citrus cake

Hello!

A month. I know. A whole entire month, basically, between posts.

Here’s where I’ve been:

– Learning the work-life balance (it’s not easy!)

– Gradually turning my new place into a home

– On vacation for a week/in a wedding!

– Surviving a break-in…

To get it out of the way, yes, my house was broken into. My bedroom, more specifically. It’s unsettling and gross and sad (I haven’t been sleeping very well ever since), but I’m honestly super bummed about what they took—- my bike!

I had just shipped my bicycle down to D.C. and I was really enjoying having it for commuting, exercise and fun. (So if anyone knows anyone selling a women’s bike on the cheap, let me know. Desperate to replace mine!)

Onto happier things: my cousin Erica was married a few weekends ago, and I was lucky enough to be a part of her big day! It was a beautiful ceremony and reception and – of course- bride. Congratulations, Erica and Aaron!

I was trying to think about what both tied into a “sorry I’ve been gone so long” and a wedding and the answer was obvious- cake.

I lifted the idea for this cake from Apollinas, who does perhaps the coolest blog concept I’ve ever heard of – lifts patterns and inspiration from the runways and re-creates them in baked good form. Amazing.

cakes

So the first thing I did was make my favorite yellow cake recipe. It’s from Martha, and I’ve used it before, most notably in my Super Bowl cakes. This time, I made two 9-inch rounds.

When they cooled, I spread lemon curd (my favorite!) in the middle as filling. I didn’t make my own lemon curd, but it’s easy enough to do.

lemon curd

Next up was a lemon buttercream. I put a crumb coat on, and then swirled the whooole lot of it over the cake. Here’s a little secret about me: I prefer the frosting to the cake. So when there’s a solid inch – or more – of frosting on a baked good, I’m a happy camper.

frosting

Lastly, I used thinly sliced citrus fruits  (still loving my mandolin) to decorate the top. It looked adorable – though not as good as Apollinas’ – and was a big, big hit.)

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Frosting:

Lemon buttercream frosting

2 cups of unsalted butter, softened

5 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract
Juice and zest of 1 lemon (I like my frosting to taste very lemon-y. If you don’t want this, adjust accordingly.)
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute until light and fluffy. Gradually and slowly mix in the lemon zest and juice.

chocolate PB nutella cake

DISCLAIMER:

This is not health food.

This is not weight loss-friendly, it’s not kind to your swimsuit figure and it definitely won’t aid you in those skinny jeans.

It is pure decadence. It’s the kind of food that makes you want to eat a salad for every meal until the end of time, just so that you can eat a slice of this incredibly rich cake and not feel guilty.

Sometimes you need this kind of food. And there is a way to justify it: the end result is so rich (almost too rich) that just a tiny sliver will satisfy you.

Until you eat some more within the next hour.

It’s an easy cake though. Steps are as follows:

chocolate PB nutella cake 

1. Make your favorite brownie mix. Mine is my grandmother’s recipe, it involves sifting and melting chocolate over a double boiler. It’s great. Add peanut butter chips, or Reese’s Pieces, to the batter – because why not?

Bake the brownies in a sheet cake pan. This will make a very, veeeery thin end result, so make sure you spray the pan liberally with baking spray.

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2. While the brownies are cooking and cooling, whip a carton of heavy whipping cream into, well, whipped cream.

Fold Nutella into it. I used almost the whole jar because why not? Be gentle during this process, but make sure it’s mixed completely.

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3. When the cake cuts out, cut it in half, hamburger-style. Spread the top of one half with your Nutella mixture and stack the halves.

Cut the cake in half again. Trust me. “Frost” and stack again.

Now frost the sides. You’ll have a short and stubby chocolate cake. Four layers of goodness. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour so it can all set – and it should be stored in the fridge, too.

Feel free to get creative with sprinkles. And make sure you have a giant glass of milk on hand when you devour your end result.

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roasted strawberry buttermilk cake//swimsuit season is coming

It’s coming.

Can you feel it? Do you dread and welcome it as much as I do?

Swimsuit season.

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Also known as the season of sun, shorts, breezy tops and floaty dresses. I mean, I love it. But it’s also hard to embrace when you’re not feeling at your 100 percent best. Which I haven’t been.

I’ve just been feeling slow lately. Some days, it feels like my head is encased in a fog all day- that no amount of coffee will fix. And I feel sluggish and unhealthy, despite my frequent gym trips.

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Sometimes, the baking and eating out and pizza and pasta and candy catches up to you. Funny how that works.

So I’m instituting a healthy eating challenge for myself, as an effort to re-set my system and feel confident as swimsuit season approaches, bringing with it graduation and pictures that will Be Around Forever.

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I’m limiting myself to one day a week for sweets (so don’t worry, I’ll still be baking). I’m drinking more water, emphasizing lean protein, focusing on fruits and vegetables. And perhaps most daunting? I’m cutting out carbs – gasp – after lunchtime.

This is going to be hard. But hopefully, it’ll help me embrace other dinner and cooking options without falling back on pasta. Or pizza. Or burritos. You get the drill.

I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician. I’m not a professional. This is what works for me, but it’s probably not right for everyone.

Anyway, on my last night of carbs after noon, I went big. You have to. I started with a huge bowl of pasta and one of my favorite sauces: pepper-caper tomato sauce, which is as easy as it sounds (Add peppers and capers to tomato sauce, stir.)

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Then I moved onto the big guns, as you can see from the above photos.

