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Archive for the ‘cakes’ Category

Whew, what a couple of weeks it has been. The last time I posted was around Eartha’s dental adventure, and she has recovered nicely. I would even venture to say that she has become a little more tolerable in general after her extractions. Maybe those teeth were really bothering her and that is why she was always so surly. Though, who am I kidding? She’s still Eartha.

First, I’ll post pictures of that birthday cake I thoughtlessly bragged about and then never showed you:

I decided to use the William Sonoma specialty pans Mom gave me for Christmas. I’ve used them a couple times since I got them and it was sort of a trial and error process.

The first time I tried to use them, I followed the directions religiously and used the recipe that came with the pan, which called for lots of expensive ingredients like chocolate and whatnot. I don’t know what I did wrong… maybe I didn’t grease the pans well enough, and in retrospect I don’t think I had gotten my little oven thermometer yet so I wasn’t aware that my oven was not preheating as fast as I thought it was, and the cakes were probably a little underdone. Anyway, regardless of that, the recipe was definitely more of a brownie recipe than a cake recipe and it didn’t want to come out of the pans- so I was forced to turn the mess into cake balls. I had already made the buttercream frosting too, so I just mixed it all together and put it in the fridge to deal with later. There was definitely more frosting than I would have normally used for cake balls, and between the cakes and the frosting there was something ridiculous like four sticks of butter involved.

Well, when I took it out of the fridge the next morning to try and salvage it, it had cooled into a giant fudgy rock. I nearly gave myself blisters scooping out spoonfuls. It resulted in what I dubbed ‘Brownie truffle balls’. I didn’t think it was possible to make something richer than a cake ball, but there you have it.

The second time I used my William Sonoma pans, I just used a cake mix. It was exactly the right amount of batter, and the cakes popped out of the pans perfectly. Go figure. I just put vanilla frosting in the middle and decorated the top with some chocolate frosting and cocoa powder.

This time when I used the pans, I decided to get a little creative. I still used a cake mix, but I covered each cake in chocolate ganache, and mixed the frosting with crushed Oreo cookies. I probably could have used less Oreos, as it made the filling super thick, but no one seemed to mind. Then I just piped plain frosting around the edges to really make it look like an Oreo cookie and personalized the top.

Okay, I feel better now that I have documented the cake. The reason why I haven’t posted in a while is because I have been smack in the middle of production week for the my school’s Drama Club production, which I have the overwhelming task of directing. Overwhelming, you say? But I thought you teach fourth and fifth graders? It must be so cute. Ha ha ha. Our spring musical has evolved into this behemoth with a cast of over ninety kids, and we rehearse for four months. So, it pretty much takes over my life, especially towards the end.

Last year, we did Annie Junior– so I wanted to choose a show with more parts for boys, which led me to choose Guys and Dolls Junior. I will leave out all of the gory details, but let me say that I now have a few more grey hairs and all have names which commemorate certain cast members. At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure how we were going to pull it all together, but as such things always do, we ended up with a nice school performance yesterday. Two more shows this weekend and I can get on with my life.

Some of the more memorable moments onstage yesterday included a kid manifesting his stage fright in an urgent need to pee during the opening number- he ran offstage and I prayed to the theater gods that he would return in time for his next line moments later. He did. Another kid got stuck backstage behind a group of crapshooters and missed his entrance because he was too meek to push his way through. Not to worry, he made up for it later by coming out way too early for another entrance, stopping in his tracks and slowly backing up until he was offstage. My favorite moment though, was during the Havana scene, where I noticed an unopened pack of fruit snacks on the stage by Sarah and Sky’s feet. Apparently someone was hoarding fruit snacks in their suit pockets backstage and we kept finding mysterious fruit snack trails everywhere, a la Hansel and Gretel.

All right. I have sat in front of the computer long enough. I have too much to get done today, and I would really like the day to include a trip to the gym. Would you believe I still haven’t gone?

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More cupcakes

As promised, a picture of the lemon cupcakes:

Though these are not the original cupcakes- they’re a second batch that I whipped up this morning. The originals had much bigger swirls of frosting on top because I used the seven minute frosting- this time I just went with convenience and used a can. Hence the much smaller dollops, since it would be a sugar overload to have a huge swirl of that stuff. The seven minute frosting makes it definitely taste more like lemon meringue pie, because, well… seven minute frosting is meringue. So if we want to be picky here, we could just call these ‘lemon’ cupcakes. This time around, however, the lemon curd is homemade- I made it on a snow day this week and needed to use it for something. I thought about just making a layer cake and putting it in the layers, but cake is harder to divide up and hand out, so I went with the cupcakes again. I think they are super cute.

