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Category Archives: Cake

I’m turning 29 for the second time.

I’m turning 29 for the second time.

Yep, it’s almost my second 29th birthday.  I can hardly bring myself to type it.  On June 1, I will enter a new life decade and I would be lying if I said I was not freaking out a bit.

To make it more palatable, I am thinking about things that would make great gifts for, ahem, someone, ahem, who might be about to re-celebrate their 29th birthday. Or things that I want to purchase for myself once my birthday has come and passed with no gifts because my family doesn’t do gifts.

In line with my previous wish list, these are lovely things that are not exactly practical, making it unlikely I will purchase them for myself because I have to buy the un-fun things like a new toilet seat and energy-efficient windows. They are fanciful and lovely, like the previous wish list as well.

Without further ado, some things I currently covet:

This chandelier. Yes, it was on the previous list, but I want it so bad. I have made progress on my dining room and I’m dying to update the light fixture.

Chandelier

A marble mortar and pestle. This isn’t even that frivolous – I would use it a lot, but I definitely want a marble one because it’s pretty. Maybe not this exact one, but you get the idea. I would crush garlic and whole spices so hard.

french-kitchen-mortar-and-pestle

A lovely cake server. Can you believe I don’t own one already? Neither can I. How did that happen? I make SO many cakes and have to serve them with a knife like some heathen. A scratch-cake-baking heathen. Oh, the horror!

Cake Server

These pretty salad plates. Can’t you just imagine eating a jicama-avocado-grapefruit salad off of these while sitting in my solarium? Your mouth is watering now isn’t it? Mine is.

Animal salad plates world market

One (or eight) sheepskins.  I know I would get so much use of out of it, but every time I go to Ikea I am already spending $300 on things that I need* so I always put the sheepskin back at the last minute. I have some ghost chairs and dining chairs that are just begging for a nice sheepskin. (*Need is a subjective term. Duh.)

Sheep Skin

Some snail place card holders. Or some other equally charming woodland creature in a gold finish place card holders. For labeling cheeses and the like at dinner parties. Nate Berkus for the win. For like the hundredth thousandth time.

Snail Placecard holdersNow, I am can feel my father rolling his eyes, saying that we don’t do gifts and who needs more “crap,” but oh well. It’s my second 29th birthday and I’ll desire lovely and slightly impractical things if I want to. (It kills me to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s what you get when you quote Leslie Gore.)

Love,

Rachel

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Mini-Cakes!

Mini-Cakes!

I made mini-cakes! They are adorable and mini.
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Here’s what I did – it was pretty easy and a fun way to make personalized desserts.

I made one recipe of my fave carrot cake (https://suitsandaprons.wordpress.com/?s=carrot+cake), and baked it in a 9×13 pan. Once baked and cooled, I wrapped the cake tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer for an hour or so.

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Then I used a biscuit cutter to make little cake rounds. I cut all the cake rounds into two pieces. Each cake was then made with 3 layers – 1.5 times the thickness of the cake as baked originally. It is easier to cut each round in half individually than to try and cut the whole cake in half (into two layers) at once. Trust me.

I frosted these with lots of cream cheese frosting, chilling as I went so that the outer layer would harden. I added some marmalade to the middle for yummy filling.

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I also rolled some in party sprinkles.

These were so yummy and pretty. Very easy, and very fun. I served them in cupcake wrappers, for ease of eating and mobility.

One note: While cream cheese frosting is clearly the most delicious frosting ever, it does not harden like a true buttercream, which can pose decorating challenges. For example, it is difficult to pipe designs with cream cheese frosting because the shapes begin to melt, while piped buttercream designs tend to hard and hold better. You may consider just using cream cheese frosting for the middle filling, and using buttercream for your decorations.

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Another note: You may be wondering why I made mini-cakes instead of making cupcakes. You may think cupcakes and mini-cakes are the same. You would be wrong. The frosting-to-cake ratio in a cupcake is way off, in a way that really bothers me. Also, cupcakes tend to be drier, in my experience, since they are basically all corners. By making mini-cakes, you reduce the amount of heat exposed edges, which makes for more delicious moister cakes. Finally, I think fully frosted mini-cakes are more adorable than cupcakes, plain and simple.

