8 Days a Week or Living La Vida Loca

I think one of the best phrases the Beatles ever came up with was “8 days a week.” Lately I feel that’s what my work schedule is– 8 days a week. And me being me, I can’t help but add to a completely chuck full plate and throw in another project– aka a cake. I’ll sleep when I’m dead as they say.

Around 4am on Sunday I left work feeling exhausted and accomplished. My overall highlight of the night? I saw Ricki Martin! Let me break it down and have a true confession here, for a minute.  I loved Ricki Martin when I was in High School. I probably loved him more than was good for my already suffering drama-geek reputation. I loved him so much I went to see him in concert and I even had his spanish album Vuelve. I knew all the words en espanol and believed that we might actually make out someday…so much for dreams!

As Ricki’s career waned so did my love and I think about how gaga I was for him as a goofy teenage phase.  On Saturday he arrived to Frederick P. Rose Hall in support of a friend Michael Cerveris, who was performing– they are both in an upcoming run of Evita on Broadway.  As his 6’2″ frame smoothly strolled out of the theater, I got a long look at my teenage crush. His hair was dark and swept to the side and he wore black rimmed “dork” glasses– I wear them too, though he pulled off a Clark Kent kind of look, where the best I can do is be compared to Sarah Palin.  As he passed me I heard him speaking in Spanish to his friends.  And I’m still perplexed as I’ve never heard another dialect of Spanish with quite the same sultry quality.

For a minute I was that dorky 16 year old pining for the gorgeous Latin Sensation. Speaking of Dorky, heres my other weekend endeavor” Bot” from Umizoomi. Everytime I do a kids cake I am shocked at how out of the loop I am in terms of kids characters and TV shows.  Hopefully you can see in the pictures that cake is actually suspended over dowels decorated to look like legs and feet.

A bit of a challenge more so than I anticipated, but I heard with was a hit at the party for a young Mr. Braydon.  All in all a good week/ weekend.  On one last dork note, I’m thinking about getting an iphone…any suggestions on model or memory??

Add a comment January 24, 2012

My Worst Nightmare

Hey everybody!!! Happy New Year!! I’m happy to be back!!! I decided to publish a quick post I’d written a few weeks ago as I get my barrings and hopefully get back in the swing of baking! I’ve also had some exciting changes happen this past holiday season, but in the interest of creating suspense I’ll go into my exciting news once I have a recipe to post with it.

Jazz at Lincoln Center has been keeping me BUSY, like 80-hour-work-weeks busy, so there is little time for me to be baking, photographing, and posting and believe me I’ve caught some flack from my co-workers for not using them as taste test dumbies.

Just a few weeks ago I was at work no later than 10am each day– most days at 7am and didn’t leave till midnight 2am or 3am each day!! I felt triumphant at the end of a very long week not only accomplishing all the shows and events but also completing a great cake for a colleague who was celebrating 7 blissful years of marriage with her husband… and then my worst nightmare.

Picture a beautiful, brisk,  sunny Saturday and I’m on my way to the theater, cake in hand. I decide the subway is the best bet. Should I drive in I will hit all sorts of traffic and probably get stuck without a decent parking spot, not to mention the ING marathon was the next day and parking was at a minimum.

So the D train it is. I lumber down the blocks carefully toting my two tiered jem. I take a seat with my cake next to me and am relieved as the train remains relatively unpacked.  I carefully deboard at 59th Street. I’m here. As I take my time up the steps I’m relieved to see the Jazz marquis infront of me. I’ve made it. Unscathed.  Now I’ve made cakes, wedding cakes at that, and learned the hard way if your cake hasn’t gotten proper refridgeration, hasn’t settled for a decent amount of time and isn’t stacked right–dowels in all the right places you are doomed to find your top tier flipped to the bottom of the box.  As I cross the second lane of the Broadway, the pedestrian sign counting down the seconds, my ankle rolls as I step onto a manhole and down I go, BITING it in the middle of Broadway cake and all on the street. “Somebody help that lady!!!” a woman shouts behind me. I could care less about the cabs lerching forward anticipating the light changing. I’ve made it so far: an hour ride, two tiered cake in hand on the NYC subway!