I didn’t post the last couple of days because it has been kind of busy and I was, once again, sick. I guess it’s all the same cold- it just keeps progressing through my system in new and creative ways. I have been so congested that I ended up with laryngitis the last two days, which is so frustrating for me because all I do is talk all day long. I probably would have had it sooner, but I was home alone for two days because of the weather and didn’t really talk to anyone except the cats. And they’re not really conversationalists, so I went two days without saying much. Two dance rehearsals at school did me in. I should actually be at rehearsal right now, but there’s freezing rain all morning so we opted to play it safe and cancel. I hope everyone got my e-mail.

Yesterday I went to Target and bought myself a humidifier, which I think really helped. I also did a little retail therapy, as I was feeling sorry for myself, and bought a new purse. So now I am just awaiting the hopeful arrival of my aforementioned friends… If they don’t come I’m going to have a whole lot of cupcakes to give away.

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I wasn’t lucky enough to wake up without a sore throat, but I did wake up to… another snow day! As much as I am annoyed at Mother Nature for screwing up my rehearsal schedule yet again I am never sorry to receive that 5 a.m. automated phone call. Last night I came home after lessons and made some pizza, which I realized is one of the few things I consistently cook for myself- homemade pizza and soup. Every so often I will go out on a limb and make some stir fry/stew type thing like the tagine (which, coincidentally should be arriving any day now- though that will surely be postponed by this big-ass two day snow storm that has descended upon us.)

After the pizza, I finally watched Toy Story 3- since it’s nominated for an Oscar and everything… I don’t think I ever saw the second one but it didn’t matter. It was adorable. Just enough grown-up references to keep it funny, without being over the top (a la Shrek). And it definitely was a little bit of a tear jerker. I won’t go into detail, on the off chance that I am not the last person on earth to see this movie, but it was a very sweet story. It also made me think of the bins of old toys sitting in my garage. The garage… maybe today will be the day.

I do know that I need to spend at least part of the day tidying up my guest room because some of my favorite people are coming for a visit this weekend. I can’t wait! Hopefully nothing gets in the way like more snow or a stomach virus. I want to finally give them their Christmas gifts.

I’m sure the day will entail baking of some sort, but I’m not sure what yet. I do have those egg yolks from the seven minute frosting, so maybe I’ll take another crack at the lemon curd. Speaking of seven minute frosting and lemon curd, I brought those cupcakes in to school yesterday and didn’t think to get a picture. So you’ll just have to imagine them. I registered them for the bake-off (I think I might have been the only teacher to enter) and the extras came to lunch with me where people seemed enthusiastic. The frosting held up fine, though I don’t think I would push it for more than a day.

Alright, time to get this snow day moving. I don’t think I’m going to bother going back to bed at this point. Time for coffee and some leftover cold pizza!

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Seven minute frosting overload

After feeling fine for most of the week (and up until yesterday, thank you very much- I was just tired but I figured I worked most of the day) I woke up this morning feeling sick again. This time I had my fatigue with a side of post-nasal drip and sore throat. Awesome. I did drag myself out for lunch with Alexis for her birthday, and we went to Fiddlestix where I had my favorite- ‘Green Eggs and Parm’, which is basically eggs benedict with spinach, tomatoes and garlic instead of Canadian bacon. Oh, and instead of hollandaise, there’s a parmesan cream sauce. It’s perfection. I’ve always thought it was sort of gilding the lily to put an egg based sauce over an egg, anyway.

Today the eggs were perfectly poached (I’ve had them a little over-done before) and I really enjoyed it, but didn’t feel great after and ended up taking a two hour nap. I made myself some chicken noodle soup for dinner but I don’t think it had any magical healing properties. Oh well. I decided on lemon meringue cupcakes for the school Bake Off, since the teacher category was the somewhat ambiguous ‘fruit’. Martha has a recipe but of course it involves a ton of butter, buttermilk (which I would have had to go out and buy) and homemade lemon curd, which I was a little leery of making because I tried making it once before and it came out way too eggy.

I decided to follow the same basic process, but I just made a standard yellow cake mix (I know, I know… but it was more about the toppings than the cake this time) with a little lemon zest in it. Once the cupcakes were cooled, I spread some pre-made lemon curd on top and got to work on the seven minute frosting, which actually takes way more than seven minutes, when you add in the time it takes to boil the sugar syrup to the proper temperature and separate the eggs. It did come out nicely though- the only other experience I have had with meringue was when I tried to make those ill-fated high hat cupcakes. That time, the process was a little different for the meringue and involved a double boiler rather than cooking the sugar first into a syrup- this resulted in a gritty meringue (gross). Combine that with the fact that the high hats resembled piles of dog poop (I used cinnamon chips and didn’t chill the cupcakes enough before I dunked them… resulting in indistinct swirls in an unfortunate shade of brown.)

