Tag Archives: cake

Lemon Cake with Sugared Flowers

6 May

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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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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The Best Things I Ate in 2014

30 Dec

As 2014 comes to a screeching halt, social media is inundated with cliched “Best Of” lists and “Top 10” countdowns. These compilations can be trite, but they can also be a great way to reflect back on a year, on the people who you shared it with, and where you spent time. What is the best thing you ate in 2014? Who were you with, and where were you?

Here’s my list, in homage to a very good year.

1. Vigorón street vendor in El Parque Central; Granada, Nicaragua

Vigorón is a traditional Nicaraguan street food. Tender slabs of boiled yucca (AKA cassava) are covered in thick, crunchy chicharrón (fresh pork rinds) and then smothered in a very tangy cabbage, onion, and tomato slaw. It was my first meal in the country and a perfect introduction to it’s simple cuisine. What is even more memorable than the food though, is the setting. I bought lunch from a street vendor and sat at a picnic table in El Parque Central, the large public square in the center of town. The square is docked on one side by an enormous, bright yellow cathedral, and on another side by a similarly-colored Spanish Colonial hotel with beautiful balconies. Peddlers hawking knickknacks, perfect for vacation remembrances, line the perimeter. Freshly rolled tobacco wafted from a small cigar shop.  Horse-drawn carriages click-clacked down the streets. An impromptu concert of lively music drew a crowd. A man kept the  mid-afternoon dusty haze at bay by continuously wetting the ground with a garden hose, Women tempted us with homemade peanut candies and rich chewy caramels. When I think of eating salty and sour vigorón, I’ll always remember my first day in Nicaragua.

2. Spicy Seafood Chulpan Sik Gaek, Flushing, NY

This place is best known for live octopus, but the real star of this meal was the chulpan. An enormous pot was full of steaming seafood broth flavored with gochujang and teeming with all manners of crustaceans and mollusks. Underneath that big red lobster lay razor clams, squid, conch, shrimp, crab legs, and abalone resting in a nest of long rice noodles. We cracked shells and slurped soup to the beat of loud Korean techno music. A good time was had by all.

And about that live octopus…I ate that too, but it didn’t make this list. Those little suckers (literally) hang on to your tongue, the roof of your mouth, or the insides of your cheeks just as long as they possibly can. If that sounds fun to you, and you enjoy the deeply salty and mineral taste that is overly described as “of the ocean” give it a try next time you’re in Queens.

3. Pineapple Upside Down Cake Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, Chicago

If I could pull a “Freaky Friday” with anyone in the food industry for a few days, I’d do the ol’ switcheroo with Jeni Britton Bauer of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams. Ice cream, in all of its frozen incarnations, is my very favorite food, and Jeni’s flavor pairings are modern and innovative. Her cookbooks are drool-inducing, and she’s running an expanding chain of the coolest retail scoop shops in the country. She’s my hero!

Pineapple Upside Down Cake Buttermilk Frozen Yogurt is a mouth full for sure, but the mellow, roasted, tangy flavor more than makes up for the tongue-cramping name. Just look at how happy I am to be eating this on a warm summer evening. Don’t think I could even be any happier.

Ice Cream Super Nerd

4. Stamped Cinnamon Biscuit (Cookie), The Cinnamon Tree Bakery stall at Borough Market, London

Tell me that isn’t THE COOLEST cookie you’ve ever seen in your life. I was completely taken with its imperfections – the slight cracking at the edges and the uneven white outline of the off-centered elephant. Now imagine that it tastes just as interesting as it looks. Pure cinnamon in the form of a crisp, buttery cookie. No other “fall baking spices” muddying things up. Just cinnamon, in all of it’s spicy and warm glory, and tasting exactly the way it looks.

Elephant Stamped Cinnamon Cookie. I mean biscuit.

5. Basque Cake MFK, Chicago

There’s only one dessert on the menu at MFK, one of the city’s most-lauded new restaurants of 2014. In my mind, the Basque cake rides solo because nothing else could come close to being as good. It’s a rich, tender cake with a faint almond flavor underneath a darker, caramelized crust. As someone who eats cake nearly every day, I can say without a doubt, that this was the best cake I ate in 2014 (including my own). Congratulations to Chef Nick Lacasse and Sous Chef Joey Schwab, both of whom I have had the pleasure of working with. (Now give me the recipe for the cake, pretty please!)

6. The Eastman Eastman Egg Company Food Truck, Chicago

You know that overused phrase that simple food prepared simply is the best tasting food? That’s what is happening here. I would never have thought to pair cucumbers with scrambled eggs, but why not? I would never have thought to put sweet chili sauce on eggs either. Add a slab of ham, a bit of cheese, and sandwich it all together on a fresh ciabatta roll.

