Monday, March 4, 2013


I know very little about most sports, and soccer is no exception. The ball moves back and forth really fast, and then at some point a really excited commentator from another country screams GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL! as loud as they can so that my dogs go running and my speakers are blown.  

And that, ladies and gents, is the extent of my soccer knowledge - This proved slightly problematic when I was asked to make a soccer ball cake and cupcakes for one of the world's cutest little 4 year olds.  Anywho, I was game (*snicker* corney joke ftw), so I agreed to the cake.  Little did I know that it was going to be a comedy of errors.

1. I had never baked in a dome pan before so I decided to do a trial run when we visited our friends in Charleston a few weeks ago.  The batter seemed to come out fine and I put it in the oven ready to claim victory, but what came out was put fail.  It was dense and chewy, and just plain gross.

2. Round two of trials I did after we got home.  The cake baked up better this time, but I still wasn't happy with the texture, so I decided to switch it up and use a different butter cake recipe that I've had success with in the past.

3. I should know by now to listen to my gut.  Like when you put the round bottom pan in your oven and go, "Hm... that looks slightly tilted to the back.  I hope that doesn't tip," LISTEN TO YOURSELF.  20 minutes later I start smelling cake... and I shouldn't be able to smell cake yet... and it shouldn't smell like burning... So I frantically run to the kitchen, and this is about what I saw when I opened the oven:

This is not my cake, but think this - only in vanilla, and 10x worse.

I immediately removed the lower rack that had cake goo all over it, and began the process of scraping the burning cake from the bottom of my oven so that A) the remaining cake would not taste like death, and B) In hopes that I would not set off the smoke alarm for the second time in as many days resulting in a 4 legged yellow thing shaking and stuck to my legs for the next 24 hours.  C was also nice enough to remove the batteries from the smoke alarms for me - we're super conscious about fire safety in our house.

With Crisis #1 averted and the cake and cupcakes finally out of the oven, I could decorate everything.  Enter  problem #2.

I assumed all the shapes were the same - all nice little hexagons that line up evenly and are super simple to make.  LIES.  ALL LIES.  Apparently the decorations on a soccer ball can be may different things, and even the simplest of them is a combination of hexagons and pentagons.  Mind = blown.  So I ended up using a cutter for the hexagons and free handing (read: cutting with a knife and forcing round pegs into square holes) the pentagons.  Overall I think it turned out fairly well, and I was super pleased with myself - that is, until it was time to make the mini soccer balls for the cupcake decorations.

My plan was to make the mini balls out of the leftover fondant and use an edible marker to draw the shapes. Apparently, the edible marker does not write on soft fondant.  Who knew?  So my brilliant solution was to coat the fondant balls in candy melts with my neato cake pop trick that I learned, and then use the marker on the firmer surface.  Denied - the marker still didn't want to write on it.  Option 3?  Pipe those suckers with black icing.  I think I sprained my palm... can you do that?

After all of that, here's the finished product:

My mad phone camera skillz at their best.

Apparently the grass was the hit of the party

Alive and Kicking

1. Yes, I'm alive.
2. No, I haven't written a blog post in a long time.
3. OK, a VERY long time.
4. Married life, work, and stuff gets in the way of blogging.
5. Hopefully this hasn't resulted in abandonment issues.
6. Here are some cakes.

A couple weeks ago I made a baby shower cake - Instead of being a gender reveal cake, the mama-to-be wanted to keep everything a surprise, so we did a mix of blue and pink with blueberry and strawberry fillings.  
Have I mentioned I love blueberries?

Mama-to be also requested a dozen cake pops.  I have attempted cake pops in the past, and have failed so very very miserably.  As in, is that a cake pop or did you cat leave a hairball on a stick failure...  Needless to say, there was much anxiety over them possibly turning out like this:

But after much soul searching (read: googling the interwebs) I decided to forge ahead with cake pops with the advice of my fellow bakers - thin that sucker out with some shortening!  Apparently if you thin the candy melts the cake pops don't turn out like vomit on a stick; instead they can actually be cute!  Tip #2 - forget colored candy melts - just use sanding sugar.  My life is changed forever.  No more buying 12 different colors of candy melts!  Super easy and super cute - see?!

