happy belated birthday, and a cake {baking}

Ben’s birthday was in the end of March. I didn’t get around to making his cake in time for the birthday since I was sick the day before (boo) but I did get the cake done in the same week (yay). What I didn’t accomplish that week however was blogging about the cake.

Back in 2006 I went through a bit of a career crisis, I wasn’t happy with the job I had but I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead. One of my favorite shows was “Ace of Cakes” and it pretty much seemed like the most awesome job ever to make cool cake for a living, so I decided to take a class. I spent a lot of money on professional baking equipment and tools and taking classes to learn to become a professional baker/decorator. I must say it was a LOT more work than I ever imagined and even compared to being a photographer it was a LOT of time on your feet. I just wasn’t cut out for it. What I did discover was that I love baking as a hobby and I jump at every chance I get to whip up a fabulous cake. This time (since I have this new and sadly neglected blog longing for post content) I set out to write a long tutorial-esque post about how to make one of these cakes, taking photos all the way. What I realized in the process however is that #1 these are actually not my recipes to give away and the person who came up with them probably wouldn’t want me to share them (sorry) and #2 there are WAY to many steps and complicated nuances to making a cake like this that the blog post would be about a mile long by them time I was finished with it. That and your cake would probably still not come out just right because I’ve been practicing these ever since I learned them in class I’m *still* not 100% perfect at it.

So instead, here are a few pictures and a few of the reasons why I love baking …

Pretty much the first thing that everyone asks when I show up with one of these cakes is “how did you do it?” meaning how did you get the thin even layers with the filling in between. Well the secret is you actually bake the cake in thin layers in sheet trays and then cut the shape of the cake (I usually do circular cakes because they’re easier to ice since they don’t have corners) out afterward. The bonus about this method of baking is you end up with a big pile of extra cake scrap at the end that you can either eat (yum) or make into something else delicious like crumb biscotti

The second thing people say is “I don’t usually like icing but this is so good” – now if you know me in person and you like to eat my cakes you might want to close your eyes for a minute, because I’m about to disclose the secret to why it’s so good… and you might not want to know. Eyes closed? Good … the secret to the delicious icing is

AN ENTIRE POUND OF BUTTER

Well it is called buttercream, what did you expect? I love love love making buttercream. At first I was scared of it because it’s such a temperamental icing to make. If you get the temperature or speed wrong the whole thing turns to a curdled mess, but once you get the hang of it there is nothing more satisfying than a batch of perfectly made and fluffy delicious icing. The kind I make is called Italian meringue and it involves boiling sugar and pouring it over whipped egg whites, finished off with (of course) a hearty dose of delicious butter. YUM!!

For the filling this time I chopped fresh strawberries and boiled them down with a bit of sugar and water to make some tasty gooey goodness

Once all the components are ready you just stack up the cake, lining the edge of each layer with a thin ribbon of buttercream to hold in the filling, and then ice and *voila*… cake! Delicious.

Happy belated birthday Ben… I love you!

happy belated birthday, and a cake {baking}

day 108: bubbas

day 108: if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make my kids happy it’s going outside. They stand in the dining room, faces pressed up against the sliding glass door yelling “outside! outside” while staring longingly at the sky. It’s kind of heartbreaking actually since we don’t have a yard. This afternoon while they were napping I surprised them by cleaning off the patio (formerly home to lots of random trashy debris; like peanut shells, milk carton tops and dirt) so that they could go outside and play after dinner. It’s only a few square feet of space but at least it’s got the wide open sky above. They kept pointing up and yelling “MOON!” so I think it was worth it 🙂 They also liked to watch me blow bubbles (or bubbas as they call them). It was quite a pleasant evening.

day 108: bubbas

day 107: splashtastic

day 107: I was going to put up a picture for today of all three cousins together. But I couldn’t. Because I took this picture later in the day. And how could I NOT post this one?! It’s ridiculously cute and funny. Paul is a splashing machine in the tub. His poor sister gets quite drenched. I love it 🙂

day 107: splashtastic

day 106: hoh hoh hoh

day 106: this face is HILARIOUS. Apparently Charlotte makes it a lot, but what’s so funny is that so does Amelia. She makes it all . the . time… and she has since she was a little baby. So we kept referring to it as Charlotte’s “Amelia face” although I’m pretty sure that Amelia never applied for a trademark for it (maybe she should have, she could have made a lot of money on it)… it’s usually accompanied by lots of sniffing, and in my mind at least by a French laugh (hoh hoh hoh)… don’t you love it?!

day 106: hoh hoh hoh

day 105: ssekos

day 105: I didn’t mean for this to be my photo of the day, I just got these in the mail and wanted to take a picture of them, and then forgot to take any other pictures that day. Oops. I’m pretty excited about my new shoes, they’re ssekos and I think they’re nifty 🙂 I was trying to decide which way I liked better for lacing them

day 105: ssekos

day 104: the elusive hug shot

day 104: Paul and Amelia have been hugging each other a lot lately (they’ve been hugging EVERYTHING a lot lately – dolls, stuffed animals, our real live dog) but for some reason even though I can capture everything else on camera I always miss it. Maybe I’m just a second too slow because I’m distracted by how CUTE it is… but I always get just a blur of heads or them running away afterward. This is as close as I’ve gotten

day 104: the elusive hug shot

day 102: thanks a lot

day 102: Tuesday morning started out well – I planned on going for a jog with the kids in the stroller (I’ve been going 3 times a week and quite enjoying it) and then going back to the house for lunch. But when we got back to the car to put the stroller away I found this – a car parked not inches away from my bumper but TOUCHING the bumper. Needless to say there was no way to get the trunk open or the huge jogging stroller into the trunk while it was in this situation and there were no other open spots anywhere near the house (plus, hello, babies in stroller, where am I going to leave them?) so I had to lug the huge thing all the way up into the apartment and was grumpy the rest of the morning. Harrumph.

day 102: thanks a lot

day 101: where did the week go?

day 101: I can’t believe it’s already Thursday night, almost Friday and I haven’t posted any of this week’s pictures yet. I actually don’t know what happened to this week, it went by so fast I didn’t have time to realize it was happening. I have been up late at night and doing lots of work, I suppose that’s part of the problem. A very late night and very dark shot by the glow of my monitor

day 101: where did the week go?

day 100: shoot.. I forgot :(

day 100: as I was typing in the entry last night for day 99 I mentioned to Ben “hey today is day 99, that means tomorrow is day 100 and I have to remember to do something cool”. So of course I forgot. And the only pictures I took today were more macro shots for the contest. I actually don’t even like them much, I had (what I thought was) a neat idea to do a tipped over salt shaker with some salt crystals spilled on the wooden table. I encountered two problems – 1. we only have a salt shaker that is huge and ceramic and has two large holes, so it doesn’t really read as a salt shaker close up, it is kind of out of scale with the salt and looks, well, weird (boo) and 2. I waited too long to take the pictures so it wasn’t terribly bright in the room anymore by the time I got around to it and darkness is the nemesis of macro photography. When you’re shooting close up you had better make darn well sure that you either have a lightning fast shutter speed or a very steady hand (or tripod)… I wanted my lens right at the table level which meant tipping it down which mean NOT having it resting on the table entirely… and … well… I suppose I’m getting into too much detail. Needless to say it didn’t work how I had hoped. This was the backup idea Ben came up with, I guess the slow shutter speed pouring is *kind of* cool… but I’d have preferred if it were stop-action quick. Not gonna happen with the dim light. So here you go. My 100 day photo that has nothing to do with it having been the 100th day OR with what we did today in general. Harrumph.

day 100: shoot.. I forgot :(