Here comes the Bride…and another cake

I am happy to report that I fulfilled my duties as a matron of honor to the best that I know how and my friend Rachel is now happily married! It was a stunning wedding. The weather behaved perfectly and so did Mateo, so that helped the day go a lot smoother.

One of my tasks was to decorate the cake for this elegant outdoor wedding. The original plan was for me to make the cake, but the red tape and fees at the wedding location were such a hassle, that we decided it would be easiest (and more affordable) to use their cake but have me decorate it to the brides’ taste. These places have their ways of making you conform, don’t they? Still, there was no way I was going to let Rachel’s cake look like the gaudy, overdone ones they showed us in their albums.
So decorate I did.

Since she dislikes flowers and the wedding had kind of a vineyard/wine theme, it was easy to choose grapes for the cake decoration. I had originally wanted champagne grapes, but they are only in season in July or August, and I had to make do without them. These regular ones are sugared and the greenery is real ivy. It was really a simple decoration job and fortunately so, as I had -no joke- less than ten minutes to do it, right between feeding the baby and getting dressed with the girls.

I am looking forward to doing a wedding cake that is not rushed sometime!!

The Little Cake That Could

My first time to work with rolled fondant and the Force was not with me

A major storm blew through our area on Tuesday. It snapped trees, blew over tractor trailers on major bridges, picked up my barbecue from the back deck and ruthlessly pitched it onto it’s head. It also knocked out our power for about 6 hours and caused my stress level to go through the roof as I had the three layers to this cake in my fridge.

If you remember, I recently threw a bridal shower for my friend who is getting married soon and this week was the rehearsal dinner where I was slotted to bring the cake. Hey, I’m the matron of honor, I’ll do whatever I’m told!
With all the high heat and humidity we’ve been having around here, I didn’t want to risk a droopy buttercream icing, but rather wanted to go with something like rolled fondant that could hold up to the elements, as the dinner was an elegant backyard garden party.

But despite careful planning and my best efforts, everything went horribly wrong for this cake.

I had never worked with rolled fondant before, but I managed to cover three tiers of cake and make it look pretty decent. After that, things were out of my control, as due to the storm,we lost power shortly afterward.
This poor cake survived 5 hours in a dead fridge that was slowly warming, causing it to sweat and the fondant to get sticky. Then, in the pouring rain, it was transfered to a functioning fridge at the party’s location. Unfortunately, the car ride was a little rough on it and it suffered a few gouges, not to mention a large dent from, ahem, a protruding upper body part. To protect it from the rain, I had hastily slapped some saran wrap on, which was a big mistake as it left wrinkles all over the cake like some kind of bad art deco wall texturing.

So, not much else could go wrong, right? I was certain that with the right patch kit and a few decorations, I could make it look okay, all I needed was to show up an hour or so before the party started and a quiet place to work. Well, due to circumstances out of his control ( so he says!), Danny arrived home very late indeed from work and we were late for the party. I had about 25 minutes to assemble the layers and decorate and when you look at the cake you sure can tell!

Anyway, it was a learning experience and I did have fun with the fondant. A huge thanks to Melody of My Sweet and Saucy for answering my emails and questions and letting me pick her brain a bit.
Oh, and ROCKS!

This cake also had a little surprise inside when you cut into it.

Inspired by Joy the Baker and her recipe for Red Velvet Engagement Cake, I set out to try red velvet cake for the first time (lots of firsts here!). I was sure that one bottle of red food coloring would be enough, but I was wrong, it wasn’t. Not even close.

What to do? Babies are sleeping, there is no one to send to the store for more food coloring. The oven is preheated and the cakes are half made, it looks like I am going to have to improvise.

So I add some blue food coloring to the red and make (gulp) a purple cake.

Mind you, the brides’ colors for the wedding are purple, purple and more purple, so I knew she wouldn’t care.
The wedding invitations were beautiful in purple and green so I went a step further and dyed the buttercream green to match the purple.
The bride loved it and it certainly was memorable-if for all the wrong reasons.