Aside from the dogs almost getting a cake pop because I'm clumsy and can't hold onto things, these went off without a hitch!

As for the cake, it was fairly simple, aside from the massive panic that ensued when blue cake batter landed on top of pink cake batter.  Poor C tried to come in for the assist, and I may have said nasty things in my state of panic... whoops.  And I only almost ruined it once by putting the pink fondant in the wrong direction, not realizing it, and smoothing it down so it was all nice and pretty on the cake... yeah THAT was fun to take off and re-do.  Oh, and luster dust sticks to chocolate my foot.  I tried everything to get the chocolate letter toppers to shine - no dice. 

Why is that one question mark all wonky, you ask?  It's a mystery. (See what I did there?  Har har har.)
So I finished the cake and the cake pops the night before and got them all ready to go for the next day, but when I woke up the next morning I had a message from papa-to-be that they were headed to the hospital and baby was on their way!  So, sadly, no party was had and the cake was delivered after the baby.  And in case you're curious - pink won.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Last Friday one of C's co-workers asked if I would have time to make a WALL-E cake for a birthday.  In spite of my reservations I agreed.  I was worried since there would be no time for a trial of anything, and I knew that I was going to have to support WALL-E's eyes in some magical way... what that way was, however, I had no idea.  I was also worried that due to my recent bout of insanity having left me signed up to run a 10K, my training schedule was only going to leave me with a few hours each night in which to decorate.  Late night + exhausted from getting up before the chickens every morning + sore from running/strength training = bad things happening with buttercream.  And nobody likes bad things happening with buttercream... or do they?

I started the cake a day earlier than I usually do so that I could alleviate some of the late night stress on myself.  I baked two 13x9 sheets of chocolate cake on Tuesday (you can see the recipe I used here - which fyi was super moist and awesome - I think I found my go-to chocolate cake recipe!).  I froze the cake on Wednesday morning (see I knew the 17 cubic foot chest freezer would come in handy for something!  I could have fit about 50 more of those bad boys in there along with the cow and pig - but I digress) so that it would be much easier to carve/torte.  What's a torte you ask?  Well a gentleman would never ask a lady.... I mean it's cutting cake into layers so that you can put delicious buttercream in between the layers.  ANYWAY... I froze the sucker, torted away, and crumb coated the cake on Wednesday.  I also made WALL-E's eyes.  They're guarding the Smirnoff... and the butter.  They eyes know how much butter I still need for the frosting.

Mmm... coating the crumbs...

So then last night I did the actual decorating, which honestly, with the eyes already done and the cake crumb coated, wasn't terrible. I made an orangy-yellow color for his body, gray for his treads and some details, and I cheated and used Wilton black decorators icing because I hate making black frosting (and because as you all know I run in street gangs and do what I want) because it never comes out back - it's always some sad shade of gray.  As requested by a friend, I had C take some "Action Shots" of me decorating.

Look at the serious face... look at the precision... look at the sad amount of counter space :-(  I need a new kitchen....

So magic happens, I do stuff... and VOILA!  WALL-E appears!

Ignore the bottle of wine... how'd that get in there?  The smirnoff must have invited friends over, cause I definitely never keep that much alcohol in my fridge...

There was an epic battle with WALL-E's eyes.  There was cursing, there were a few tears, there was a lot of cracking, and there was a lot of sagging... and nobody likes sagging (well OK, some gold diggers might be able to look past it and think of greener, money filled pastures - but we're not talking about that here!).  So many dowels, supports, and trickery with fondant and buttercream that magically matched the color of the fondant, I managed to cover it all up, get the eyes to stay, and celebrated my victory over all things edible! OK, not all things, but I was happy.

