How to Make an Easy Smash Cake

20 May easy smash cake

easy smash cake

Every birthday deserves a great cake, and first birthdays are no exception! Smash cakes have become so popular for 1st birthday parties, so when I was invited to a party for my friend’s 1-year-old, I knew I had to make an easy smash cake for the birthday girl. Watching a baby dig into a cake with their tiny hands, smearing frosting all over their faces and tasting the sweetness for the first time is magical. But since the cake is going to get demolished anyway, why spend a lot of time or effort? It doesn’t take much skill to make this fluffy, cute easy smash cake. To me, the soft colors and texture resemble a cuddly baby blanket.

The nubby texture is easily made by piping buttercream with a tip 233, also known as the grass tip. Watch how easy it is to decorate – well worth the time to see the baby dig in on her special day!

If you like this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel! I post a fun baking video every Wednesday and would love to have you!

Lemon Cake with Sugared Flowers

6 May Sugared Flowers

crystallized flowers

Sugared flowers look beautiful and impressive as cake decorations, but they’re very easy to make. Many larger grocery stores stock edible fresh flowers in the herb section of the produce department. They come in plastic clam shell packaging, just like the other herbs. Opening up a package is a bit like Christmas morning – you’re not sure what’s going to be inside, but expect vibrant colors and a great variety of shapes. Common edible flowers include nasturtium, marigolds, geraniums, and lavender.

Making sugared flowers is simple. All you need is a pasteurized egg white, a splash of water, some granulated sugar, and a small brush. The result is a sparkly, crystallized effect that is gorgeous on top of a baked treat like this little cake. After the crystallized flowers dry, they have a slightly crunchy texture and a very mild floral taste that pairs perfectly with lemon. That’s why I showcased my sugared fresh flowers atop this homemade lemon cake.

Mother’s Day is this weekend. and I think that this is the perfect way to celebrate your Mom or the other fabulous women in your life. A homemade cake AND fresh flowers? What mom wouldn’t love that?

Here’s how easy it is to make!

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Perfect Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

27 Apr

Vanilla SMBC Title Card

I love Swiss Meringue Buttercream so much that I’ve already blogged about it. It is my absolute favorite frosting recipe, the one I turn to 99% of the time I make cakes or cupcakes. I’ve made this basic icing recipe so many times that I no longer need to reference the recipe during cooking. I have it memorized. I wonder how many times I whipped it up before it became stamped in my mind forever…that’s a lot of frosting…

For all of you visual learners, I’m now sharing my SMBC* love via video. Check it out, and let me know if you have any questions. I’m happy to help you out!

*SMBC is what all of us “serious” cakers call Swiss Meringue Buttercream. Because who’s got time to say all 7 syllables when there’s cakes to be baked, and stacked?

Vanilla Swiss Meringue Buttercream

6 egg whites
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 pounds butter, softened and cut into tablespoons
2-3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg whites, granulated sugar and salt. Set over a double boiler over simmering water and whisk frequently until the mixture reaches 150°F on a thermometer.

Whip the hot mixture at high speed with an electric mixer until the outside of the bowl is cool to the touch. Switch to paddle attachment on mixer. While beating on medium-low speed, add the butter, one chunk at a time, scraping down the bottom and sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined.

How To Make An Easy Princess Leia Cake

28 Jan Princess Leia Cake Princess Layer Cake

Princess Leia Cake Princess Layer Cake

I love puns! I love them almost as much as I love cake, so when it was suggested that I make a Princess Leia Cake to play on the phrase “layer cake,” I knew that I had to do it. It was just to punny to pass up!

This is a silly, fun little project that anyone can bake. It’s a great tribute for Star Wars fans, for a Star Wars themed birthday or a movie viewing party. Please share this video with the Star Wars enthusiasts in your life – we all have at least one, right?

Easy Princess Leia Cake

In full disclosure, I have gone 36-1/4 years without seeing any of the Star Wars movies! How is this possible? The Star Wars culture is so permeating that even without seeing them, I know what a Wookie is, I know that Darth is Luke’s father, and I know all about Leia’s amazing hairdos. But tell me Star Wars aficionados, which movie should I see first? Where should I start? What’s your fave Star Wars film?

Please share this video, subscribe to my YouTube channel, and may the force be with you!

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I’m Sorry

27 Aug

Yet another t-shirt I should add to my collection, because no one gets more hangry than me. It’s borderline belligerent, and apologizing afterwards is so awkward. Might as well just be upfront about it.

hungry

The Secret to Making Vegetables Taste Good

28 Jul

Kale and Kohlrabi Ingredients

I participate in a community supported agriculture program, or CSA for short. It’s a weekly parcel of produce from nearby farms. Most of it is organic.

I love being a part of a CSA. The fruits and vegetables are fresh and delicious and I get a warm fuzzy feeling from supporting small businesses and farmers. But the best part about subscribing to a CSA is the surprise of what will appear in your weekly box of  seasonal goodies.

My CSA program started in May, and throughout the weeks, I’ve gotten fragrant garlic scapes, delicate lettuces, crunchy cabbage, and the most flavorful, tiny strawberries I’ve ever eaten. It’s awesome watching the progression of the growing season through my weekly produce share, except for one thing.

