July 27, 2009

No More Playing the Field

What do you think of themed wedding cakes? Does it depend on the theme? Like you're okay with a Star Trek cake (this one looks to be a good possibility to me), but you don't understand someone choosing a hunting theme? What about sports-themed wedding cakes?

Baseball Groom CakeI made a groom's cake this weekend. Once again, I made Bobby Flay's Chocolate Blackout Wedding Cake with Coconut Buttercream. If Bobby could only know the impact he's made on Lubbock with that recipe. The groom even said I could add chipotle pepper, which earned him my undying respect. He wanted it to look similar to this, but without the strawberries and drizzled chocolate.

I learned a few things making this cake. First, I was pretty sure that I was incapable of smoothing buttercream frosting to a perfect evenness; now I know it. It's even more of a problem on a square cake than a round one. Second, there's not a legal way to get bright red frosting without using two dozen bottles of red food coloring. Any amount less than that just gets you bright pink frosting. I'm not sure what blood would do for the color, but I was getting tempted to try it. I do have a big bowl full of red frosting left over. If you're above the red scare, come over and have some. It tastes pretty good despite the added quart of dye. The blue frosting was pretty bright, too. One mom said, "Don't you dare get any of that blue frosting on the bride's dress!"

Baseball Groom Cake

Nathan and Joanna's WeddingI wish I had done a better job with it. I'm afraid it had a bit of Cake Wreck-ish quality to it, but the groom said he was happy and that they got some good pictures with it of him swinging the bat and whatnot. It's a little different negotiating with grooms on their wedding cake than brides. Not that I've ever done a cake for a bridezilla or anything, but brides have stronger opinions because they're under more pressure. Guys have it made. Groom's cakes can be fun and bright and silly or non-existent and guests don't really care. And are you aware of this superstition? A single girl should take a piece of the groom's cake home and sleep with it under her pillow, and the man she dreams of is who she will marry. Hasn't worked out for me yet, and frankly, that sounds like a waste of good cake.

But I believe the best sports-themed wedding cake I've seen is this AT&T Jones Stadium wedding cake. Mike sent me pictures of it and I am dying to know what bakery made this cake. If you know, please tell me! Steve put it best: "That's the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. And they included the score of the most beautiful game I have ever seen."

July 24, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Katie and Porter just celebrated their one year wedding anniversary. I can't believe it's been a year since they got married. In a way, this year has positively flown by, and yet their wedding day seems like a lifetime ago. It was a wonderful day, though, on which I also made my first wedding cake.

Katie & Porter's Wedding

Anniversary CakeBeing the first anniversary, the bride and groom got to eat the traditionally saved top tier of the cake. Rose Levy Beranbaum of The Cake Bible says freezing butter cakes with buttercream frosting for the first anniversary is a tradition that needs to go away. I agree with her. Like so many other typical wedding practices, this is a ridiculous one. What a waste of good cake. The tradition of saving wedding cakes for a year must hearken back to the days when people served fruitcakes at weddings. Fruitcakes have the consistency of a rock to begin with, so keeping one around for a year doesn't really lessen its glory. Perhaps a better tradition would be hunting down the baker who made your wedding cake to order a fresh one for the anniversary.

It reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine steals the piece of cake from the 1937 wedding of King Edward VIII that her boss bought at auction for $29,000. "It was the most romantic thing I've ever eaten," she exclaimed. "How was it?," Jerry asked. "A little stale." This cake was a little stale, too. Not to deliberately gross anyone out, but the frosting had developed a few tiny green specks in it. The chocolate ganache filling was still good, though the toffee bits lost any crunch they once had.

Anniversary Cake

I think everyone in the family had a small slice, but we threw half the cake away. Wendy ate the ganache off the plastic pillar that was in the center supporting the cake topper. Cake on the cob, someone called it.

Cake on the cob Anniversary Cake

I'm celebrating an anniversary of my own. I just marked four years since I bought my house. Another anniversary that I can't believe is here, yet so much has happened in those four years. Half of my house still isn't decorated, and the other half probably isn't decorated well. I've given up daydreaming about Prince Charming and prefer to daydream about kitchen remodeling and upgrades. I don't find that home maintenance costs and keeping up a lawn are always personally rewarding, but I love this house. I decided to commemorate this anniversary by purchasing a new bedroom set.

Maybe when it gets here I'll have that housewarming party -

July 23, 2009

Persian Love Cake

Kentucky Derby PartyLast Saturday I made the aforementioned Persian Love Cake for a friend before she moved away. Wendy said, "You're baking the love cake for a girl?" Yes, in fact, for one of my dearest friends, who was involved with the curious incident of the stapler in Jell-O, dinner parties, baking escapades, and introducing me to amazing Persian and Indian foods.