I decided to leave off the arms for a couple of reasons.  1. I didn't feel like having another epic battle over RKT support, and 2. I was tired.  C said the cake looked good without the arms, and I was too sleepy to argue.  Hopefully the client won't care either!

C took WALL-E to work with him this morning, which always makes me nervous since I'm not there in case something goes wrong, but he made it there safely, eyes and all! And there was much rejoicing!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Staycation Baking

So for those of you who don't already know, last Friday was my last day at my previous job.  I landed a new gig at a different company starting May 31.  I'm mostly excited, a bit scared, and kinda hungry... (well it is snack time, people...)  Anywho, in honor of my last day, and because May is Zombie awareness month, my co-workers and I put together a zombie themed potluck.  Our lunch features such delicacies as brain loaf (meatloaf in the shape of a brain), brains and crackers (cheese spread formed in a brain mold), maggoty chili (chili with orzo pasta - aka chili-mac), and zombie cupcakes.  The zombie cupcakes that I made were red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing colored pink piped to look like a brain on top.  Here are a few pictures of the braaaaainz... *zombie drool*

And the brains and crackers that my friend J brought.

I decided to take a week off between jobs, so I've been enjoying my time at home this week as a staycation.  I've gone for runs every day, spent time at the puppy park with my 4 legged blonde companion, and been able to take time for myself to do things that I want to do.  Since baking is something that I love to do, and because my brother asked nicely, and because I love him, I made a batch of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies today.  I attempted to mix in the chips and nuts with a rubber spatula - fail... I think there were just as much of those as there was dough, so I had to fall back on old faithful - the wooden spoon.

 See?  A much better mix!

Then I dropped them onto an ungreased cookie sheet (lord I need new ones... the wedding can't come soon enough!) and baked them for about 6 minutes a pan.

While I was baking I popped a few of the macadamias, looked at the nutritional info, and then remembered why I never keep them in my house.  So bad for you. So delicious. So still have half a can in my pantry. Trouble.

When they came out of the oven they looked amazing, and of course I had to taste test 1 or 4... Reason 531 why I'm chunky.

Mmmmm... cookies...

Coming soon to a Northern VA address near you.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Liquid Courage

First, some fun news!  C and I went with several of our friends on a cruise last week, and it was AMAZING.  We booked this vacation almost a year ago, so we were all super excited that it was finally here.  Our boat went to Nassau, St. Thomas, and St. Maarten, and in spite of going through some pretty choppy water and feeling a little seasick, the vacation was perfect.  The weather was beautiful, we had plenty of time to relax, and the alcohol was free flowing.  (Speaking of alcohol - C and I went back to bootcamp Wednesday night and I swear I was sweating 80 proof...)  Here are a few pictures to make you jealous :-)

Jealous yet?  :-)

The cruise itself couldn't have come at a better time for us, although there's no way that we could have known that when we booked it.  We found out not too long before we left that the company many of us work for was going to be going through some cutbacks and that all of us were going to be affected in some way, and some of us sooner than others.  Yesterday was the first round of people leaving, and needless to say it was a rough day for everyone.  In honor of emotional eating and the need for some liquid courage, I made Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with a Bittersweet Ganache.

Instead of putting the cupcakes out in the kitchen a little before lunch like I usually do, I decided that cupcakes for breakfast was not out of the question on a day like that, so I put them out when I first got to the office.

I know that cupcakes couldn't make the situation any better, but I hope that they were at least a type of comfort on a day that was inherently sad for all of us.  I know that all of us are moving on the bigger and better things, but I'm going to miss working with all of you.  You're all amazing at what you do, and you're all wonderful people.  It has been my privilege and my pleasure to have worked with you, and I hope those of us staying in the area will still see each other often.  So, my cupcake to you all and wish everyone the best in whatever comes your way!


Friday, March 18, 2011

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."