The kale. It won’t stop coming. It is the only thing that has made the CSA cut every week, a curly, leafy invader that just won’t quit. I’ve had 13 straight weeks of kale bunches, and frankly, I’m sick of it. I’ve made Baked Eggs with Sausage and Kale for breakfast. I’ve made Roughed Up Kale Salad for dinner. I’ve snacked on crispy kale chips. But damn, it’s a lot of greenery, especially from a vegetable that up until 2 years ago could only be found state-side in overly-salted canned Italian soups.

Luckily, I won’t drown in this never ending sea of kale because I know how to make vegetables taste good. It’s a simple trick, and one that’s easy to master. It’s so easy that you may already know it and not even realize it.

So what’s the magic trick for making vegetables delicious? It’s salt, pepper, and olive oil. That’s it. Every fresh vegetable is elevated by that threesome. You can roast, saute, steam, and in some cases, even eat veggies raw if you just add olive oil, salt and pepper. It’s the lazy cook’s dream come true!

When you want to up the ante, saute some chopped onions and minced garlic in your olive oil until just golden. The flavor will infuse the oil, and when it coats your vegetables, they’ll be saturated with flavor. Squeeze the juice of a lemon over the top of your veg to add freshness and a hint of acidity. Sprinkle on something crunchy, like toasted nuts, seeds, or breadcrumbs to add another layer of flavor and texture.

Warm Kale and Kohlrabi Salad with Sunflower Seeds

Warm Kale and Kohlrabi Salad with Sunflower Seeds

That’s exactly how I cooked this warm kale and kohlrabi salad, a tasty and easy way to get through one more bunch of CSA kale. If I get it again next week, I’ll start with my basic threesome of salt, pepper, and olive oil and go from there, building flavors and textures into something delicious.

I’ve become a bit obsessed with photographing the contents of my weekly CSA. Follow me on Instagram to see what’s arrived. And tell me, what’s your favorite way to prepare fresh vegetables?

 

 

 

 

I Got Doored By a Taxi

16 May Before: Three cracked up teeth.

I’m the proud owner of a new road bike. She’s clean and sleek, and I bought her with the intention of long distance riding, along with some general scooting-around-the-city riding. Isn’t she pretty?

bike

I’ve lived in Chicago for 14 years, and I’ve always had a bike. My orange Trek from college was upgraded to a purple Kona. A couple years later, the purple Kona was pinched right out of the basement of my apartment building. (Bastards). The abducted Kona was begrudgingly, yet cost-effectively replaced with a second-hand Schwinn ten-speed that weighed roughly 200 pounds. It was identical to the first adult bike my parents bought me, circa 1996, and was at least that old. It cost $50 and I rode it for 7 years until both gear shifts haphazardly flew off of the handlebars mid-ride last summer. (To the guy who was sitting in the parked car that one of the gear shifts crashed into: Sorry about that! I hope it didn’t leave a mark. Also, thank you for not chasing me down.)

This spring, I upgraded. I love the feeling of being on a bike. Pedaling down the lakefront path on a sun-soaked day is about as good as it gets for me. It’s powerful and carefree at the same time, and one of the easiest ways to feel pure joy. The day after I bought this bike was cold enough for flurries to fall, but I went for a short ride anyway, because I’m hardcore. A few weeks passed, the weather gave way slightly and I got onto the lakefront path. It was great.

A couple of weeks after that, I rode to the farmer’s market on a lovely day. I sat in the grass for a while and watched the people totinh canvas bags stuffed with lettuces and apples. Afterwards, I thought that I would ride 1 mile north to visit the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pond, one of my favorites spots in the whole city for its serenity. I’m pedaling along, happy as can be, and then

BOOM.

I got doored.

I got doored by 20-something guy from Mississippi who was exiting a cab with his wife to check out the Lincoln Park Zoo. They were on vacation. The cab was stopped in traffic. I screamed in the split second between seeing the door swing open and making contact. He was terrified. I was too.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, “getting doored” is when someone opens up a car door without checking to see if anyone or anything (in this case a cyclist) is coming up behind the car, and then the cyclist crashes head on into said door. Ouchie.

I value my life, and I’m also not a moron so I was wearing a helmet. Thanks to that helmet and a good bit of luck, the damages were minimal. I cracked three teeth and got a decent-sized bruise on my left knee, but that’s it. I didn’t fly over my handlebars, or into the parked cars next to me, or into oncoming traffic. No broken bones or disconnected joints. I didn’t even have any scratches, and miraculously, neither did my new bike. I am so, so lucky.

Before: Three cracked up teeth.

Before: Three cracked up teeth.

An hour or so later, after a very nice policeman finished up his report, and issued the cab driver a ticket for not pulling over to a safe place to release his passengers, I rode home. Credit shock for giving me the balls to do that.

It’s two weeks later. I’ve already gotten my teeth fixed and you would never know that anything had happened. I haven’t gotten back on the bike yet though. I’d like say that it’s because I haven’t had time, or that the weather has been bad, both of which are true enough. But in reality, I’m a little afraid. I had 14 glorious years of riding around Chicago fearless and unscathed, but I don’t have that fearless feeling any more. Maybe that’s not a bad thing? I’ll get back on my bike soon, maybe even tomorrow. I’ll be a little afraid, but I hope that feeling  will subside, and I’ll feel powerful and carefree again.

My new grill, good as new!

After: My new grill, good as new! Sidenote: My dentist’s office has the coolest wallpaper.

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