Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Unclaimed Cake

I am nervous!

This began about two weeks ago when my coworker asked for suggestions of where to find a cowgirl-boot-shaped birthday cake for her daughter.  Me, loving baking and eager to find an excuse to bake a project (not just a snack!) - I have offered to bake the cake.

I went out to different stores to try to find a boot-shaped cake mold,... but of course there is no such thing!  Party City had Hello Kitty (which I was tempted to buy anyway), Michaels had Dora the Explorer, Berings had very nice regular boring shaped pans, and same with Bed Bath and Beyond.  Why is it that in the state of Texas I can't find a cowboy boot shaped cake mold?  Seems like I should have been able to find it at any random gas station or grocery store.

So I revamped my plans and bought a giant rectangular baking pan to make a giant sheet cake that I can cut into the shape of a boot myself.  That worked out really well and now I have a lot of cut-off cake I can pig out on!

What I did not expect was that I had to run out to the store five times during the baking process because this being the first time I made a sheet cake I was not prepared for the amount of food I needed.  I used eight sticks of butter just in the icing.  I baked the Red Velvet Cake recipe I usually use for my boyfriend's birthday cake, and it makes a large three-layer cake that a family of 5+Me would take days to finish - and I found out I had to make double THAT amount in order to make a two layer sheet cake!  Don't take me wrong, I am not complaining, I really enjoy baking!  I am just saying, be warned of what you need if you ever plan on baking a sheet cake.

Cake crumbles when you ice it, so I like to put a thin layer of icing to "prime" the cake before I ice it so that you don't see the crumbles on the cake.  But sliced cake (because I had to slice it into a shape of a boot) really REALLY  crumbles.  So I actually had to ice the cake in three different layers.  Then on the top I made a glaze with icing sugar, meringue powder, and food coloring to decorate so that it looks nice and pretty and shiny!  I did not go with fondant because I personally do not like the taste of fondant and neither does anyone I have spoken with... But I have to admit fondant does make a cake look very pretty!

So why the "Unclaimed Cake"?  Because my coworker was supposed to pick it up today, I do not have her phone number, and its already 7pm.  Has the cake been abandoned?  My first pretty-cake project... has it been given up on?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

How I Love King Cakes

I acquired my love for King Cakes when I went to visit my Louisiana born-and-raised boyfriend in Baton Rouge during Spring Break 2007.  It was right around Mardi Gras, and we saw the stacks of King Cakes at Whole Foods while grocery shopping for a romantic picnic we were having on the LSU lakes later that night.  Honestly, I thought it looked disgusting!  I usually hate cakes with white icing and THEN artificially colored sugars on top making the cake WAY too sweet.  But he told me the history behind King Cakes and stressed the importance of me at least trying it in order to have a full Louisiana Mardi Gras experience.

The thing is, after Christmas decorations come down, people start decorating and anticipating Mardi Gras.  During this in-between-holiday-time, King Cakes are the thing to share with your friends and family!  Inside every King Cake, there is a little Baby Jesus - whoever gets the Baby Jesus in their slice of cake has to bring the next King Cake!

Long story short, we brought the King Cake home - the messy looking, overly sweet looking, flimsy paper box of grocery-store cake.  "I just want a tiny sliver..." I am pretty sure I shivered a little before tasting it.  But guess WHAT!?  Even the grocery store version of this cake was awesome!


Its not REALLY a cake you see:  Under the sugar and icing is a crunchy-on-the-outside-but-soft-on-the-inside braid of bread (also called the brioche).  The bread is not very sweet at all - in fact, if you eat it on its own its almost bland.  The bread is actually six strands of bread braided together with cinnamon sugar shoved in between the strands.  Then the cake is topped with a white icing and then the colorful sugars.  The end result: not overly sweet!  The perfect dessert.

Whats even better is whats in between!  You can choose different fillings: different flavored jellies or CREAM CHEESE!   Clearly I think the cream cheese filling is the way to go.  The tanginess and saltiness of the cream cheese just adds a whole different complexity to the sensation on your taste buds.

Oooooh yummy!  And to top it all off, there is the little Baby Jesus inside.  Traditionally, the Baby Jesus is not plastic, it was a red bean!  Whoever got the bean was the "King of the Ball!" and got to throw the next Mardi Gras Ball!  But seeing as how "balls" are still so popular, the modern thing is that whoever got the bean gets to bring the next King Cake!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Love Gloves

Oooh Valentines day vs Mardi Gras.  The two days are so close together this year - Valentines day is on the 14th of February as usual, and Mardi Gras (being the fat Tuesday before lent starts on Ash Wednesday) is falling on the 21st of February this year.  Decorating for Valentines day before February is really too early and most people do put up Mardi Gras decorations right after they start taking down Christmas stuff...

ANYWHOOOO, I guess we'll talk about decorations another day anyway when my love and interest for knitting and crocheting dimmers a little.

This time, I made GLOVES.  Love gloves!  Because its winter and we need warmth, because there is lots of love surrounding the holiday season even though it is currently in between Christmas/New Years and Valentines/Mardi Gras.  And because I really do love things that rhymes.

I know my last blog title was "Cheers to Knitting" (which I changed to "Cheers to Yarn" on Jan 4, 2012 because someone sent me a private message about how improper it was to include "knitting" in the name when the item really was crocheted...  my apologies if I offended anyone ) when I actually crocheted the slipper, now this project I actually DID knit!  I got the cool colors by knitting a string of red yarn and a string of grey/multicolored yarn at the same time!  And so the patches of colors is the natural pattern of when which color decided to be on the top side.

I didn't knit the fingers or thumbs because it is truly too warm in the South for that to seem like a practical thing for me to make... But I think that will be my next project - to figure out how to knit a glove with fingers and thumbs.  I like to figure out my own patterns, and when thinking about how to make gloves, it seems like I have to knit or crochet little finger-sized pockets and attach them to the top of the gloves... AKA a lot of work!  I am sure it will be fun though!  I wonder which movie I will be watching while knitting all those little digits!