I’d apparently made enough mistakes to learn how to keep a cake standing even through a trip and toss across Broadway. There the box stood right side up cake in tact, not a fondant detail out of place. :sigh: of relief.

I can say less about the skinned knee and twisted ankle.  It swelled hours later to the point where I was limping around the theater, but my cake barely shuttered.

P.S. Click “Gallery” or “Birthday” to see some new pics.

3 comments January 16, 2012

BRUNCH: Mixed Berry Mango Scones

I’m finally enjoying a Saturday all to myself! Its been a while. Mostly my “weekends” have been packed with 6 say a week work schedules, cakes, and family obligations, hence the lack of new recipes, or pictures. Its hard to bake in a New York City heat wave, let alone when it feels like just one more thing to do. But lately I’ve been in the midst of whats become a summer long project of rearranging my entire apartment. I’ve given up the spacious master bedroom to (eventually) convert it to my Master baking/ decorating room and have arduously gone through the task of rearranging closets, setting up my bed in the smaller but cozy guest room, and am still pulling apart and reassembling my kitchen. The irony: I’m probably not renewing my lease in my spacious bronx apartment, but I’ll figure that out later.

Not wanting to make a giant mess within the mess I’ve opted to make breakfast out of a few scones sitting in my freezer I made not to long ago and figure a recipe was far overdue.

And as I sit here and type I’m contemplating when am I gonna get rid of all this crap in my house I don’t want?! That mountain bike, that extra tv, flower vases, the books I’ve had since college.  And then procrastination sets in and I’m dreaming of more recipes for my long ignored blog: Lemon Meringue pie, Blueberry muffins– Its August –berry season after all, Tiramisu by Tony Danza, Yeah I just mentioned Tony Danza,  The french macarons I’ve been lusting after, and Humble Pie– a recipe that includes peanut butter and chocolate, and story about Paul McCartney.

But alas I sit and sip my coffee, and munch on a scone.

Scones, from Alton Brown

2 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp salt

1/3 c sugar

4 tablespoons butter

2 tbsp shortening

3/4 c cream

1 egg

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, sugar. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender.

In a separate bowl whisk cream with the egg.

Add egg and cream to dry ingredients.

Dough will be a little sticky, but thats okay.

From here I diverge a bit. Scones traditionally contain dried cranberries, or fresh blueberries.  I grabbes some mixed berries starwberries, blueberries and blackberries and added some mangos– all in my freezer.  The extra moisture will make you dough sticker, but make sure to add some additional flour when you roll it out and you’re set.

Chop fruit…I was probably a bit over zealous with the amount I added. (1 cup of each– you can add less)

Fold in to the dough. The juice from you fruit fresh or frozen will color the dough.  Aim for a marbled effect rather than blue scones.

Roll out on a well floured surface, to about one inch– or thicker. You can use a biscuit cutter or just haphazardly slice into triangular wedges like I did.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown at 375 degrees.

Procrastination on a Saturday.


2 comments August 13, 2011
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Marriage for All

I’m about a week late in terms of discussing this, but how about New York passing gay marriage?!! I’m very proud all New Yorkers are included in the celebration of marriage.  And as I joked with some friends… Its also good for business! ha! Its a perfect topic to touch on as I put up some pictures of a little cake I did for 2  friends last week.

Peter and Kikki are big cake fans, always giving me a challenge when it comes to their kids birthday cakes, and they recently held a birthday/ anniversary celebration.  They are both share the same birthday–hows that for soulmates?! and had a little party which also included their 15th wedding anniversary.  Turns out, being as non traditioanl as they are that they never in fact had a wedding cake. They opted for strawberry rhubarb pie instead. 

I figured 15 years together definetly needs to be celebrated with a big old cake, so I choose to do a baby blue frosting– which was the color of Kikki’s wedding dress–I said “non traditional” and do a strawberry rhubarb filling to reflect their first day as man and wife.  With yellow cake and Italian merignue frosting– it was out of this world delicious– and still pretty simple as far as flavor profiles goes.

I’m finally finding some time to update my pages here –check back shortly for 3 new cakes I delivered this weekend, with a Juicy Couture theme, and a Dora The Exploror Cake as well.

Happy Fourth!!!

