Pulse Stable, Patient Is Breathing

5 12 2008

c120408_1027_00

Tis the season to be busy, it seems. With a million things to do just to make sure that one stays alive and kicking with zero down time, what is a gal to do? In case you’re wondering, this is a short list of things that have happened since I last posted:

-Took my sick cat to the vet. Pancreatitis. $400.
-Cleaned apartment(and washed my sheets about 5 times) this week because Princess Shittybottoms and her disease have taken over my home.
-Handed out about 15 resumes around town and swallowed my very salty pride as I also applied at *chain* restaurants. I feel unclean.
-Finished my Christmas shopping and about half of my Christmas creating(ie: for those of you not on my expensive list)
-Wrote four new recipes that I’m DYING to try out. Oh the foot-tapping going on right now in anticipation of Christmas feasting, I tells ya!
-Finally, finally wrapped up my last lab before exam week starts. I can not WAIT until next semester. Chocolate shall bow to me, oh yes.

1114081139

So I can’t possibly be held responsible for the lack of posting and picture-taking, can I? Really now. In addition to the list, here are a few things I’ve done in class that I’m only just now pulling off of my phone, and a few from some outings dating back as far as August, I believe.

1016081308

Let it be known that I have an active hatred for the above mocha cake. Nothing to do with it’s difficulty but rather it’s ease and plainness.

1003081308

Lemon meringue pie, circa September 2008. *yawn*

c112108_1314_00

Ugly Yule log. May I just state, for the record, that I was FORCED into using those hideous meringue mushrooms, FORCED into making it shaped as such, and DENIED a cute little enchanted forest fairy and was instead pacified with the option of a butterfly. Which I mangled. Not my best work by any stretch. Que sera, sera.

c112608_1003_00

We were asked to make a large occasion cake for the school’s athletic association and so our chef told us to each make a piece of sporting equipment. My sense of humor being what it is, I made a jock strap. It was immediately repurposed into a football helmet after I got The Look. Some folks are just so uptight, amirite?

0904081653a

This is the famous finger injury I incurred while making that wedding cake a few months ago. Le ouch!

0724081826

From one of my patio adventures with the wonderful Mister Josh, in a place where cheese sticks are called Cheese Rockets and onion rings are called Glory Hoops. *Ahem*

c120408_1028_00

And yesterday’s chocolate-on-chocolate busy work. I actually love doing this because she allows us complete decorative control.

mustache

Theory class has never looked so dapper! Mmmyes, quite.

Not much else to report yet; there will be a post about chili in the near future and I bring you promises of Christmas candies aplenty. Other than that, have a happy Friday and try not to get eaten by bears.

Current earmeats: “In Da Ayer” by Flo-Rida. I have never been so ashamed of liking a song as much in my entire life but it’s so catchy, dagnabbit!

Advertisements




Better Late Than Never

22 11 2008

n546150455_4907164_2362

I actually did this on Halloween and slap my wrists, I’m only telling you about it now?! It’s true. However, my camera batteries were dead so I had a friend take the picture and had to wait just this long for her to send it to me. And you know what? In my utopia, zombie cupcakes would have no season. So yes, zombie cupcakes in November are a total GO!

Current Earmeats: Moneen, in a futile attempt to drown out the ever-persistent reverberating bass from my upstairs neighbor. There was a day not too long ago that I would have though that a blue collar, middle aged straight man couldn’t have too horrible a taste in music for his demographic but I am VERY wrong. Even Europeans hate Euro-trance, sir.





Why Yes, I Am Alive.

3 11 2008

We appreciate your concern. I’ve pretty much been out of town for the last two weeks so it goes without saying that I’m a little lacking in the food-making department. In lieu of actually making anything at home, I’m going to throw out some pictures of what I’ve been doing in class over the last two weeks because it’s pretty much all I’ve done.

So there. I’ve baked. I came, I saw, I decorated.

I’ll be finally getting around to cleaning my kitchen this week (rejoice!) so I’ll soon have fun and exciting things to report on. I’m planning a few things that I can’t wait to try out and when I do, you will all be the firsts to hear about it. Promise.