The recipe for Red Velvet Cake can be found here. I used Martha’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream found here, minus the coconut. Between the cake layers are fresh raspberries and blackberries.
It was quite tasty after all was said and done.

Will I ever work with fondant again? Sure, as long as the power stays on! I deserve a second chance! I have a few cakes coming up in July, so wish me luck.

One Frosting.Two Cakes.Three Babies.

It’s spring and the little robins in my backyard are hatching out of their sky-blue eggs. We find little pieces of shell on the lawn. Talk about natures’ porcelain.

Three of my sister-in-laws are also about to hatch some babies!
We are eagerly awaiting the arrivals of one girl, a one boy and a surprise in June. My boys are finally going to have some cousins on their father’s side and Baby Mateo, now a chubby-cheeked and smiling 10 lb bundle, is going to have some competition for the cuteness factor.

The girls are all due the same week in June-you’d almost think they got together and planned it eight months ago! (Hmmm, there was that family wedding back in late September…)

Anyway! Babies on the way means back-to-back baby showers and I managed to set aside the mountains of laundry for a while and put together two cakes for the events.

The first was a Lemon Mascarpone Layer Cake (boy) for a mama who loves lemon. I sketched the little umbrella lady by hand and then cut her out of marzipan. She is hand painted using food coloring and totally edible. The cake is a basic white cake and layered with lemon curd and a fantastic lemon mascarpone frosting. (See the bottom of the post for the recipe for the frosting)
I wanted poke-a-dots on the cake and as time was an issue (nothing like a crying baby to hasten one along!) I just used candies called Rockets and pressed them into the frosting. Since they are all pastel colors, they worked quite well for a baby cake.

For the second cake, unfortunately I was even more pressed for time; however, I put my Rockets to good use again. My MIL made a white cake and I decorated it with Strawberry Buttercream ( that’s right, this one is the girl) and another pregnant lady out of rolled marzipan.

I have to credit the talented Melody of My Sweet and Saucy for the stencil template of the pregnant lady silhouette. To get the template for yourself or see her totally amazing baby shower cake, check out this post. This is the girl who should be doing your cakes, ladies, not me!

No recipe for this one…my strawberry buttercream separated ever-so-slightly (darn Martha!) so I wasn’t to happy with it. It was all smooth and sexy until I added the pureed jam…

However, here is a recipe you must try out soon. Don’t wait for an event like a new baby–this lemon mascarpone frosting would make a killer icing for cupcakes for any sort of occasion.

Lemon Mascarpone Frosting

2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup sugar
24 oz mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups lemon curd

Beat whipping cream and sugar in a large bowl until peaks form.
Add mascarpone to lemon curd in a medium bowl; whisk until blended.
Fold whipped cream into lemon-mascarpone mixture and gently mix until combined.

Covers and fills a 9 inch layer cake.

P.S. OK, since this post is all about babies…

…here’s Mateo at 2 months old. I’m hoping he will be less picky than his brother and hopefully a foodie since his shirt says “I’d rather be eating foie gras at Toque!.” One can always hope.

P.S.2 On another personal note…Laura, you are far away and the third sister-in-law about to give birth. I love you and miss you and would give anything to make your baby shower cake…xxoo.

Cake and Coffee for Dad

Happy 65th Birthday to my Dad!

Today is the birthday of one of the very special men in my life: my dad, John.
Although he’s seems about a million miles away on the other side of the country, I made a cake for him anyway.

Whether self-appointed or elected, I was always the one in the family to make my dad’s birthday cakes when I was growing up. Usually they were ghastly creations, covered in garishly colored icings, but slowly improved over the years, thank goodness! Even though my siblings teased me about how some of the cakes looked, Dad alway made me feel like they were beautiful works of art.

