Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cupcake Cake Take 2

I have a wonderful daycare that my 18 month old goes to and my 3 1/2 year old went to for the year before preschool. The owner is like family to us, so when she wanted a cake for her sister, I was more than happy to oblige. She first told me that her sister was a singer, so it needed to be something musically related. My first thought was - microphone, I'll build a microphone! But then she saw the giant cupcake and said she must have that, but still musically related.
The ambitious woman in me still wanted to do the microphone, but maybe put it on the top of the cake. Somehow I couldn't wrap my mind around how that would turn out, so I had to convince myself it was okay to do a simple cake.
The day before I was to give it to her, she gave me the spelling of her sister's name. Now, you might have noticed that blatantly missing from all of these cakes is piping, especially when it comes to writing. Give me a challenge to carve or decorate, and you got it, but ask me to write someone's name on a cake? Deer in headlights. (My wonderful friend J recently took me to a decorating/piping class for Christmas, to help with my phobia, but that's a story for another day...maybe). Anyhow, she was dead set on having her name on there, so I improvised. And really if I were her sister, I would be psyched to have my name in chocolate, instead of some boring old piping! Sidenote - hilarity (and almost tears) ensued when I pulled the letters out of the fridge and dropped them directly on the floor, sending shards of chocolate through the air. Good thing it was cold out, because that second batch didn't get much time in the fridge!
Now, many have asked me if I use the cupcake cake mold, and to that I say - why would I spend $30 and waste kitchen space on something that is so easily carved? I can't speak from experience, because I haven't used one, but I'm having a hard time imagining the center being cooked properly without the outsides getting a little dark, don't you think? Besides, most of the fun of making the cake is starting with a blank pallet. Not to mention, eating the scraps from cutting down the cake is really the best part about making a cake, and is a must in my house. That is the only way my husband tolerates my spending the weekend baking something he cannot eat. Especially when that something is red velvet - such as this cake.
There were a few things that were not ideal though about carving this cake. I discovered that while red velvet is tender and delicious, it's really not that much fun to carve. In fact, it's damn near frustrating. I would recommend to anyone using red velvet for anything other than a circular cake to make sure you give it proper time to cool in the fridge. Between my day job and my kids, I rushed this one along, and almost paid the price - of making a whole new set of cakes. And, on the same note, while cream cheese frosting is absolutely d-lish and so easy and fun to decorate with, it too needs extra time in the fridge, or you might have a sliding mess on your hands. Also, dowels are your friend.
From what it sounds like, the cake was well received, and that's really what matters!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Monster Cupcakes

I don't have the words or energy to describe my neighbor's son. By the time I get done with this post, he'll probably already be a different kid, or at least have run 10 laps around the house. I needed to make something that would make even a kid like him, stop in his tracks long enough to say 'COOL!'
These monster cupcakes did just that and he even immediately picked out my favorite one! These were delivered at 7am and were promptly devoured. It was okay though - the sugar rush was being followed by Disneyland!
***I must give credit where credit is due, and I would like to personally thank Martha Stewart (or more likely someone on her staff) for the inspiration, and my darling husband for his participation.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ok, so I know this is a wee bit late, but better late than never, right?
This year I have much to be thankful for.

I by no means live a life of luxury, but even in my most difficult of hours I need to remind myself that I do have much to be thankful for. I am thankful for the pie in the above picture, and the 150 cookies I made for my daughter's preschool below, my new stove, my beautiful kids, my mixer, sugar, butter...But in all honesty, while everyone in my life has in one way or another brought me to where I am today, there are 2 people that I need to express ultimate gratitude.

First, my loving, yet sometimes aggravating husband. We've had our share of ups and downs this year, but when we needed him most, he came through. A year ago, we had a newborn and a toddler and he lost his job to the company that we were vesting our life into, because of the economy, and then lost another job a few months later. Instead of just giving up or settling, he busted his butt working long hours, breaking his back, just so we could have a roof over our heads. At the time I could not see this as a blessing, effectively being a single parent to 2 very young kids while having a job of my own. At that time, you couldn't have convinced me that it was good, even if he making a million dollars. But now seeing how he is able to thrive in this hand that he's been dealt, and even find a way to make more money and get our insurance covered, I realize that what took others before him years, he found a way to do in months. And he did it for us. For that I am grateful.