Currently listening to: 36 Crazy Fists. Research this pronto; your hardcore soul depends upon it.

Also: planning new apartment decor but need funds for said. Going to scour antique stores in Toronto for more medical antiques and militaria. If anyone knows where I can find an early 1900s leather and metal prosthetic arm, hook a sista up. WANT.





Who’s Afraid of the Big White Cake?

15 09 2008

Not me. Oh no, not I. The wedding cake is finished, folks. Done. Over. Gone. 50 lbs of batter, 30 lbs of icing, 20 lbs of marshmallow fondant, and a 20kg bag of icing sugar that I’m sure will last me the rest of my life all went into the construction of this most glorious of cakes. I’m so high on my own sense of accomplishment right now, you have no idea. If you see me walking around for the next week with dazed eyes and a silly little grin on my face, I assure you it’s not love, it’s my ego.

This is my big bowl of batter. It’s a double recipe, and it fills one, I repeat, ONE 16″ base layer cake pan. One. Singular. You have no idea how many times I had to make this recipe in one day. Not having an industrial-sized kitchen is really starting to take it’s toll on me. My oven does not support the baking of two pans at the same time, so I had to do these individually, each layer, washing the pans in between, as well as mixing the bowls of batter PER PAN, washing in between, and so on. I did every layer on one Saturday and boy howdy was I ever one sore kitten. My 20-year-old hand mixer decided to finally mutiny on me, so I had to mix the entire(ENTIRE) cake by hand. Let me just say that one more time for the people in the back row: I mixed a four-tier, two layer wedding cake completely BY HAND. That’s right.

I am so thankful that that particular Saturday was cold outside. After running my oven all day at 350 degrees without reprise, if it had been a summer wedding, I might have had to charge them an extra 50 bucks just for having to suffer in the heat. But it wasn’t, so it’s all good.

Have you ever had your entire freezer occupied with eight layers worth of cake? Let me just say, it’s both awesome and horrible. Awesome in that how many times in your life are you allowed to pack your entire freezer with dessert?; and horrible because unless you have a second freezer, have fun storing the rest of your food for a week. As someone who often cooks a big stew pot worth of chili or bolognese sauce or curry and then freezes it to eat throughout the week, this was a particular pain in my proverbial ass. I am admittedly lazy, and having to make something fresh every day in a chaotic kitchen was just far more than I was able to handle. Let me just say that I ate a lot of cereal.

I’m sorry but I am missing a lot of pictures from the making of this cake. I really wanted to document the whole thing and was even toying with the idea of a little animation, but the week that I needed to start the cake I started pastry school. Waking up at 6am every day and being on your feet until ten at night doesn’t really make you want to do any more work than is absolutely necessary. What you’re missing is a huge bowl full of vanilla buttercream icing, three 7lb bricks of marshmallow fondant, four tiers of iced, stacked and fondant covered vanilla cake, and a whole countertop’s worth of black and pink decorations. It all came together as such:

Now, I’ve got to admit that the whole procedure up until the actual day of the wedding was relatively stress-free for me. I had zero freakouts, not once did I question whether or not I was ready for such an endeavor, and never even broke down crying even once. Which is a lot more than I can say about some of the smaller, less important cakes I’ve made. On the day of the wedding, I woke up early. I had to roll out the black dots so they could be glued on at the wedding and I’m really glad I gave myself the extra time because I ran out of black fondant and had to tint a new batch. I’m so happy that I chose not to sleep in that extra hour. I was a little late getting to the hotel, spent 15 minutes fighting with a vending machine, and then ran downstairs to finish the cake. I had to glue on the base ribbons, polka dots and pink bows at the venue, as well as dowel and stack the thing. I seriously finished gluing on the last bow just as people were entering for the wedding, and had about four minutes to clean up the bar I was working on, change into my fancy-girl clothes, and rush into the wedding about two minutes before the ceremony started. Who’s a rock star? Hmm?

