the season and total honesty, I would recommend donating directly to the organization, instead of through my link, so that they, and not administrative costs, get more of the funds.) Another resolution? To not give up, and keep trying at things that may not have been such a success in the past.  In the spirit of persistence, and too kick off this year's blog, I thought I'd share a recent success, previously a tragic disaster.  Remember the croquembouche?  Well, I decided to scale it down a little into a more manageable project.  This time (thankfully) it didn't crumble.  It wasn't quite as stately in stature as the initial attempt, but the fact that cream puff bombs weren't falling all over my coffee table made it a worthy alternative. (I also had the wise idea to use lighter decorations -- pomegranate seeds and sugared cranberries don't have quite the same heft as full-bloom flowers.)  So whatever type of ball you choose to start your New Years with: The orb of light descending from One Times Square; the fragile, glass, iridescent bulbs getting packed away for another year,  or the prolate spheroid ones associated with roaring crowds, roses and sugar (although you may have to wait a day for that one) -- take a moment to also enjoy the pyramid of these little balls of joy.