After I ate my first Eastman, I started putting cukes and sweet chili sauce on my homemade egg sammies, too. Easy like Sunday morning. Tastes like Sunday morning, too.

The Eastman Egg Sandwich

7. Yo Amigo Taco Salad, Native Foods, Chicago

This is the perfect salad for salad haters, like myself. It’s beautiful to look at and has a lots of different textures, from crunchy to creamy, which means it doesn’t get boring after 5 bites. And surprise! Native Taco Meat isn’t really meat at all! It’s seitan (sounds like the dark lord of the underworld, but it’s less scary), a vegetarian protein made of wheat gluten that cooks up and tastes just like the real deal. Toss in some crispy tortilla strips and add avocado for a very large, very summery meal.

The Yo! Amigo Salad, with avocado.

Advice to my 25-Year-Old Self

15 Nov

I’m 35 years old today*.

Yeesh, that sounds old. I’m usually not affected by birthdays or adding another year, not even when the big 3-0 hit. But this year feels different. 35 seems significant. It’s a new box to check on surveys when you’re asked for you age…18-24, 25-34, 35-(the end).

Yesterday I could say that I was in my early-30s, but today there’s no getting around it. I’m firmly planted in my mid-30s.

I’ve been reflective over the past week. I got the urge to look back to where my life was 10 years ago, in 2004, when I turned 25. I was living alone in an apartment in the Andersonville neighborhood, just one month away from finishing my pastry degree at CHIC (now Le Cordon Bleu Chicago), dating a total d-bag, and going out most nights of the week.

If my 35-year-old self could give advice to my 25-year-old self, this is what it would be:

1. Good job busting through the pastry degree while working full-time, but there’s no time to pat yourself on the back. Keep working hard. Getting that degree is the best decision you’ve ever made, and it’s going to enable you to work towards a fun and fulfilling career with loads of opportunities that you can’t even imagine yet. Keep working hard. It pays off. You get to be a part of a small group of people who really love their profession, and that is very special.

2. About that douche bag...He broke up with you on your birthday. On the actual day of your birth. Who does that? He’s not worth your heartache. It’s going to take you a little longer to find the right guy, but it happens. And on that note…

3. Be open to dating blonde guys. Yes, seriously. Let go of the notion you’ve had since childhood that blondes only look good with other blondes. So what if Barbie and Ken were both blonde, and you’re not? It’s a weird and irrational thought.  There’s a tall towhead coming your your way that you don’t want to pass on.

4. Speaking of hair, for the love of all holy things, DO NOT EVER cut your hair into a pixie cut with blonde highlights again. That one “friend” who told you it looked great? She turned out to be a bitch, and you looked ridiculous. For a long time, ridiculous. Keep growing that shit out. It looks better long.

5. A Short Poem About Sunscreen:
Slather it on,
Every Day,
Just little dab,
Keeps wrinkles at bay.
Embrace the paste (of your skin)!

5. You enjoy living alone. You enjoy silence once in a while. You’re doing it right now, but it’s going to be a long time until you can afford it again. The next time you do it, you’ll have a huge sense of pride because you’ve bought your very own space in the city that you love. Tom Hanks’ place will have nothing on this money pit, so start saving.

6. You’re going out. A lot. You’re staying out late, dancing until you’re sweaty, and probably spending too much cash. Keep doing that for as long as you can, because this time doesn’t last forever. Friends are getting married. They’re getting really involved with their careers. Soon they’re going to start families. Slowly, as time goes by, you just don’t see each other as much. Reality is a beast. Take full advantage of this time now. Say yes to every invitation. Enjoy the people in your life. They’re amazing.

7. The migraines are coming! The migraines are coming! There’s not a whole lot you can do about this, but enjoy your 25-year-old so-called “hangovers” while they last. You won’t know real day-after pain until you hit 30 and are forced to swear off the booze for a bit until you can get those headaches in check.

8. Get a personal trainer. You don’t know it yet, but you love it. It feels good to work out really hard. The soreness that comes the day after a session actually feels great. Plus, you can eat a ton and not gain weight which is a total bonus, as your burgeoning cake career is going to involve copious amounts of buttercream frosting.

25Beth

Me at 25.

Beth35

Me at 35. Wrinkle-free, thanks to the magic of candlelight. Pie beats cake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Written on my actual birthday, but held for digestion for a few weeks before posting.

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

29 Jun

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake

Rainbow Cone, an iconic scoop shop on Chicago’s south side, has been serving up  tall cones since 1926. The Rainbow Cone booth is a staple at Taste of Chicago festival, giving their namesake ice cream treat fame well beyond the south side of the city.