I really had a whole different post in mind when I was envisioning writing this a week ago. I was going to give helpful hints to anyone who’s undertaking something like this for the first time, give out recipes and scaling help, and a fondant tutorial, but honestly, I’m taking a break for now. This week has been so crazy for me, my kitchen is still in shambles, and I’m writing this at school because it’s the only place I can get an internet connection at the moment. Please don’t ask too much of me. Though I assure you that this isn’t going to me my last wedding cake, and I have a few people that I need to bake present cakes for in the near future, so I’ll reserve my help for those posts. For the moment, I’m just going to take this week to sit back, relax, focus on school, and keep gawking at the picture of my very first wedding cake while saying to myself, “I did that. Wow. I can do anything!”

Currently listening to: Bad Religion

Also: if anyone feels like being my new best friend and wants to come over and clean my kitchen, I’d love you forever. I can pay you in appreciation.





Cupcakes and Apologies

19 08 2008

It’s been quite a long few weeks for me. I’ve been busy(WHAT!?), I got a new job, and my upstairs neighbor moved and took my stolen internet with him. Now I either have to suck it up and pay for the stuff or continue to use the free wireless connection at the coffee shop downtown. Life is so hard. But in that time of doing nothing and everything, I did manage to bake a sample batch of cupcakes as a tasting point for the wedding cake I’ll be making in September. So life is sweet, too.

My instructions from the bride were, almost exactly as follows: “I want a vanilla cake with vanilla icing. It needs to be so sweet it will rot your teeth on the first bite.” This is exactly what I delivered. Now personally, I’m not much of a fan of vanilla-on-vanilla cupcakes. I find them bland and boring. When presented with a choice, I will almost always go for the lonely group of cupcakes that everyone is afraid to taste because the flavor combinations seem too strange for human consumption. This usually pays off for me, as what may not sound like a good idea on paper winds up being something that pays off HUGE on the tongue, with some rare exceptions too horrendous to mention.

Well, these are the vanilla cupcakes to love. Some might find this a little hard to believe, but as a rule, I’m not much of a fan of cupcakes. For the most part, I find them incredibly dry and difficult to swallow. I’m more of a cake fan, because even the most arid of cakes can be corrected with a generous brushing of cleverly flavored simple syrup and a most heaping slathering of decadent icing. These though, I didn’t mind. I’m more of a fan of this recipe in cake form, but as cupcakes they were inoffensive and delicious. Stay tuned in just short of a month, wherein I will be documenting my forays in wedding cakery, but for now, I’ll hook you up with the cupcake recipe, as I’m sure you’re all dying to sink a greedy tooth into one. Your dentist will love me.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes 12
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease up your muffin tins.
Cream together softened butter and sugar. One at a time, add the eggs, making sure they are well incorporated after each addition. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Stir vanilla into buttermilk. Alternating flour and buttermilk mixtures, add them to butter mixture. It should go flour, milk, flour, milk, flour, milk. ALWAYS end with milk, people. IMPERATIVE. Bake for 30-40 minutes.
Vanilla Icing

1/4 c butter
2 c powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla

Combine butter, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla. Add milk as needed to thin to spreadable consistency. Tint to your liking, or not at all. Slather on cupcakes, or wherever you need a little more butter and sugar in your life.

In other news: my kitchen hasn’t been cleaned in three weeks. I am not even the least bit concerned by this.

Currently listening to: Batmobile.





A Consolation Prize

6 07 2008

I haven’t made anything exciting for a while.  Sorry, but it’s true. Though all hope is not lost! I’m going to try and buy your love with some pictures of a cake I made for my mom’s birthday last month. Enjoy!

Flowers made with gumpaste and gumption, ribbon made in China.

I promise to make at least one exciting thing to share with you all before this Friday, when I go on vacation for a week. I shall then regale you with restaurant reviews and things of that nature upon my return. Huzzah!





Icing A Cake In the Devil’s Kitchen

28 06 2008

As I promised, I am now pleased to present you with my tale of strawberry cake. If it was novel, it would probably be called “The Strawberry Cake Catastrophe.” This was quite possibly one of the most incredibly problematic endeavors to date, but true to fashion I managed to turn it around with maximum wreckage of my kitchen and only minor damages to my pride.

Innocence is deceiving

It started off innocently enough. Just a pint of unassuming organic strawberries. The kitchen window was open and I was [hopefully]annoying my downstairs neighbor with Amy Winehouse playing on my stereo. The cats were doing cat things and not investigating what was going on on the counter(for once), and the future was looking fresh and full of sweet possibility.