Anyway, the frosting came out very nicely this time. Billowy, smooth as can be and not overly sweet (and fat free! Did I mention it’s fat free?) Hopefully it will last until tomorrow okay… the book said not to refrigerate it. The only negative thing was that this recipe made a ridiculous amount of frosting. Like, 8 cups of the stuff. So even with very generous peaks of it on each cupcake, I had a ton leftover. I just put it in a ziploc bag and stuck it in the fridge, where it will probably stay for a couple of days before I throw it out. Because really, what do you do with leftover 7 minute frosting?? I suppose I could make some lemon bars and put it on top of those. I don’t even know if it will be usable after it’s been in the refrigerator. We’ll see.

I’m too tired to post pics of the cupcakes tonight. Maybe tomorrow. I think it’s time I went to bed. Hopefully I’ll wake up tomorrow without a sore throat.

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Goody Day Treats

Yesterday it was the special area teachers’ turn to bring treats for goody day, a Friday morning tradition that the teachers in my school take very seriously. For years, I taught in two buildings and was never in this particular school on Fridays- so I never got to experience goody day. Then, last year I went full time in that building and was thrown back into the goody day pool. The first time we brought food for goody day, I was overly concerned that there wouldn’t be enough food, because we have a small group. To make up for this, I made three or four different kinds of cupcakes and looked like a total crazy person dragging in every Tupperware cake and cookie carrier in my possession. Another time I felt the need to make three different kinds of cake balls- easier to transport but equally (if not more) time consuming. This time for goody day I didn’t have the time to go that over the top, so I made peanut butter and jelly bar cookies, and a batch of the infamous Irish car bomb cupcakes. I used the Ina Garten recipe for the bars, which is almost identical to the Martha Stewart version, except there is a half cup less peanut butter involved. I didn’t measure the jam, figuring I would just spread it until it looked right… and, well, it needed more jam. That’s what I get for not measuring. I was also worried that they were severely under-done, because when I cut them they were still a little warm and seemed super gooey. No one minded at school, though- the bars were gone before lunch. The cupcake recipe, found here, is tried and true- I know how to make that one work. So there were no worries there, and everyone appropriately fawned over my baked goods.

I came home to the new Kindle waiting for me- I checked the serial number and it is a higher one that the Kindle I had, so at least it’s newer. It’s also on an updated operating system. And, most importantly, there is no crack. Initially I was confused about how to go about returning my first one- since the guy on the phone told me he would send me a shipping return label (which wasn’t included with the new Kindle) but what he should have said was that he e-mailed me a shipping return label. Anyway, I just have to pack it up and bring it to UPS, which I will do later today. I definitely don’t want to get charged for a second Kindle! Luckily I checked my ‘junk’ e-mail account for something else and found that e-mail.

This morning I had a production meeting at school for Drama Club, and luckily I had a lot of parents step up to do the jobs I am not equipped to do (i.e. building and sewing stuff) so that was good. Later today I have to play a wedding. Joy. I am also trying to think of something to make for the bake-off at school Monday- the kids do it, but last year they added a teacher category and only one teacher entered (not me) so I feel I need to add to the competition a little bit. Our category is ‘fruit’, which is a little bit puzzling since other categories are ‘cakes’ or ‘pies’… so what am I supposed to do with ‘fruit’? I’m just going to make a cake that has some sort of fruity element. Maybe lemon curd. That would be nice since I don’t have to deal with fresh fruit. I could even get some little lemon slice candy to put on the top. Hmm… the wheels are turning.

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bad, lazy blogger.

I don’t even really have the right to call myself a blogger, per se. I am a blogger poser, a dilletante. Shameful, really. I haven’t posted anything since June and it is now August 1st. I set out to learn how to grill, and do a few crafty projects around the house. Have I done any of those things, you ask? No. I have been plopping my butt on a deck chair at the pool in one of my three bikinis from Target and getting my first suntan, courtesy of the pool in my complex that my homeowner’s association fees help to pay for. At least I am getting my money’s worth.