There are 5 frozen flavors in a Rainbow Cone. Each one is scraped onto the next in a downward pulling motion with a utensil that most closely resembles a wide spackle knife. A finished cone showcases each sloping color of ice cream, proudly rising up to meet its name. So what comprises a rainbow cone? The combination of flavors is quite unique, and might surprise you:

Rainbow Cone

Photo courtesy of Original Rainbow Cone

It starts with a base of chocolate ice cream, followed by pretty pink strawberry, with signature Palmer House vanilla (vanilla with toasted walnuts and cherries) at the center, creamy green pistachio, and vibrant orange sherbet topping it all off. Does that sound weird to you? Does it seem gross? If you break it down a little bit, you’ll see that each flavor compliments another. Chocolate goes well with strawberry. It goes well with pistachio, and also with orange. Same thing with strawberry. It’s refreshing with orange, great will pistachio, and a natural with Palmer House vanilla. When you put them all together and take a big lick from bottom to top, getting a little taste of each flavor all at once, it works. It just works. I suspect that it goes back to each flavor being great with the other flavors in a one-on-one basis, but let’s not over think it. Maybe it just tastes great because it is so fun to eat an ice cream cone that looks like a rainbow. I took liberties and topped mine with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles (what else?).

Whipped Cream and Rainbow Sprinkles

And what the heck is Palmer House vanilla, anyway? Well, the Palmer House is a stately and well-preserved old hotel in Chicago, and Rainbow Cone pays homage by mixing toasty walnuts and maraschino cherries into vanilla ice cream.

If your ice cream consumption spikes dramatically during the summer months, while your inclination to turn on the oven plummets, then this no-bake ice cream cake should be at the top of your to-do list. It’s perfect for summer birthdays, pool parties, outdoor meals, and even random Wednesday nights when it is hotter than you-know-what.

Slice of Rainbow Ice Cream Cake

It is not coincidental that I’ve posted this entry on National Pride Day. Love, respect, and ice cream! I’m off to the parade!

Rainbow Cone Ice Cream Cake 

This recipe is sized perfectly for an 8 inch round springform pan. If you use a larger pan, consider using a little more than 1 pint of each flavor, as the layers will be very thin. Also note that most inexpensive ice creams are largely air. Thawing them and then spreading them into the pans will cause the ice cream to lose a lot of volume, as the air is knocked out. Splurge for the good stuff for this ice cream cake – you won’t regret it!

12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 pint chocolate ice cream
1 pint strawberry ice cream
1 pint vanilla ice cream
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
1/3 cup (about 1/2 of a 10 oz. jar) maraschino cherries, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 pint pistachio ice cream
1 pint orange sherbet
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
Rainbow Sprinkles

Secure the base and the sides of a springform pan by closing the hinge. Pour crushed cookies and melted butter into pan and stir until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press firmly and evenly into the bottom of the pan using the flat bottom of a pint glass. Freeze for 30 minutes.

While the crust is chilling, place chocolate ice cream on the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed, and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Place strawberry ice cream in the counter top to soften. When ice cream is partially thawed and somewhat pliable (about 30 minutes), gently spread it into an even layer over the cookie crust. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes

Thaw the vanilla cream until it is somewhat pliable and then mash in the walnuts and chopped cherries with a spoon. Spread into an even layer over the strawberry ice cream. Return to the freezer to firm up, at least 30 minutes.

Repeat the thawing, spreading, and freezing process with the pistachio ice cream, and finally the orange sherbet. Freeze until completely solid, at least 3 hours, before cutting.

Just before serving, whip cream with confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. Pipe onto top of cake and garnish with Rainbow Sprinkles and serve immediately. For clean slices, dip knife in hot water between each cut to warm blade, dry with towel, and cut ice cream cake.

Graffiti Cake

24 Jun

Graffiti Birthday Cake

I made this cake for a friend over the weekend. If you had to guess,how old do you think Bethany is? What birthday was she celebrating?

Would you guess…

39 4 Eva?

If you were guessing solely on this cake design, I bet you would aim a lot lower. And if you saw Bethany in person, you’d guess even lower than that. I’m pretty sure she still gets carded when she buys lottery tickets. Lucky lady!

Bethany, also known as “Queen B”  is a phenomenal DJ, part of the Orchard Lounge collective. We met 12 years ago and bonded over a mutual love music. A couple of years later, she talked me into break dancing lessons. Yes, they teach that. Or at least, they used to teach it before anything and everything could be learned via YouTube. I was pretty terrible at it, but Bethany could windmill with the best of ’em. She probably still can.

Fondant Modeled Bee

City-gritty AND ultra-feminine is tough to pull off. but it’s like Bethany invented it. This street art-inspired, buttercream-iced cake is an homage to her unique style and the way she lives her life, in full color and with a little bit of sparkle.