This is what I imagine heaven would be like.

At this point, the mess in my kitchen was minor. Just the things I was using were laying around and there were a few glops of batter and buttermilk on the counter but it wasn’t anything too overwhelming. Let me take a minute here though to tell you about those strawberries. If you are one of the unfortunate souls that has yet to try an organic summer strawberry I suggest you make it of the highest priority. They are only a dollar extra than generic strawberries and they don’t taste like red foam. If you want an approximation of their superiority, let me tell you that in all seriousness they almost brought me to tears they were so good, and I actually scavenged the cut tops for any edible portion I could find like some kind of shameless hobo in my own house. Remember when you were younger and everything tasted so… different? This is where your flavors have been all along and right under your frugal nose, instead of hidden behind a blanket of pesticides and genetic engineering. But enough about that; this post is about cake after all!

I need more than one 8\

With the berries safely folded into the cake batter, so began my two hours of relaxation whilst they baked away. Well, maybe more like one hour and forty-five minutes rather, since I only have one eight-inch springform and have to swap it out for new batter if I’m making a layer cake. It’s a minor inconvenience, but at least it’s one less dish. Yeah, well, this “minor inconvenience” was the beginning of a tumultuous roll downhill and a very long and agonizing climb back to the top. I have no pictures of the catastrophic part of this misadventure as I was far too busy scrambling about the kitchen trying to salvage the numerous things that went wrong. Frankly, the carnage is far too graphic and disturbing to subject human eyes to, but I will list the battles fought and casualties lost. Just humor me.

The Tragic Misjudgment of Angles-In which our brave General Cupcake blazed forth to conquer the enemy but was defeated by underestimating the power of the lowlands. Next time shall attack from higher ground and jerry-rig some form of cake stand rather than my inferior(and awkwardly low, actually) counter tops. Casualties: four unlevel cake layers and the General’s ego in matters of horizontal slicing.

The Jellyfrost Incident- In which the General, freshly wounded from battle but not discouraged, tackles the guerrillas from both Camp Strawberry Jam and Camp Strawberry Buttercream in a diplomatic attempt to unite the two. Unfortunately the ramifications of the Tragic Misjudgment of Angles were unaccounted for and after a long and arduous battle the General did succeed in uniting the two opposing camps in a fragile cease-fire. However there was still much propaganda to be distributed to assure the rebels that Angles had been rectified so our General marched on, weary from a battle barely won but optimistic nonetheless. Casualties: none.

The Buttercream War– The longest, hardest and most fatiguing of all was the Buttercream War. After what was a shaky accord at best with the two guerrilla camps trying to coexist on their ravaged homeland, a mission of complete unity and democracy was enthusiastically set in to motion. Perhaps it was General Cupcake’s zeal in attempting to all at once solve the perplexity of the tenuous relations of her enemies by binding them together and to also salvage some of her own pride that caused an all-out war in the land of Strawberrycakeistan. The lethal combination of weapons too strong for her control, battle fatigue and impatient fervor caused the General to agree to a full-on Buttercream Blitz. The weapon was too strong, foreign and applied with far too much pressure for the people of Strawberrycakeistan to understand that an all-out riot erupted, causing the entire top of the country to split in half. Frazzled and frightened, the General did the first thing she could think of and closed the borders of the entire country, sealing it shut with a metal wall until it resolved it’s own issues. Casualties: the entire kitchen cavalry, the Dishwater Ocean, and the General’s patience.