Not to justify my lack of posts, but I was also quite busy through most of July with the community theater production I was involved in… but now that’s over and yesterday my mom mentioned that she hadn’t read anything new from me for a while. So, here I am. I did bake up some fun birthday projects in July including this:

My first attempt at a children’s birthday cake was for my friend Alexis’ one year old (who is a total Elmo freak.) I did use the Wilton Elmo pan, so I didn’t have to shape the top cake. Originally, I was going to make the top cake out of funfetti mix (for the kids at the party) and I did a really rich homemade chocolate cake for the base of the cake. Well, I tried a new product to grease the pans and I won’t be using it again. Elmo didn’t want to release from the pan and I was forced to turn the first cake into funfetti cake balls. Luckily I had a box of red velvet cake mix on hand (which, I will admit, made Elmo look a little gruesome when we cut into him) but came out of the pan nicely. The rich chocolate cake, however, was another story. Now, I have made this particular recipe many times so I know it’s a good cake. It’s a sour cream cocoa cake made with, well, sour cream, cocoa, brown sugar, butter… all sorts of healthy things. But it makes such a rich, moist cake that of course it didn’t want to release from the pizza-sized 16 inch pan I had poured it into. It actually broke into several pieces and I stood there staring at the mess on the table for a moment thinking, “Well. F—.” (in case you couldn’t tell, that was the F-dash-dash-dash word. The word. Sorry, I never pass up an opportunity to quote ‘A Christmas Story’. Anyway, I digress.) I stared down at this cake with the realization that, not only did I not have time to bake yet another massive cake, but I didn’t have the rather specific ingredients to do so. So I pieced it together as best I could and used a can of chocolate frosting to serve as spackle before I iced the cake in the homemade buttercream. I have to say, it worked nicely. No one was the wiser, and the cake actually turned out really cute.

I have also made some rather inventive cake balls this summer. Some perched atop tiny ice cream cones, others using Nutella or peanut butter and covered with crumbled pretzels. Yum. I am very much enjoying working in my new, more efficient kitchen.

Yesterday I traveled up to Ithaca for an impromptu visit to Mom and Dad, and had the pleasure of spending a lovely, sunny Saturday alternately reading Eat Pray Love in the backyard and meandering around the commons for the annual sidewalk sale. Today, Mom and I went to the Farmer’s Market and saw things like this:

but of course came away only with our customary breakfast burritos. In general, my summer has been so relaxing and pleasant, I can’t seem to remember how I filled my previous summers in my sweaty old apartment. I wasn’t spending it outside, that was for sure. And I certainly wasn’t turning on my oven to bake much. I don’t remember what I was doing then, but I am definitely having more fun now. Entertaining lots of guests in my new house, reading, tanning, and generally enjoying myself. Life is good.

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Here we are, on the 32nd anniversary of my wondrous birth. And… it’s raining. Oh well. At least it’s on a Friday! I haven’t done much this week as far as packing because I had to do scholarship interviews Monday night, and lessons Tuesday and Wednesday night. Also, my evenings were somewhat occupied by this:  … about a million (okay, maybe not that many) cake balls I was making for goody day at school. In my typically crazy fashion, I wanted to make four batches because my biggest fear is always that there won’t be enough food. Well, I lost steam after three batches and decided that I wouldn’t have enough Tupperware to transport another one anyway. Three was actually perfect, though. I had plenty for everyone at school and there were even some leftovers. Here are some close-ups of the goodies:

These were strawberry cake with strawberry frosting. Since I used boxed cake and canned frosting, the strawberry flavor was, how shall I say… somewhat artificial? Bordering on the flavor of Wild Strawberry Bubblicious. But once the chocolate was on them it wasn’t as pronounced.

These little babies were red velvet, which is a crowd favorite. The red velvet cake is sort of vaguely chocolaty,  so they are rich but not overly so.

These were peanut butter cake balls- using peanut butter with the frosting changes the texture of the filling a little bit, but the peanut butter people were very enthusiastic about these.  After I finished making all of them I thought, “I think I’m done dipping things in chocolate for a while.” But really, who am I kidding? If I didn’t have a ton of stuff to do today I could make another batch. I find the whole process to be totally addicting.

Last night we went out to Kwan Thai for my birthday dinner, which I would highly recommend. We had this delicious spicy soup, appetizers and for my dinner I had scallops green curry. Then I had this very odd but tasty dessert that was sort of a Thai version of rice pudding- made with this really chewy purple rice and covered in coconut milk. And I don’t have pictures of any of it, because I forgot my camera. Oh well.

On the condo front, things seem to be moving along. Early in the week we were worried that the sellers weren’t going to fix all of the things that we requested in the contract, but apparently it was just the seller’s lawyer who was holding things up. The sellers fixed the valve on the boiler, had the whole thing serviced and as far as I know, fixed the other things I requested also. Yippee!

The appraisal was also this week, so hopefully I’ll hear favorable results from that too. Okay, one more cup of coffee and then I have to jump back into packing.

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