It was a chiffon cake, which has a really light texture, more similar to angel food cake than your typical butter cake. An angel food cake uses only egg whites (no yolks) and doesn't use any added fats like butter, oil, or dairy. A chiffon cake uses egg whites and yolks and oil. For both cakes you have to be careful to whip the egg whites long enough or they won't have that trademark fluffy texture and rise. For the chiffon cake, I whipped the whites to marshmallow fluff consistency, then stirred one-third of the whites into the yolk mixture to lighten it, then gently folded in the rest.

Persian Love Cake Persian Love Cake Persian Love Cake

The creamy frosting for this cake had saffron and rose water in it. Very delicious. It also had rose petals on top which were painted with egg white and sugar to give them a sheen. And while the poor lighting in my house made it look a little radioactive in photos, it was a pretty cake.

Persian Love Cake

Persian Love CakeI love the strong cardamom flavor in this cake. And yes, those rose petals and pistachios on top are edible. I think the cake was a hit with Gul's family. This is a good one to add to the repertoire.

July 16, 2009

Goober Grape

Have you ever tried Smucker's Goober Grape? My grandparents always had a stock of the stuff when I was little, and I often requested a Goober Grape sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly out of the same jar? It blew my mind. I still think it must take a little bit of magic to get that peanut butter and jelly swirled into the jar so beautifully. But I tried a bite of the stuff today and was quickly reminded that going to the trouble of opening two separate jars is a better option. There's something not quite right about that peanut butter. I assume it takes some crazy additives to keep the peanut butter from mixing with the jelly in the jar.

Speaking of goobers, here are some more highlights from the recent editions of the BYU police beat. One of these made me laugh until I cried, but then, I'm easily amused.

Police Beat for June 28


June 16: Someone reported seeing a man in the stadium with a rifle. The police responded and found out it was a grounds employee sent to eliminate pigeons with a pellet gun. Officers stopped him. The man was not able to shoot any pigeons.


June 18: A skinny brown snake was reported by the stairs at 800 N. 300 East. When police arrived, no snake was found.

June 20: A stray cat fell into a mechanical well and couldn’t get out. Officers responded and rescued the cat.

June 24: Concerned people reported someone chasing a duck around Maeser Hill with a motor scooter. Officers responded to the call and told the person not to harass ducks. The person complied.

Police Beat for July 7

July 3: Officers responded to a suspicious person at the Bookstore upset about the deodorant selection. The person picked up a stick of deodorant, kicked it across the floor, then paid for the deodorant and left.

Police Beat for July 14


July 8: A suspicious blue canvas bag was reported in the NICB. Police responded and found it contained a water polo ball and a towel.


July 4: An owl was found in the former president’s Home. An officer communicated with the owl and it left.

July 6: An injured bird was reported on campus. An officer helped the bird into a pine tree.


July 4: Several people in the parking lot of LaVell Edwards Stadium during the Stadium of Fire got into a heated argument. Police arrived and were able to calm them down.

July 9: Six individuals were reported dropping things off the southwest campus bridge at 12:30 a.m. They were found to just be waving towels over the edge.

July 15, 2009

Love in the Library

Today may be the best day of my life.

For years, the man of my dreams has been named Rodrigo. I don't know much else about him except he's tall, dark, handsome, and brooding, very romantic, and yes, his name is Rodrigo. Because I find that little else matters in a significant other besides what name you're saying after "I love you," and I'd rather say Rodrigo than Horace.

There is a man who I've seen often in the library over the last few months. Today I helped him at the desk with a couple of things, then sent him a followup e-mail, knowing only that his first initial was R. Imagine my surprise when I received a very kind reply from him. The highlights were his dating the e-mail thus: 15 / VII / 2009, writing "You have been most kind and helpful," and signing it, "My best, Rodrigo."

If today wasn't the best day, then perhaps yesterday was, for that was when I helped the man with the Scottish accent. Small talk is more fun with someone who has a charming accent. A day before that I helped another patron who later sent me an e-mail and said, "You are a rockstar." I doubt I could soon forget that compliment.

I have wanted to make this Persian Love Cake for awhile. Besides being beautiful, it sounds like it would taste wonderful.

Epicurious' description says: This chiffon cake filled with rose-scented whipped cream is inspired by the aromatics found in Persian, Turkish, and Indian confections. Cardamom seeds have more flavor than the ground powder and are like little explosions of spice in the cake.

The cake uses cardamom, saffron, rose water, and pistachios and is decorated with candied rose petals. I can't think of a more romantic dessert.