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Now go make some delicious and adorable mini-cakes.

Love,

Rachel

 

 

A few recipes that you might like for thanksgiving!

A few recipes that you might like for thanksgiving!

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I FREAKING love Turkey Day! Oh whatta day! A day devoted entirely to cooking, setting pretty tables, drinking wine and hanging with good friends. Good golly, Ms. Molly!

Here are three things that I have already made on the blog that you might want to consider adding to your Thanksgiving table:

Rustic Pear Tart. Make this. YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT. My boyfriend’s favorite dessert, and probably one of mine (choosing a favorite dessert is like choosing your favorite child – or at least what I imagine choosing a child would be like, if, you know, I had kids).

 

Pumpkin Streusel Swirled Cream Cheese Pound Cake.

This thing was WAY more than a pound. It was probably closer to 4 lbs of delicious cake.

 This thing is so amazingly yummy. Fairly easy to make and very impressive.

 

Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Nom nom nom nom!

Rachel

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is for Eaters. And Drinkers.

Munich is only a four-hour drive from Vienna. So, when a dear college friend of mine was coming to Vienna, I thought, Munich would be a lovely weekend trip (especially because its only another 90 minutes from Salzburg, where they filmed the Sound of Music – more on that later).

Munich is pretty small. The architecture is lovely. There are one or two interesting museums. But where Munich really shines for me: the victuals and beverages. Upon immediately getting of the subway in downtown music we saw the awesome Cathedral above. And then I spotted the Haribo Gummy Candy Cart!!! I am such a sucker for anything gummy.

Haribo Gummy Candy Cart! Are you freaking kidding me?!?

I managed to walk away from the gummy cart without buying anything, only to turn around and find myself in front Rischart – a truly phenomenal bakery.

Oh, yeah, they had some cakes too.

Chocolate and cherries and apples, oh my!

After a little snack-y-poo at the bakery (with fresh plums!), we went to a modern art museum, and then felt it was time for lunch. So we walked for what felt like ages until we arrived at a beer garden located within Munich’s ginormous and lovely English Garden.

Being famished and thirsty, we had some Weissbier.

Weissbier in the Biergarten.

Molly got the first round. I got the second round.

I am not much of a beer drinker. I usually prefer wine. But this Weissbier is AWESOME. It’s all the flavors and things I like about beer, but none of the things I don’t. It’s not filtered, so it’s super flavorful, but it’s not bitter at all. Not too hoppy. Super cold. Doesn’t leave you feeling bloated, only refreshed. I may have drank a whole liter of Weissbier at this meal, which is quite a lot of beer for someone who doesn’t consider herself a beer drinker. (Probably didn’t hurt that I was very thirsty and quite hot).

Of course, at the Biergarten, we had some brat with kraut and mustard, a side of french fries and some awesome country-style kartoffelen (potatoes). Yum yum yum. So simple, yet so unbelievably good.

After lunch, we did a little shopping at an European clothing store you have probably never heard of, H & M, because who shops in stores that are available in America when they are in Europe? Oh wait….

Saw some more buildings and things…

This building is HUGE. And only part of its hugeness is captured by my picture.

It was about time for another meal here (are you noticing a pattern?), so we went to Lonely Planet’s top pick for beer halls in Munich, Augustiner Bräustuben. We were not disappointed.

Locals and tourists alike gathered around large rustic wooden tables, drinking tankards of beer and eating a variety of meat straight off the bone. Waiters wore Lederhosen and waitresses wore Dirndl (think Saint Paulie’s girls…). In fact, some guests were wearing their traditional bavarian attire, as well, because there is a great deal of Bavarian pride. And rightfully so. The food and beer were great. It was the kind of food where there are no fancy bells and whistles; it’s basic stuff done just perfectly. It’s the type of food that one might expect a soldier to eat before going to battle to pillage some villages. And the beer is what you would expect that soldier to drink upon return to celebrate his victory.

Molly had the pork knuckle. It was awesome.

I ordered the Bavarian mixed plate. It did not disappoint.

With a meatball, some pork saddle, a dumpling and mushrooms in a delightful gravy.

