Monday, May 21, 2012

Happy Birthday Fishes!

Everyone loves birthday cake!  And everyone loves vegetables!  Okay - I love vegetables...don't even get me started on beets but I guess not everyone loves them quite as much as me.  One day I will make a cake with kale in it.  But this was not that day.  When a couple of good friends get married, you go to lots of parties to celebrate with them... a shower, a bachelorette party, a rehearsal, etc.  And when the bride makes a small request to help celebrate the groom's birthday, the day after the wedding, you do whatever you can to make it great for them.  When my friend, the Lovely Lauren asked me if I could make a cake in the shape of a goldfish cracker, I was happy to jump on it.  Turns out, her (now) hubby, eats the cute little fish with dinner instead of vegetables.  Maybe I should introduce him beets - the most delicious of all veggies. 

Anyway - this was quite possibly the easiest cake to make.  A simple dark chocolate single layer cake with a thin layer of buttercream and covered in fondant and airbrushed gold.  How cute is this little guy:

And because their wedding and his birthday was a weekend in May, it coincided with a First Communion for which I made cakepops!  And when a 7 year old says "Can you make pink cakepops with white sprinkles?  No! Rainbow Sprinkles!?"  You nod your head and say "Definitely!"  

Don't these look appetizing?

I've got so many more fun baking projects coming up!  And as always - Go Beets!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Magical Mothers' Day

When you’re the single gal in the midst of mothers, it becomes your responsibility to host Mothers’ Day brunch.  There are six women in my family and I am the younger of two non-mothers with the other being a fabulous aunt who should be celebrated as a mother regardless.  And since I was pent up in grad school the last few mothers’ days, I thought that I should offer to host a little party to celebrate my aunts, stepmom, sister and of course my charming, adorable, weird, pious, giving, hardworking mother:  Big Mama.   As the family baker, I’m pretty sure the gals were expecting something lovely.  Add into the mix that half are on a diet, or off carbs, or don’t want something heavy …like cake.  Oy.  I made a mix of brunchy things:  Crustless Quiche Muffins – yum!, a spectacular Kale Salad with red cabbage, peas, shallots, beets, and a little goat cheese in a fresh lemon “vinaigrette” – a big sautéed batch of Potatoes O’Brien, Grilled chicken – optional topping for the salad, Grilled Turkey Bacon (because I’m a veg and didn’t want my house to smell like dead pig), and a French Toast Casserole for the kiddies that were joining us.  Since I’ve really been on a no processed food/only natural foods kick in my own personal dietary psychosis, I decided that the bread for this should be home made.  Since I decided that last minute, I made my emergency bread or “beer bread” using 7up instead of beer.  Add a little  more sugar and you have a sweet citrusy bread that take 5 minutes to mix and less than an hour to bake.  BooYaH!

So easy:

3 cups flour
1tbsp baking powder
3 tsp sugar
12 ounces beer or lemon/lime soda like 7Up
1 tsp salt

4tbsp butter

Stir first five ingredients until combined.  Melt butter and pour over batter in loaf pan.  Bake on 375 about 50 minutes.  If you're using a soda, you can add a bit more sugar and a tsp of lemon extract for extra sweetness and flavor. 

 For dessert, I made Pavolova in individual servings with a lemon curd filling, fresh whipped cream and a blueberry balsamic drizzle.  And because I like cake, I made an orange pound cake which was a total fail because I used my angel food cake pan instead of my bundt pan which I couldn’t find.  GRRR.  Since no cake gets wasted, I froze the chunks to make future cake pops.  Meh.  So in a pinch, and now handy angel food cake pan, I whipped up a quick lemon angel food cake. 
Here's a destroyed orange pound:

Let me talk about the pavlova a minute.  Or as long as I want, since it’s my blog!  Meringue is a beautiful thing.  Ever since my great Aunt Sis who lived next door made peppermint meringue cookies for Christmas when I was a wee snarkybaker, I have been hooked on the crunchy melt in your mouth magic of meringue.  So when a good friend was grinding up sugar in a food processer for pavlova, which she described as a soft on the inside but crusty on the outside meringue, I was intrigued.  I poked around on the internet and found this recipe which showed single serving pavlova cups that looked easy, and delicious.  They turned out perfect!  So pretty and quick to make.  Look how yummy they look!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Cupcakes Across America! The Cupcake Tree Santa Clarita, CA

And let's go back to California shall we?  Am I ever in the same time zone for more than a week at a time?  Well no - apparently not.  This trip back to CA was all over the place.  An hour before I had to go to my client's site, I found myself in Santa Clarita.  A quick google search on the iPhone found me The Cupcake Tree, and unassuming small cupcakery in a strip mall.  So often, I find myself in fancy schmancy places that if there's not a doorman saying hello, I'm prone to raising an eyebrown.  I'm judgemental - it's part of my charm.  And it assists in my snarkiness.   So when I see a tiny little shop with a nothing-fancy sign, I get a little worried.

Since I was there sortof near Easter, I was greeted by this cute little Peep cake:

And then I noticed their adorable cakepop selection:

And then finally, I notice their good selection of cupcakes:

They looked pretty good and there was a decent selection for what looked like a very small shop.  They had the standards:  Vanilla with vanilla buttercream which they cutely call "the blond" and red velvet with cream cheese frosting which they call "the southerner".  So cute names - I get it.  And a few other interesting flavors:  Vanilla Root Beer - vanilla cake with root beer buttercream,  Sweetart - a lemon cake with a lime frosting.  Then I noticed one called "Samoa".  Wait - like the girl scout cookies?  Turns out - YEAH!  This cupcake was amazing.  A coconut "infused" cake with caramel in the middle, topped with chocolate buttercream, caramel drizzle and a few coconut flakes.  This tasted JUST LIKE the famous and somewhat dangerous cookie.  And the cake was sooo moist and delicious.  And the balance between cupcake and frosting was perfect. 

So the lesson here is don't let a strip mall small shop turn you off.  This was one of the best cupcakes I've had.  Not an original flavor combination but done so well that you don't even mind. 

One other note about this shop - their website has a link they call "SVC Supporter".  A click on this link brings you to a page where they explain that they support the business of the Valley of Santa Clarita, using local businesses to help support the community.  And even playing music from local musicians.  What this shop lacks in size, they make up for in quality and class.  Get thee to Santa Clarita for the Cupcake Tree.