2 comments July 1, 2011

and the Award Goes to…

Last week I took a few days off from my day job to spend some time making a custom cake for a special special person I truly admire. Unbeknownst to me my cake baking, building and decorating would be done on 2 of the hottest summer days so far, and I would fight with sweating fondant that stretched and ripped in my hands and a cake I did not trust to stand up straight  or melt into a puddle of butter.  I had to make the executive decision to arrive to the party later than expected (just as the party started in fact) so that the cake could set up in the fridge for a few crutial minutes more. Thankfully the chef in the kitchen and my client were understanding.

This birthday cake was for Eve Ensler, author of the play The Vagina Monologues, Activist, world traveler and Founder of one of the most powerful world-changing movements: VDay.  I’ve talked about Eve and VDay before, as they have been a big part of my life as I came into adulthood. Last night this well known playwright and rebel won a Tony for her play and the way she has chosen to use her art to influence and change the world for the good.

I was honored to make her birthday cake (which was a hit despite all my troubles). This year has been a celebration for Eve has she has recently survived cancer in addition to all the beautiful difficult work she does. A birthday bash and a Tony award in one week!?! Amazing! She is truly inspiring.  Her acceptance speech is dedicated to all the activists out there! Viva Eve and Congrats!

Check out her acceptance speech here

2 comments June 13, 2011
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In the Presence of Greatness

So in my last post I mentioned Sylvia Weinstock. In New York City she is the end all be all of cakes, especially when it comes to Weddings. Most attribute her to creating the concept of the modern wedding cake and this past weekend I got to see one of her creations in person. :sigh:


This stunning creation stood between 5.5-7 feet tall– not including the table. The bottom tier featured the names of the bride in groom in a pattern like design. White roses and other flowers hang from the tiers, and certain tiers were jeweled.  I had to force myself to pick my jaw up off the floor.

At 81 Sylvia Weinstock has been in business for over 30 years, and has made cakes for just about anyone you can think of, especially Hollywood A listers.  And she doesn’t use fondant. REPEAT: She doesn’t use fondant– in fact she hates fondant, and all her cakes are covered with perfect delicious buttercream.  If only I were that skilled!!!!

Add a comment June 7, 2011

Failure to Launch Part 1

Heres a great youtube video on how to make Italian Merignue Frosting– a slightly different method than Swiss Merignue.

I some how failed to post this yesterday which brings me to my choice of topics– failure!  Failure is a pretty negative word and Im not one to quit on a project so when it comes to a cake that I’m less than please with I at least try find a lesson in whatever went wrong. Whether its learning a trick  to stacking a cake better (cause the top tier toppled over in the car ride) or just delegating my time better on a project.  Below are some photos of beautiful cakes made by some culinary greats that I was inspired to recreate only to have less than stellar results, and a couple of tips on different techniques.

The cake featured above is by none other than Sylvia Wienstock. She’s been the queen of fabulous culinary works of art long before the Cake Boss picked up his first pastry bag.  She’s based out of New York City and her work is featured at every big New York Wedding there is.  She’s been called the Leonardo Da Vinci of cakes– a title you don’t just earn over night.  I used this photo as an inspiration for a cake I made this weekend for a friends birthday. Ultimately I didn’t spend enough time on this cake to render a mirror image of the photo which left me frustrated…and only escalated when the cake frosting melted everywhere in the car ride up. So here some advice on Italian or Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting

Italian Meringue/ Swiss Meringue ButterCream is alot less sweet and so fluffy some people think its whipped cream frosting.  It is by far my absolute favorite frosting but there are some down sides when working with it

First– its expensive to make. 2 sticks of butter a dolop of milk or water and a bag of confectioners sugar will run you about $5 bucks and render a great simple buttercream– and you can easily cover an 8″ cake with it.  Italian or Swiss Meringue call for a 2-3 cups of sugar, 2 lbs of butter and at least dozen eggs whites only but really after all the time it takes to make this excellent frosting whose got time to use the yolks?  –Its almost double the cost of American Buttercream and it doesn’t go as far. The time you spend whipping and mixing rarely will cover and decorate more than a 8″ / 10″ cake.  Its also a little tricky to make– I’ve screwed it up and gotten soup plenty of times to know. Both under mixing and overmising can lead to a total waste of time and ingredients.