Later that evening, we waddled back to our hotel to dream about gummy candies, incredible bakeries, pork products and beer. Two days later, I decided to sign up for a half-marathon to undo some of the damage. But man, do the Bavarians know how to feed their people!

Miscellaneous Viennese Things

I’m in Europe – on a quasi vacay. So my blogging has been put the wayside. Forgive me. Here is a smattering of Viennese things that I have been enjoying. I am too tired from a day of sightseeing to write a funny story about it, so why don’t you just pretend I’ve written something hilarious and chuckle out loud to yourself on occasion? Great. Thanks!

Mit Liebe,

Rachel

Sacher Torte: A intensely rich, dense chocolate cake, covered with a layer of chocolate ganache, and with a middle layer of apricot jam. Served with an espresso and a bit of schlagobers (whipped cream), this cake is not to be missed.

 

Austrian Gulasch: Unlike Hungarian Gulasch which is a mixture of meat and hearty vegetables, Austrian Gulasch is a thick stew of just beef. Then they add this massive bread dumpling (yum) and a fried egg (in case you hadn’t gotten enough protein from the whole cow served up in a bowl of yummy gravy). Solid, though I might prefer the Hungarian dish to the Austrian preparation. After a cold day though, this really hit the spot.

 

The gardens at Schonbrunn Palace will blow your freaking mind. Aside from being gorgeous, entrance to the gardens is free. This is where I am training for my upcoming half-marathon because the grounds are extensive, and great for running because everything is covered in tiny pebbles, not cement.

 

More of Schonbrunn gardens. That is the “little gazebo” built out behind the palace. And it’s own reflecting pond. Running here totally beats running on a treadmill (or running pretty much anywhere else in the world, for that matter).

 

Pelicans at Schonbrunn Zoo. Yep, that’s right – the oldest zoo in Europe – possibly the WORLD! This zoo is on the pricey side (15Euro) but sooooo worth it. Bring a sack lunch and spend the whole day.

That is a sealion, jumping completely out of the water to grab a fish from the zookeeper’s hand. Also at Schonbrunn Zoo. The show was incredible.

 

 

 

Well, this is embarrassing…

Posted on
Well, this is embarrassing…

I set out this summer to learn how to make yummy Austrian food. I bought an Austrian cookbook even.

First on my list to make: Linzer Torte. A sweet, nutty pastry crust, almost a shortbread, holds a layer of tangy current jam, covered by a criss-cross of more pastry, sprinkled with sliced almonds and powdered sugar. Sounds good, no?

Though I have not actually tried one, I know what sounds yummy when I hear it, so I figured that I am decent enough baker to undertake this task.

In my head, the results would look like this:Image

Being that I am subletting an apartment for the summer, I forgot about all the loops that one must jump through when learning to bake in a foreign land. Do I have the correct pots? When can I buy ground almonds? How do I say ground almonds? What is the cooking temperature in Celcius? Is the oven I am using true to temperature, or is it off a little bit? Will the fact that I am making a pastry when it’s 90 degrees in my apartment with no air conditioning affect the outcome?

I pondered these all quickly and threw caution to the wind. I mean, how hard could it be, right? It’s like a pie, and I have made about a million pies. No biggy.

Boy was I wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I couldn’t find ground almonds, so I figured I would hand chop mine until they were very fine. I got them pretty small, but never the same texture as buying ground.

I didn’t let the dough chill enough because my refrigerator here was actually pretty spotty on the day.

I swore that I had seen a 9 inch spring form pan in the apartment, but in reality, I had only seen the bottom portion of the spring form pan, but the sides were no where to be found. So I used an 11″ tart pan that had seen better days.

I converted the degrees on the Internet, but this oven is an electric convection oven that is warmer/faster than my oven at home.

I was sweating buckets (not into the dough, mind you). The dough wasn’t properly chilled. The pan was too big. The almonds were too course. This porridge is too hot! That porridge is too cold! Wait… wrong story.

Anyway, when the evening was over, this is what I had made:

NAILED IT!

At least she tasted good. I doubt she tasted how real linzer torte is supposed to taste, but still, the butter, nuts and jam, it’s hard to go wrong.

I know this picture is going to be all over Pinterest any minute now for being so lovely.

