Tag Archives: baking

wedding cake, part 1

Topper for the cake

Topper for the cake

At Christmas time, our good friends Carol and Jo Ann celebrated 30 years together by travelling to Massachusetts to get married. Friends and family will celebrate their legal union on Sunday with a reception at church. I’m asked fairly often to make cakes for church events, but this time the request was for a wedding cake.

I’ve had people ask me about wedding cakes a few times in the past, but I’ve declined. Yes, I make good cakes — but a wedding cake is so special, and it should be so beautiful … and I’ve always felt that my cake-decoration skills aren’t up to it. (I’ve tried making frosting flowers, and let’s just say that they haven’t looked good enough to eat.)

But I really, really want to make this cake for Jo Ann and Carol. And thanks to the wide world of advice and encouragement available online, I’m going to.

Here’s the plan:

  • Three tiers: 14″, 10″, and 6″
  • Bottom tier: 2 layers of chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling
  • Top two tiers: 2 layers of vanilla cake with lemon-curd filling
  • Frosting: Swedish buttercream
  • Decoration: white piping and real flowers (which are infinitely more lovely than their icing counterparts), plus a beautiful and appropriate cake topper
Wedding cake pans

Wedding cake pans

My web searching provided several things I needed: a recipe for a really good vanilla cake (I’ve never found a yellow cake recipe that satisfies me), a recipe for frosting suitable for a wedding cake, and lots of advice about how to frost and construct the the finished product. A local shop provided the other things I needed: high-quality, heavy-duty cake pans; and clear vanilla extract (yes, it’s clear like water, so it doesn’t color the frosting).

The search for a frosting recipe was eye-opening. Sure, I have a buttercream recipe that I use all the time: butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, milk; beat until fluffy. It’s great for a standard sort of cake, but it isn’t satiny, smooth, and easy to pipe through a pastry bag — all the features that are important for frosting a wedding cake. A Google search for “wedding cake frosting” came up with some … interesting ideas of what people consider “ideal” for this purpose: several recipes included cups and cups of pure shortening and promised to taste “just like the frosting on a cake from the store.” And the reviews for those recipes happily concurred: “My family loved it. They said it tasted like it came from Kroger!” Ummm. No, that’s not quite what I’m going for.

Fortunately, I came across SmittenKitchen.com, and the site’s series of entries entitled “Project Wedding Cake.” When it came to frosting, she had already found the answer for me: Swedish buttercream. I’d never heard of it, but her description and the many comments on the original post clearly indicated that it was worth a try. And, bless her forever, Ms. Smitten Kitchen provided the quantities necessary to make a tiny test batch. I did so last night. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever made: heat egg whites and sugar until the sugar dissolves, beat until double in size, add vanilla, add soft butter, and whip until — well, until it’s ready. Again, thank goodness for detailed directions and encouragement. The stuff in the bowl is initially runny, soft, and nothing like frosting. But I kept the mixer going, because Ms. Smitten Kitchen promised me that I must believe and that it would come together. And suddenly, miraculously, the runny mixture gained structure and substance and became perfect. I tasted it, and all I could say was “Wow!” When my son tried it, his eyes grew wide. It’s infinitely smooth, satiny, buttery, and delicately sweet, and I can tell that it will be a dream to spread and pipe.

Tonight I’m planning to make some of the cakes. I’ll make the rest tomorrow, along with the frosting and fillings. After all the components have had some refrigeration time (to make them easier to work with), I’ll fill the layers and apply the outer layers of frosting. Sunday morning I’ll transport the pieces to church, where Doug will help me construct the tower and I’ll do the decorating. It promises to be a happy adventure.

Harry investigating my new pans

Harry investigating my new pans

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comfort food: blonde brownies

Butter, brown sugar, white chocolate … what’s not to like? These bars are dense, chewy, extremely rich, and always a hit.

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1-1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature (put them in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes)
2-1/4 cups flour
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 13″x9″ baking pan, or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Beat butter, brown sugar, and vanilla at medium speed until light and fluffy (2 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined.

Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to the butter mixture, and mix on low speed until combined. Stir in chipe.

Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool before cutting.

If you prefer, you can use any other flavor of chip rather than white chocolate. You can also add 1 cup of chopped macadamia nuts (or other nuts).

comfort food: macaroni and cheese

one of my favorite comfort foods

Macaroni and cheese: one of my favorite comfort foods

What with the events of the week, when I chose a menu for this week’s Wednesday night Chalice Night dinner at church I wanted to serve comfort food. I decided on tomato-basil soup, macaroni and cheese, tossed salad, and chocolate-chip cake, all made from scratch (well, except the croutons in the salad).

Although the past couple of weeks I’ve had leftovers (summer attendance is light), this week I ran out. A few people told me they came specifically because of the menu. This kind of home cooking speaks to people. It’s “like mom used to make.”

The next time you want something incredibly delicious, warm, and satisfying, make the following macaroni and cheese. It isn’t difficult, and although it takes longer than mac ‘n’ cheese out of a box, the results are so overwhelmingly superior that it’s worth every minute. Because I ran out last night, I made more this evening, so I could have some. It’s in the oven as I write this.

Macaroni and cheese

6 oz elbow macaroni
2 cups small-curd cottage cheese
1 cup sour cream
8 oz American cheese (I use generic Velveeta)
1 egg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Boil the macaroni according to package directions. Don’t overcook it; you don’t want it to be squishy.

While the macaroni is cooking, grease a 2-quart baking dish. Place in it the cottage cheese, sour cream, and egg, and mix well.

After trying to find an alternative to saying “Cut the cheese,” I find there is no suitable variation. Cut it into chunks an inch or two across — you don’t have to be exact — and mix them into the cottage cheese mixture. (My friend and co-Wednesday-night-conspirator Jack tells me that this mixture in general, and the cottage cheese in particular, looks disgusting. You may think so too. Don’t worry; everything will turn out fine after a little time in the oven.)

When the macaroni is done, drain it, and then pour it into the baking dish. Mix well. No, the cheese isn’t going to melt now — the ingredients are all too cold from the refrigerator. It’s OK.

Put the dish in the oven and bake 15 minutes. Remove the pan and stir carefully but thoroughly, so all the melted cheese is mixed in.

Return the pan to the oven and bake another 15 (if you want it set but not brown) to 30 (if you want it brown and a little crunchy on top) minutes.

Yummmm. Time for me to eat.

cookies

https://i1.wp.com/www.babble.com/CS/blogs/strollerderby/chocolate_chip-cookies.jpgI just made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I’ve been making chocolate chip cookies since I was old enough to reach the kitchen counter and use the oven safely. Now I make them at least once a week; the recipe is permanently etched in my brain.

A little estimation and the help of a calculator just told me that I’m probably coming up on my 50,000th chocolate chip cookie.

Y’know, that’s a lot of chocolate chips.