Secondly, It also doesn’t take color well. Food coloring tends to drown in the meringue, barely blushing from a scoop of color. You will eventually notice if you pipe with it, that the color comes out as the frosting heats in your hand but that completely unpredictable.  Its so soft at room temperature I tend to find that piping flowers is only easy for those who are beyond the novice stage of piping.

And it melts….and melts and melts.  In the refridgerator you’ll find the frosting binds up just like butter does, making for a firm surface to work on once your cake is frosted, and chilled, but just let that cake find its way into a warm car for delivery or sit in the sun light and you are looking are melty soupy madness in no time.  I reconmmend experimenting with this before deciding to go and whip up a batch for the next birthday party your invited to.

Why would you suffer through something so finicky?  Well because it tastes soooo good! When I was making Jamie’s Cake this weekend it was suggested to not knock myself out with a crazy design but rather bring a cake that was simple and tasted delicious.  I was pissed I had to run into the kitchen of the restaurant and try and doctor the sides of the cake I had already spent so much time on only to have to use a butter knife to try to fix my now botched cake.  And those beautiful fondant roses I made? Were now covered in frosting…. Strangely enough the cake was a hit!  I watched people lick their plates literally to get a few more tastes of the ohhh so finicky frosting.

I didn’t originally photograph this puppy out of disappointment, but found myself tagged in facebook later, so I figured why not post it– so hopefully I’m not the only one learning from my mistakes.

Add a comment May 31, 2011

No Sleep till Brooklyn

As always i found myself awake into the wee hours of the night to finish a cake, even though I had divided my time all week in preparation for this cake. I just like to take my time with my work and I also decided at the last minute to do all the birds out of fondant and not make them as cake pops.  After an all nighter…or two—I did watch the royal wedding the night before while i worked…I drove down to Brooklyn. I think Joe’s reaction was worth the lack of sleep.

More pics in the gallery.

1 comment April 30, 2011
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Royal Wedding Cakes

I should be rolling Fondant for the 3 cakes sitting in my fridge..but I’ve found myself glued to the tv, because the big day is here!  Prince William and Kate Middleton will wed in just an hour. How exciting! A big fairytale wedding , a dashing prince and a commoner.

I love the fact the call Kate a “commoner.”  Meaning not of royal blood. I think thats what I like about this whole story.  Yes its got an incredible cinderella factor, but Kate Middleton wasn’t exactly sulking by the cinders when Wills came along.  Shes confident, smart, and chic. Captivating and charming– and they both look so happy.

And how dashing this young prince is! I’m loving the red Irish uniform not to mention Harry and his messy ginger hair!  How could you not be excited? Its gooey-heart warming to see all the world watching and celebrating in a lovely little love story and a happy moment in history.

And the anticipation over the dress, I’m curious!! But lets talk cake.  From what I know Fiona Cairns has designed a multi-tiered fruit cake decorated with flowers in keeping with the theme of their nuptials.  But now as I watch Diane Sawyer, and all the other anchors are talking about how Kate Middleton’s brother James, is in charge of the cake. In fact Mum Middleton began an event planning business in which she has been very successful. James Middleton as well as some of the other Middleton clan all work in the family business and that also includes cakes. Kate Middleton, princess and cake decorator?! All roads lead to cake!!

If you’d like to try to make a fruit cake heres my recipe, though I bet the royal wedding cake will have royal icing and marzipan as is traditional style for a fruit cake.

How about a fun wedding cake? Well I’ve been experimenting with Cake Pops, after purchasing Bakerella’s Cake Pops.  BakerELLA…hmm guess she beat me to that name, but all the same a good little book on how to make a fun little snack.  I decided to try mini wedding cakes for my cake pops.  Heres how I did it.

I baked a store bought box cake in a 13″x9″ pan. Once cooled I sliced it into quarters and began to crumple with my fingers until everything was tiny crumbs. As Bakerella suggests mix in 3/4 of a standard store bought frosting.

I then chilled the mixture in the fridge for easier handling.  If you are making good ole cake pops you would roll into balls and chill, but this time I decided to roll it out to about an inch thickness.