Or at least that's what Albert Einstein said.  I've had several cupcake flavor combinations floating around in the ether for a few weeks now, so I decided to give them a whirl and try them out on my co-workers - they'll eat anything I bring in ;-)  The first flavor was inspired by my recent stress levels at work and my strong desire to put alcohol in anything.  I call it Bourbana Dana.  It's a banana cake with a bourbon cream cheese icing.  The cake part is moist and amazing from the bananas that are in it, but if I'm being honest, the icing is the star of this combo.  I used about 2 oz of my favorite amber liquid, 16 oz cream cheese, 1 c butter, and about 8 cups of powdered sugar.  The resulting icing is good on anything... the cupcakes, pancakes, crepes, pizza... ok, maybe not pizza... but it's really good!  Here's what they looked like:

 The second flavor combo was inspired by my co-worker LH.  She brought in some amazing Middle Eastern candies (from Dubai and Iran) that she remembered eating when she was little.  One of the candies was a date stuffed with ground up nuts and cardamom.  The flavor of the cardamom (which I like to think of as cinnamon's older, exotic, and more experienced cousin - you know, the one who comes to visit for a week or so during the summer and steals all of the cute boys... yeah that one) was intense, but in such a good way, that I felt the need to use it in a cupcake somehow.  My brain settled in on a cupcake that I called Middle Eastern Mojo - it's a chocolate cardamom cake with an orange buttercream.  LETHAL.  That's all I have to say about this combo.  I had more than one person ask if it would be wrong just to eat a tub of the icing.  No, dear friends... not at all, because I just happen to have the leftover icing in my fridge, waiting for me to have a bad day.  These cupcakes looked like this:


Also, I think my co-workers set a new record - I brought in about 36-40 cupcakes and they were gone in 2 hours.  With an office that has no more than 25-30 people in it at a time, I thought it was pretty impressive!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pancake Sunday

I'm not one who tends to be big on traditions, but C and I have started a few that I really enjoy.  In particular, every Sunday morning we have Pancake Sunday.  While C sorts through the paper (separating it into ads I like to look at, ads he likes to look at, coupons, and junk that nobody cares about) I whip up a batch of pancakes.  It's never the same pancake two weeks in a row, and the kind I make generally depends on A) my mood and B) how well stocked my pantry is.  I was feeling Springy this morning since little gnomes came and stole an hour of sleep from all of us last night, so I wanted to make something that reminded me that warmer weather is on its way.  Enter: Strawberry Pecan Pancakes.

A basic pancake recipe is pretty simple (and I swear one of these days C WILL learn how to make them so I can sit there sipping coffee and sifting through the paper as he covers the kitchen in flour - no worries, our dog Izzy is a great wet vac).  That's her waiting for me to drop the noms.

Anywho - a basic pancake recipe goes a little something like this:
Combine 1 cup of flour, 1 tbsp of sugar, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl.  Make a well in this mix and set aside.

Next, in a large measuring cup (because I hate making more dishes than I have to) combine 1 c buttermilk, 1 egg, and 2 tbsp oil (I use canola, but vegetable or whatever else you have on hand is fine).  Since I had strawberries and pecans on hand, I went ahead an chopped some of those up too.

I tossed the strawberries and the pecans in the flour mixture first, and then I added the buttermilk mixture.  Make sure you mix until just combined - over mixing = dog pancakes.  Pour the batter onto a hot greased griddle (I used about 1/4 c per pancake - this recipe should make 8 pancakes).

Wait until the tops look bubbly and a little bit dry and then flip.  Once you're done cleaning up all the batter that flew all over you, the counter, and the eagerly waiting wet vac, you should have something that looks like this:

And this:

Wait about 2-3 more minutes and the pancakes should be done!  Now if you're like me and just happen to have some leftover bourbon cream cheese icing laying around - you know... saved for a rainy day and whatnot - then feel free to apply liberally (hey, I said this was Pancake Sunday, not Health Nut Sunday).  I sliced up a banana to have on the side so that A) this picture wouldn't look like we were eating cake and icing for breakfast, and B) Because we keep getting friggin bananas in our farmers market baskets and I swear they're procreating on my counter.

Hmm... I think I may still have some of that icing laying around... have I mentioned my pants don't fit?