This recipe for coffee cake became a favorite in our home as simply everyone in the family loves coffee (we kids all started drinking at the ripe old age of twelve) and my dad often requested it.
No subtle coffee flavoring in this moist cake! The basic white crumb is steeped in a strong coffee syrup and then layered with vanilla bean whipping cream.

Oh yeah.

I’ll save the really personal stuff for a phone call to my dad, but I will say that he has encouraged me in my cooking skills for as long as I can remember and next to my husband, is my biggest fan.

Thanks Dad, for all the support-not just in cooking, but in every area of my life.

I love you.

“Cake and Coffee” Cake

¾ cup butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 Tablespoons milk

Coffee Syrup (see below)

Whipping Cream for garnish
1 vanilla bean

Preheat oven to 350F.Grease a 7 inch round cake pan and set aside.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl.
With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla.
With a spatula, fold in dry ingredients, alternating with milk. Combine gently.

Scrape batter into cake pan and level top with the spatula. Bake until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cake will be fairly dark on top and sides.
Cool five minutes in pan, then remove from pan and cool cake on a wire rack.While the cake is baking, prepare the coffee syrup.

When cool, slice cake horizontally so as to have two layers. Pour a little (1/4 cup) of the coffee syrup into the bottom of the 7-inch round cake pan and place the top layer of cake into it. Take another 7-inch cake pan and add some syrup to the bottom. Place the bottom layer of the cake into it. Pour more coffee syrup over both pieces of cake and place in the fridge to soak. Keep adding syrup to both layers as it is absorbed. Chill well.

Whip cream to stiff peaks and sweeten with sugar. Remove seeds from vanilla bean and fold into cream.
Place the bottom layer of the cake on a cake stand and cover with a layer of whipped cream. Place second layer of cake on top and cover whole cake with whipped cream. Chill well.Slice and serve with -what else- great coffee!

Coffee Syrup: boil two cups strong black coffee with 1/3 cup sugar. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla. Cool.

Warm Gingerbread with Cortland Applesauce and Cream

The annoying thing about living in a post-renovated home is that you can never find anything. It’s not like after a move where you know you’ll eventually unpack a box and find what it is you are looking for; it is much more uncertain than that. In the pre-renovation haste, I was just stashing stuff anywhere and everywhere and now I am suffering the consequences.
Please, if anyone finds my Diana Krall Christmas CD, hand it over. I’d like to be listening to it since we seem to be hurling toward Christmas at a breakneck pace.

I always associate this gingerbread recipe with Christmas, although I am not sure why. I can’t for the life of me remember any particular incident that would connect the two together, yet, when I dusted off my Kitchen Aid and started mixing, I said to myself “I guess I’m starting my holiday baking”.

I hope I am not the only person who starts baking a good month early. I tell myself that with a enthusiastic toddler to keep my busy and a baby on the way, I have to be organized and I am–in the kitchen anyway. As for the rest of the house? Forget it!
Where IS that dang CD?

Merci to my MIL for this recipe. I believe she got it from her mother and although we know it is called ‘Prize Gingerbread’, we have no insight into just what kind of prize this cake earned…
I think as far as gingerbread goes, this one is about as good as they get. Moist, flavorful, fragrant, and a lovely dark color from a whole cup of molasses.
Cortland apples are hard to pass up in the market these days, with their blushing bride coloring and sweet fragrance. They make the most delicate-of-pink applesauce that is a must with this gingerbread; however, if you don’t have any apples, a drizzle of lemon icing would be delightful too, and whipped cream is essential.
There you have it! Your dessert for the week.

Prize Gingerbread 2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar

1 cup molasses
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, well beaten
Preheat oven to 325FButter a 9×13 cake pan or two loaf pans and line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment.
Combine flour, baking powder, and ginger together and set aside. Cream shortening and brown sugar until fluffy, then add molasses, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Mix well. Add baking soda to boiling water and mix into molasses mixture. Fold in reserved flour mixture and combine. Add beaten eggs and mix well. Pour into pan(s) and bake about 50 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Serve warm.