Second, I'll just call this person J. You know who you are. This is a friend of mine without whom I don't know where my mind would be today. She has been there to console me through the hard times, and also to remind me that I can choose how I react and many of my problems are only real in my mind. There's nothing better than a good friend to tell you when you are wrong. She has made me hold myself accountable for my choices, and as much as I hate it when she takes away my excuses, I love her for it. Also, she loves being the recipient of the many cookies and cakes that come out of my house, so it's a pretty harmonious thing.

Obviously I have many more blessings than just these 2 people, but this is called a blog, not a novel, so that's what you get...for today.

Friday, November 20, 2009

HiPster Park

I live in an awesomely ghetto town.

In a nutshell, Highland Park is one of Los Angeles' oldest neighborhoods. Originally established as an artist colony, it has a rich history within the art world. Over the years, with the emergence of neighborhoods to the west, Highland Park began to lose it's luster. The Avenues gang came in and took over and it was not necessarily the kind of place you wanted to raise your kids in. In fact, my neighbor's son was killed in front of their house when he was a teenager in the 80s. Being the tough old broad that she is, she refused to move.
When home prices were soaring in the rest of LA, some of us brave souls decided to take on Highland Park because of the history and home prices. With it we've gotten the good, and the bad, but all together is what makes it HP. Inevitably, home prices went up in Highland Park too, and so did the hipster population. I guess they liked it because it gave them something to complain about and art all at the same time. I kid, I kid - I like the hipsters..mostly. We've seen some great things happen in our neighborhood and it's only a matter of time before this place gets the recognition is truly deserves. All in all, the neighborhood is pretty rad. Where else can you get tacos right off a truck, while looking at some of the most prominent artists of our day, at the same time, and amongst some of the oldest craftsman homes in the city?

What does this have to do with baking is probably what you're asking right about now. Well, who doesn't like a good cookie? Gangster and hipster alike can appreciate how something delicious feels in your belly. So for the neighborhood block party, an HP cookie seemed all too appropriate. So we all can agree on one thing, and that's a start. What's next?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Murdoch the Train

What you've never heard of him? Couldn't be because most kids are so obsessed with Thomas the Train that they often over look his fleet of steamy friends. But not the 3 year old that this cake was for, Gus.
Now Gus doesn't just like trains, he lurrrrrves trains! You should see the collection of trains he has, it is crazy! His parents literally keep a spread sheet to keep track of what they have already, what they need, and what they have waiting in the wings. When my daughter comes over to play, the first thing he asks is if she brought him a train present. This kid likes trains so much that his dad made him a train for Halloween (and not that generic crap you buy at the store - oh no - he had a full on train built around him) and mom actually dressed up like railroad crossings. Now that's commitment! But I digress...
While Gus tolerates Thomas, his real love is for all of Thomas' friends. Almost as though Thomas is his competition for said train friends, or *gasp* he believes himself to be Thomas! Either way, I knew that just showing up with a Thomas cake was not going to cut it. His current obsession has been with Murdoch (which he got for potty-training, pun intended!), so Murdoch it was.
And his face was priceless when he saw this big train, covered in frosting, just for him. The wonderment in his eyes, of how he could play with and eat this train all at the same time. Happy Birthday to a very special little guy!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ode to the Stove

This is Gladys. She is my new stove.

My old stove was a champion, and I had major love for it. I knew that thing inside and out, what burners worked, how you had to have the timer set exactly to 55 to make the broiler work, what temperature to put the oven gage at, knowing full well it would heat to whatever it felt like and the list goes on and on. I baked so many cakes and cookies in that old stove, and she really did everything she could for me. So much love, but at the same time, so much hate. I mean, come on, I have to set the timer (which did not work by the way) and push in the silver button to make the broiler turn on...really? It had awesome features, like a rotisserie in the aforementioned broiler, but of course that was broken. It had a center burner 'with a brain' (kept a pan at a consistent temperature by adjusting the flame on its own), and that was way cool, except that it was the only burner that actually worked most of the time. The real capper for me was that it only had one oven, and a small one at that. So imagine me making sheet cake after sheet cake, one at a time. Seriously, it was crazy.