They say it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Well, let this be a lesson to those 4 people who read my blog: sometimes even bloggers make mistakes. Shocking, I know. I still haven’t bought the correct pan, but when I do, I will try again. Maybe it will be better next time. Maybe I will redeem myself. And maybe not. I guess that’s part of life’s journey.

Yum, right?

Like how I turned this into some greater life lesson even though in reality it was me failing abysmally in the kitchen and throwing a small tantrum?

Mit Liebe,

Rachel

Drool-worthy Carrot Cake

If given a choice between cake and pie, I generally chose pie. Given a choice between cake or a cookie, I usually chose the cookie. The thing is, cake is not my favorite dessert. I find it’s usually too dry or has frosting made of shortening (shortening has just as many calories as butter or cream cheese, and butter/cream cheese tastes a million times better, people! Demand the real thing!)

I am salivating while looking at this. Quite literally.

But you put a carrot cake in front of me? Well, just watch your hands and fingers!

I freaking love carrot cake. Even a bad carrot cake is still good. And this recipe is the best carrot cake I have ever eaten! As a carrot cake connoisseur, I consider myself a pretty good judge of carrot cake. So trust.

That's my grandmother's silver cake plate. It's not quite level, but I think it's lovely.

I have given this a lot of thought: why I like carrot cake a TON but am not so fond of regular cake.

First, carrot cake is always moist. The carrots keep things from drying out. Too many cakes are too dry. This recipe also has crushed pineapple AND golden raisins, which keep this cake dense and (dare I say it?) juicy. Seriously, it’s beyond moist.

Second, carrot cake comes with cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting makes my heart flutter. And it makes cake phenomenal. My cream cheese frosting involves both cream cheese and real butter. Many people have never actually had real butter cream or real cream cheese frosting because many store bought cakes make their frosting with a shortening base. Yuck. It’s that waxy bright-white crap. Not good. And canned frosting also is not real butter.  Frosting is REALLY easy to make, and when homemade it’s ALWAYS more delicious than store bought. So please, take the time to make your own frosting. You won’t be sorry. OK. End of my fake-frosting rant.

Covered in rich cream cheese frosting.

3. It’s generally not sickly sweet. Much of the sweetness comes from the carrots, raisins and pineapple.

4. It’s got veggies in it, so it’s good for you, right? (Just let me have this one, ok?)

This is the same recipe that we used for my brother’s wedding cake. It was awesome then, and it’s awesome now.

My brother's wedding cake with antique heirloom cake topper from my grandma.

Make this cake. It’s not difficult, and it’s sublime.

I know you want to.

Drool-Worthy Carrot Cake Recipe

Adapted from Out of Our Kitchen Closets: San Francisco Gay Jewish Cooking

You will need:

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups of carrots, peeled and grated

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup crushed pineapple

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (I prefer pecans)

The Steps

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease and flour two 9 or 10 inch cake pans. (The cake in the picture is actually a 3 layer cake. I made 1 and a half recipes to make three layers).

2. Sift together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon.

3. To the flour mixture add the eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar. Beat until well blended.

4. Fold in the carrots, raisins, pecans and pineapple.

5. Pour into pans and bake for 25-35 minutes. Begin testing at 25 minutes because ovens are different (my oven is crazy and I can never tell how long something will need to actually bake for, so I check it a lot). Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the cake cool completely before frosting.

The Frosting

You will need:

8oz softened cream cheese (room temp)

8 oz softened butter (two sticks at room temp)

1 teaspoon vanilla

About 3 cups of powdered sugar

1 to 3 tablespoons of milk

The Steps

In large bowl, beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla until well-blended and whipped. Then add two cups of powdered sugar. Add a tablespoon of milk and blend. Keeping adding milk and sugar only as necessary until the frosting is the desired level of sweetness and the desired level of spreadability. I never have an exact science for this. It’s more of a feeling that you develop over time, but it’s fairly easy to do. If you end up with something too runny, add more sugar. If it’s too thick, add a little more milk.

Frost that cake. Cut yourself a huge slice. Enjoy!

Dog's eye view of the cake.

Love,

Rachel

I am taking this cake to these parties:

Somewhat Simple

The Shabby Creek Cottage

Happy Hour Projects

Beyond the Picket Fence