Gold Luster Dust and Edible Gold Star Accents

 

 

 

 

DJ’s Summer Birthday Cake

11 Jun

DJCake1I am so competitive. Sometimes, it’s an admirable quality, pushing me to try a little harder or work a little longer . But a lot of times, it’s just plain dumb.

For instance, this past weekend I was riding in the car with my boyfriend and his parents. We were on our way home from an early birthday celebration for DJ. He and I are having another small celebration to commemorate the actual day, so as we were riding along, I asked him what kind of a cake he would prefer. Because, you know, I make cakes. Professionally. And it’s his birthday, so of course I would be making him a cake. Makes sense, right? Are you with me?

OK.

Without enthusiasm or humor, he requested an ice cream cake.

AN ICE CREAM CAKE.

I won Cupcake Wars, for Christ’s sake. And he wants to squander that kind of talent on an ice cream cake? Ouch, man!

Now, I love ice cream as much as the next guy. Probably more, actually. I’ve often fantasized about opening an ice cream business. I even put together half of a business plan for an ice cream truck before I realized that here in the Chicago,  I’d have only four solid months of sunshine and sales and eight long months of frigid destitution. Not my best get-rich-quick scheme, but you get the idea. I love ice cream.

But I’m great at cake. And this is the first year that we’ll celebrate his birthday together. I want to make him a damn cake! A real cake! CAKE cake. With ice cream alongside, if he wants.

DJ proceeded to say that he prefers ice cream cakes to regular cakes because regular cakes are all the same to him. They’re usually not bad, but they never “wow” him. And that’s fair, except that I’ve seen him happily horse down several pieces of cake now, some made by me.

DJ is a humor writer. His indifference to cakes is akin to me thinking that that all fart jokes are the same, and not only the same, but mediocre, to boot. (Just kidding though, baby. Your fart jokes are classic.)

So my nutty, competitive mind kicks into the spin cycle, and all I can think is, “I’ll show you! I’ll make you the best g*ddamn cake you’ve ever tasted or will ever taste again! And then I will never make you a cake ever again for doubting me!

Birthdays are for birthday cakes, so DJ is getting a true birthday cake this year, with simple flavors that I think he’ll enjoy. It’s not overly sweet, with a little nuttiness from ground almonds and almond extract. Fresh strawberries and whipped cream will glue it all together and keep it light and summery. It’s finished with a sprinkling of crushed almond tuile cookies for a bit of crunch. Maybe it won’t be the best cake he’s ever had, but even if it’s not, it will be a great memory of the first time we spent his birthday together.

This weekend, he gets his ice cream cake.  You better believe that it will be the best damn ice cream cake to ever come out of a freezer!

DJCake4

Summer Birthday Cake

Almond Chiffon · Whipped Cream · Strawberries · Almond Cookie Crunch

For the cake:
4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Cut rounds of parchment paper and place in the bottom of two 6 inch round pans. Do not spray the pans.

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites and cream of tarter with an electric mixer on high speed until foamy. With the mixer running, slowly add 1/4 cup of the sugar, and continue whipping until it is glossy and holds stiff peaks.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, almond flour, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder, and salt, discarding any large pieces of almond flour that won’t make it through the sifter.

In small bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir the mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined. Fold 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture to loosen. Fold in the remaining egg whites gently, until the mixture is well combined and there are no pockets of whipped egg whites left. Divide evenly into prepared pans.

Bake for 22-25 minutes or the tops of the cakes spring back to the touch. Cool the cakes for 10 minutes on cooling rack. Run a knife around the sides to loosen the edges of the cake and invert onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before filling.

For the cookie crunch:
4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small chunks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl using a fork or a pastry blender, mix all of the ingredients together until the butter is in pea-sized chunks and the mixture is very crumbly. Spread into an even layer on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 5-7 minutes, or until the cookie looks lacy and the edges are very brown. Cool completely. Crumble into small pieces.

For the stabilized whipped cream:
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
4 teaspoons water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
1 pint fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces + additional whole strawberries for garnish

In a small saucepan, stir together the gelatin and water until the gelatin is evenly moistened. Let it sit until thickened, about 3-5 minutes. Cook over very low heat for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, to melt the mixture and dissolve the gelatin. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar to soft peaks. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the cooled gelatin. Continue whipping until the cream forms stiff peaks. Remove ¼ of the whipped cream and set aside. Fold the cut strawberries into the remaining whipped cream.

To assemble the cake, cut each layer horizontally into two. Fill each layer with 1/3 of the strawberry whipped cream. Run your spatula gently around the sides of the cake to clean up any whipped cream that crept out from inside the cake, and to very lightly coat the sides. the last cake with the plain whipped cream. Sprinkle the top generously with the almond cookie crunch and garnish with additional whole strawberries and a light sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar.

 

 

 

 

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