Which brings me to Gladys. I had not really been looking, but always secretly dreamed of the day when I found a stove with more space and that just worked. It was almost like she found me when I needed her most. 2 ovens, 2 broilers, a griddle and 4 working burners. She had been with the same family since they bought her new in 1949, and let me tell you, that is the most well cared for oven I have ever seen. None of the (non-functioning) bells and whistles of my old stove, but beautiful and dependable.

So here's to many memories with Gladys (named after my Grandma by the way). We're still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship and learning things about each other - like the fact that she can actually keep heat in the oven because the doors shut, so I have to lower my baking temps a little. I have a feeling this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Cookies!

I looooooove Halloween! Always have and always will. There's a good chance I love it so much because it's right next to my birthday, so my whole life I've spent bingeing on sweets and candy for the last week of October. Which as we know is one of my favorite things to do in life. This year I had every intention of making goblin and monster cupcakes and finally using those ghost and ghoul cupcake liners that my mom bought me 3 years ago and my one year old always seems to find and try to eat, but alas, it was not in the cards this year either. I did however make some darling sugar cookies for my peeps in the hood.

We had pumpkins, and black cats and spiders! OH MY!


Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Best Way to Eat a Cupcake...

Is when it is the size of your head and you cannot possibly take a bite without getting frosting all over your face and stuck in your eyelashes and eyebrows.
This cupCAKE was made for my daughter's first birthday this year, but I didn't see the humor until my pixie like one year old sat next to it. She cried and cried and cried because the damn thing was nearly bigger than her. I don't blame her, I can't imagine how I would react if I saw a cake the size of me. Scratch that, I know exactly how I would react. By jumping in and swimming through it to find the stripper in the center! But I digress....
This was a pseudo champagne cake, because I didn't think it was appropriate for my infant to have champagne. I know I know, it bakes out, but whatever, it felt slightly counter intuitive so I went with sparkling grape juice instead. She didn't know the difference. And our bellies were happy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Start From the Beginning...Kind Of

I have several cakes under my belt that I would like to share with the world, so I figure I should just start from the beginning. Well, not the actual beginning, because I don't have pictures from baking back in the day, so let's call it the beginning of the obsession. I think it started around my oldest daughter's first birthday. I needed a cake, but not just any cake. Something that screamed Rylee, but without using hideous piping. So this is what I came up with.

To which Rylee promptly did this:

And this:

Looking back on this ghetto little cake, I laugh. It was awesome for what it was, but definitely could have done better. I guess this is what you get from a new mom trying to balance everything. Whatever, it was delicious.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Get In My Belly!

Hello. My name is Rebecca, and I have a baking problem.

Although, isn't a problem only a problem if you make it one? I don't see anyone staging an intervention, but it's possible they should be. As if I had so much extra time on my hands, I have taken up blogging now too. I'm always looking for new and improved ways to avoid my actual responsibilities, so, well done Rebecca. And truly, as much as I love baking, the obsession really began when I needed something to help me procrastinate. Does this mean I will be procrastinating on my former procrastination tool? AACK!

No, nothing could come between me and my beloved baked goods.

So, should I tell you about myself? Sure! I have 2 kids and a husband that are 100% on board with this baking thing. (In fact, I think I should stage an intervention on them...) As a kid I begged my mom for an Easy Bake Oven and always got the same response, 'Rebecca, we have a real oven'. To this day, I despise and love that she did that to me, but oddly still want an Easy Bake Oven. Many of my earliest and fondest memories are baking holiday cookies with my mom and waiting to see how my dad decorated my birthday cakes. My favorite part of a meal is dessert, and really only eat dinner as a means to get that dessert (and that whole setting a good example for your kids thing). But here's the real shocker - I'm not fat! In fact, I'm very thin! I can stuff my face with cookies and cakes and it doesn't effect me. It's as though my body and soul have found one harmonious place, in my belly.