I used a variety of Wilton circular cutters to make 3 different size mini tiers. The “dough” is a little sticky so stacking the tier was relatively easy.  I chilled the assembled cakes in the fridge on a wax paper lined cookie sheet.

I melted wilton candy melts in the microwave.

With lolli pop sticks I dipped the sticks in the melted chocolate and then carefully inserted the chocolate end in the base of the mini cakes. I then used a block of foam to balance the cakes as the chocolate set.


Place the cakes in the freezer to settle up. Then dip one by one.  Getting the chocoalte smooth is difficult but I recommend shortening, Bakerella suggests vegetable oil too.


Tips: Make sure your cake pops are totally covered.

I used the left overs of the 3/4 of a can of icing to touch up the rather imperfect chocolate. I had fun piping rather sloppily little tiny decorations. These would be great at a bridal shower or even at a wedding reception.

Its now 6am and finally the dress has been revealed, tiara, train and all….GOREGEOUS!!!

Add a comment April 29, 2011
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Hermits

I kind of SUCK!! Haven’t posted in more than a week!  Well no excuses.  Today I’m finally feeling ahead of the eight ball.  I spent a day off yesterday cleaning and organizing, spring cleaning is always so cathartic.  As I walked into apartment after work tonight I saw this lying in the hallway. I walked past it at first but quickly felt that nag to turn around as I always find needed inspiration in those cute fortune cookie slips. Inspiration in a cookie? Yesss!  This is why I bake.

Be on the alert for new opportunities. Well okay.  But wait its gets better.

Cake. CAKE!  Dan Gao. DAN GAO! There’s an important message here.

This last week in recap?  Well I watched my beloved Ranger’s lose their chance at a 2011 Stanley Cup, and lost a bake-off at work, but I also got some quality time with family for the holidays, and celebrated my little brother’s birthday.

In my family April is the month for celebrating birthdays, especially on my mom’s side.  My bother and cousin were born in the same year 16 days apart, April 6th and 22nd.  You couldn’t have found two happier grandparents than mine, whose birthdays are also both in April.  My aunt and uncle (my grandparent’s son and daughter) were also April babies along with a couple more relatives I’m probably forgetting.  Around Easter we usually got a cake to have for dessert, to share with all the family members that was celebrating birthdays within days of each other. I have a very distinct memory when I was young of piping cool whip with a plastic sandwich bag on one such cake, and this could have easily been the start of where I am today.

My grandmother would have been 86 this past April  2, and I can’t help but think of all the time I got to spend with her.  Being the oldest grandchild I have the most distinct memories of time spent with her in her kitchen.  Whether it was eating oatmeal (slow cooked over the stove) for breakfast, or canning homemade strawberry jam every summer, I’m almost selfish about how lucky I was to have the vivid memories of learning to cook with her. This past Christmas I spent time duelving into the pages of Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, remembering all the recipes I made from this book in my grandmother’s cozy upstate kitchen.  The Hermit was one of them and I always remember my grandmother when I think of this cooky.  It’s perhaps a little out of season– you can see my pictures are from Christmas, but its a great cooky for an afternoon snack, or tea.

According to Betty Crocker the Hermit was the Best Cooky from 1880-1890.  Its sweet and spicy and perfect with coffee or for dessert.

Hermits

Ingredients:

1 c shortening (I used 1/2 c butter, 1/2 c shortening)

2 c brown sugar (packed)

2 eggs

1/2 c coffee

3 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 1/2 c raisins

1 1/4 c broken nuts ( I used pecans, walnuts are good too)

Sift flour and combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix shortening, (butter), sugar, and eggs thoroughly.

Mix in coffee. Add flour/ spice mixture.

Fold in raisins, and nuts.

Wrap with plastic wrap, or in wax paper. Chill for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet. Drop spoonfuls of cookie dough 2″ apart on the sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  I usually press the dough out  a bit with my finger before baking.

Betty Crocker doesn’t call for it, but my grandmother always added a sweet glaze to her Hermits.  Mix 1-2 tbsp of milk to a cup of confectioners sugar, or enough to make a thick but runny mixture. Drizzle over your cookies and let dry.  Hermits are mildly sweet so the glaze isn’t a sugar overload.

Add a comment April 28, 2011
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