As you can all see, things are once again all well in the world of cake. For those of you with less vivid imaginations than myself, basically what happened was: I couldn’t cut the cake in half properly because I am too tall for my counters. This presented problems when the time came for gluing them together, and especially when it came to covering the cake. I actually had to clamp the springform ring around the whole thing, ICED, and shove it into the fridge for an hour-long time out to think about what it had done. I made a new batch of icing, because of some kind or serendipity I actually had over purchased and had enough for another batch, so I re-frosted the entire thing. With much more success as you can see. This, thankfully, concluded my troubles but has taught me that trying to frost a cake in 30 degree humidity, in an apartment still recovering from the effects of an oven being on for two hours, with unlevel cake layers, wins me the “You Sure Aren’t Some Kind Of Stephen Hawking” award. Best to be eaten with a slice of humble pie, I’m sure. Moving on…

So begins the decorative part of our program. Though my hand mixer was struggling in its old age to keep up with my demands(it’s probably older than I am, I learned how to bake cakes with that thing when I was seven!), it grumpily made one more batch of icing, royal icing to be exact. Much to my surprise, piping the cake in the Devil’s Kitchen wasn’t at all difficult. I assumed that the heat would have fought against my attempts to defy gravity and pipe on the vertical side of the cake, ending in far worse tragedy than I could ever imagine but it just wasn’t so, people. I drew up a template of the flourish that I wanted to cover with to serve as a visual aid and went to town. It turned out almost as well as I had hoped. I would have preferred the cake to have been higher to allow for a smaller line, but at that point we weren’t about to nitpick.

I was going to document my forays into gumpaste, but honestly, I do it often enough and could provide far better demonstrations with more ornate decorations at another time, so this is what you get for now. I did these the night before while watching old musicals and drinking the iced tea and it was great. Now, this is what i do before i shove them into a cake, and what i recommend that anyone else do as well. I arrange them in a way in which i would like to see them on a cake and take a picture of it. That way, you don’t lose your arrangement and can refer to the picture if you don’t remember where you wanted a particular piece to go. Call it organized, call it anal, call it what you want, but I’m going to call it a solid plan.

And that would be that! All that was left was to shove the stems into the cake and pipe the accents on to the strawberries and the topper…

Ready for it?

There you are, my friend Mel’s birthday cake. Calamities aside, it turned out alright if I may say so myself. Apparently my icing penmanship leaves something to be desired, but I can live with that today. I’ve emerged from this quite humbled actually. I love decorating cakes and rarely have disasters that I can’t recover from, but today I am thankful for my disasters. If everything went smoothly all the time, how would we ever learn? Because of these events, I’ve learned that not all cakes are best to be worked with completely fresh, jam and buttercream can indeed be coaxed into friendship if you’re persistent enough, and always keep your pointy cake toppers away from your cats lest you want them to gnaw off the fragile shards(which I now have to somehow repair). Recipe to follow.

Strawberry Cake

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 cup salted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 pint strawberries, medium dice
2 tbsp flour

With an electric mixer or stand mixer, whip butter until light and fluffy at medium speed, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the sugar in about 6 additions, and then add each egg one at a time until incorporated.
Sift together flour and baking powder and alternate with with buttermilk and vanilla until blended.
Toss strawberries in 2 tbsp of flour and add to mixture. (The flour assures that the strawberries will adhere to the batter and will incorporate more easily.) Fold the strawberries into the batter.
Pour mixture into two 8″ cake pans and bake for 40-55 minutes at 350, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Cool cakes on a wire rack. I suggest wrapping them thrice in saran and freezing them for at least half a day to sturdy them up before finishing them. I will be doing this next time, as well as investing in a tall, tall cake stand.

Icing and filling

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup strawberry preserves(mash them through a sieve if you don’t want the seeds appearing in your icing)
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Milk, for thinning, if needed

1/2 cup strawberry preserves

On medium speed, whip butter until fluffy. Whip in 1/2 cup strawberry preserves. Gradually add confectioner’s sugar until desired consistency is reached. Thin with milk if you find the icing too thick.

Cut each cake in half horizontally. Microwave 1/2 cup strawberry preserves until spreadable and with a pastry brush(or a spoon, I’m sure it will also work). Spread a thin amount of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake(and when I say thin, I MEAN IT. Unless you make twice the icing, in which case go nuts.) Brush some preserves on to the layer that will crown the bottom layer and place it on so that the side with the preserves is on the frosted layer. Do this with the other layers until you reach the top. Cover your cake with remaining frosting. Decorate as you wish, in a much cooler kitchen than mine, I hope.

For extra strawberry power, I would also suggest using another pint of strawberries, cutting them into slices, and putting them between the layers of cake. Strawberry kawaii!