July 13, 2009

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Peanut butter and jelly is a classic combination. A lot of people put the two condiments together on a sandwich. I personally like to make two separate half-sandwiches, one peanut butter, one jelly, and then eat them in alternating bites.

If peanut butter and jelly turn you on, you'll probably get very excited about the Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting and Jelly recipe in Martha Stewart's Cupcakes (recipe also available online here). Perhaps you are like me and believe that there can be no such thing as too much peanut butter. This recipe uses 2/3 cup of creamy peanut butter in the cupcake, plus another cup for the peanut butter cream cheese frosting.

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

And then while you are eating your peanut butter and jelly, you can get in touch with your inner child by watching a classic Sesame Street short. This one is a near reenactment of the scene at my house every time I bake.

July 10, 2009

Anyone Can Cook

Is it true that anyone can cook? A lot of people say that they cook, and then you talk to them awhile and figure out they really don't. Kind of like playing the Wii isn't really exercising. But pseudo cooks can combine a few purchased ingredients together with some amazing skill. I always cook from scratch, but I'm also always tied to a recipe, so I'd say I'm not much of a real cook either. Yet I find that people are amazed at my love of cooking. Maybe they're just feigning interest. I doubt guys are really as excited about it as they appear. I believe that the women, on the other hand, aren't faking anything.

Are cooking skills a generational thing? Is cooking and sophisticated taste in food emerging because of a bunch of hipsters? Current food writer wisdom via Michael Pollan, John Mackey, et al. says that 20th century housewives saw the wave of processed convenience foods as liberating. No longer would they have to slave over the kitchen stove for their husband and children. Parents and children learned of the glorious TV dinner and its like. No matter how unhealthy it was, they were hooked. I don't know if that's all true or not. This blogger believes cooking is a dying art, and I'm not too sure about that either. All my girlfriends are talented cooks, talk about food with me, and try new recipes and ethnic cuisine. I guess that could mean that I just pick friends that will let me blather about what I eat and cook, or they're talented overachievers. My boyfriends know enough to at least grill a steak and some are downright impressive with their skills.

I'm trying to build and maintain a reputation around the office as a good cook. It's easy to haul baked goods by the dozen up there, but what about non-sweets? I needed a menu for today's working lunch that could be microwave-free. Not being too sure of the tastes of the person I'm serving is intimidating. What if there's an allergy? I did have a tip not to use chocolate, which eliminated the majority of my usual desserts. In the end, this is what I came up with:
Mediterranean Chicken Salad
Ciabatta Rolls
San Pellegrino Limonata
Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

July 4, 2009

Cupcake Palace

Although I'm not really one for buying cookbooks, I do try to stay informed on the in vogue cookbooks and food trends. There are not many as rabid as the cupcake and cupcake shop trend, which you don't even have to be a slightly informed foodie to notice. Keeping up with the world's cupcake news could be a full-time job, e.g., check out this write-up and this one and one more of the Brooklyn Kitchen’s Cupcake Cook-Off. I can't wait to try baking the winning cupcake, the A-Rod Chocolate/Peanut Butter/Marshmallow Cupcake.

Patriotic CupcakesI expect to soon see a group of bloggers baking their way through this addition to the pool, Martha Stewart's Cupcakes. Martha is a one-name superstar like Cher or Madonna, a rock star in the culinary world. I find some of Martha's recipes to be lacking, but I could never fault her on the perfect presentation executed in her magazines, books, and TV shows.  Decorating ideas in her cupcake book are creative and numerous. See a sampling of her slightly precious ideas here. I bought Martha's latest book to give to my new foodie friend, Shelley, for her birthday. But before I wrapped it, I shamelessly posed it amongst my own cupcakes.

Red, White, & Blue CupcakesI took two varieties of cupcakes to her birthday party: Yellow Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream (dyed blue) and Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. I had this goofy idea that if arranged correctly, they could look like the flag, which they kind of did - well actually, they didn't at all. One problem was not being able to get white star-shaped sprinkles, and another was not wanting to leave some Red Velvet Cupcakes unfrosted for the red stripes. Who wants a cupcake without frosting?

Red, White, & Blue Cupcakes

At the party, that baby blue frosting turned everyone's mouth blue. I can't imagine how much coloring it would have taken to make the frosting navy. Back to Martha, her Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe is my go-to for vanilla frosting. Actually, you can add any of a range of flavors and colors. Get Martha's Swiss Meringue Buttercream recipe here.

I used almost a whole bottle of red coloring for the Red Velvet Cupcakes. I used the famous Magnolia Red Velvet recipe, but subbed cream cheese frosting for the vanilla.

photo by Peter Brown