Roasted. Strawberry. Buttermilk. Cake.

It’s light. Sweet. Warm. Comforting.

It made me sigh as I considered the no-carb challenge I’m taking on.

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Recipe below, adapted from Joy the Baker.

Stick around for the no-carb adventures, won’t you? Should be fun.

Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Cake

Strawberries:

16-ounces medium strawberries, hulled

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoon olive oil

pinch of salt

3 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Place a rack in the center of the oven, to 375 degrees.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cut each strawberry in half and place in a mixing bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together maple syrup, olive oil, and salt and toss the mixture with the berries.

Roast for 10-15 minutes. Put the berries in a bowl, toss with balsamic vinegar, set aside.

Cake:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar (you’re going to use these two different amounts at different times)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Butter or spray a pyrex dish, set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together buttermilk, eggs and butter. Then add vanilla.

Combine the two, mix until fully incorporated. Then add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup of milk (not buttermilk). Mix.

Pour into dish and scatter the roasted strawberries on top. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Allow cake to cool to room temperature before slicing to serve, top with powdered sugar.

basketball jersey cake

I love baking for myself, sure. What’s not to like about sugar and sweet? But baking for other people is probably my favorite part of getting in the kitchen.

You might swear over the mixer as powdered sugar flies up and coats your face. Maybe half of the frosting somehow, inexplicably, ended up in your hair.

But the reward – when those you bake for are amazed and excited by what you’ve made them – that’s worth even the most stubborn stain on your jeans. (Really, the dishtowels are there to wipe your hands and I still find myself absentmindedly using my pants.)

Birthday cakes are fun. They’re a little messy and a lot of work. Still, watching people eat the cake you made as they celebrate a special day is pretty cool.

Have a basketball fan on your hands? Jersey cakes are surprisingly easy and definitely a crowd-pleaser. First, just make a sheet cakes – I used my favorite Martha yellow cake recipe.

Then, when it’s cooled, flip the cake onto a cookie sheet. Cut curves along the top two sides of the cake and a gentle dent out of the very top. Discard (or snack on) the pieces.

Frost the cake to look like a jersey of choice. This one was Celtics-themed:

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celebration cake

Wow, it’s been a long time.

I took a week off and went home. And tried to go off the grid while I was there. And then, I returned to the District and moved into a new place and started a three week training period and then bam!, before I knew it, my senior year started this week!

Back to classes and papers and readings and holy cow, I’m done after this year. That’s mildly terrifying and I’m in total denial.

But the good news is that people are back in the District! And with that comes birthdays and celebration cakes. The beautiful design editor for The Hatchet (and a good friend of mine) had her birthday on a production night, so I made a cake for the staff to eat.

I started with heading to Paper Source and buying some of my favorite silver paper and then stealing some coffee stirrers from Starbucks to make these toppers:

Super cheap! Super easy! And really cute.

I went with basic chocolate for the cake, which I mixed up according to this recipe.

(Thanks, Martha. My go-to.)

Then I mixed up my absolute favorite quick buttercream frosting recipe.

It’s delicious, and super easy. You can make it with a stand mixer and the key is to beat it on high for an extended period of time so it becomes light, fluffy and airy- like whipped cream frosting, but tastes like buttercream.

I’ll put the recipe at the end of the post, but warning: the amount of butter in this frosting is not for the faint of heart. Or the healthy eaters.

Or, my mother.

Proceed with caution.

What you might not be able to tell is that the frosting is tinged slightly pink. My camera isn’t the best, so it’s not super obvious.

But it was a pale pink, which looked great with the silver toppers.

And there you have it— celebration cake! Simply, easy and beautiful. And delicious- I think it all got eaten.

Happy back to school, happy new room (I’ll get pictures up soon) and happy birthday! Speaking of which, mine is in a month 🙂

Buttercream frosting

1 cup of unsalted butter, softened

2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract
* Milk or heavy cream, optional
* Food coloring, optional
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners sugar.  Begin mixing on low speed until crumbly, and then increase to high and beat for 3 minutes.
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat again for another minute until light and fluffy. Beat in food coloring a little at a time until the desired color is achieved.

*Note: If you find the buttercream is too stiff, you may add milk or heavy cream 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture is spreading consistency.

Also: I doubled the recipe for the above cake.

(almost) championship cake

I think it goes without saying that the Super Bowl didn’t go the way I wanted. I guess it’s too much to ask for two rings in one year… and if I said that Sunday night, I didn’t watch the Bruins Stanley Cup DVD with my ring, I would be lying.

But one thing that did go the way I wanted? The cake I slaved over. No really, I’m not sure when the last time I undertook something this time-consuming was. Except maybe a raspberry-chocolate layer cake I made over the summer, this seemed to drag on forever. One of my friends not-so-gently pointed out that it was probably the anticipation of kickoff making everything seem extra intense.

Either way, I’m glad I had something to channel my nerves into creating. I made the cake and the frosting (a quick buttercream) from scratch, and it was as delicious as I hoped.

Originally, it was a peace offering cake. Around the end of the fourth quarter, around a backwards touchdown (thanks, Bradshaw)– actually, who am I kidding. Around the time they cut to Tyree on the Giants’ sidelines and my stomach dropped, it became a comfort cake.

But no matter the outcome, I’m still pretty proud of my Super Bowl cake. And it reminded me- I have yet to make a hockey-themed baked good! I’m not sure how that’s possible, either.