Wedding cake

I made a wedding cake!! Ok… It was actually 7 months ago, but still! It was exhausting, stressful, time consuming, and so amazingly worth it.

The groom is one of my good friends from grad school and his wife is a doctor who makes her own quilts – talk about talented! Knowing the groom and his desire for perfection when it comes to food and the bride’s amazing artistic talents, I was nervous… to say the least… but incredibly flattered that they would even ask me to make the cake.

The wedding was outdoors and the bride had her hand in everything, making it a beautiful, vintage-y wedding where my cake could fit in. I told them that two levels was my max, but that I’d be willing to make multiple cakes, and they were completely flexible with me. The florist provided the flowers to decorate the cake, so all I had to do was bring three white cakes. Simple really.

I had made the main cake for a birthday party, and the bride and groom requested it specifically: a lemon infused white cake with strawberries and a white chocolate icing in between the layers. The whole cake was supposed to be covered in the white chocolate icing, but the night before when the icing wasn’t coming out like I wanted, I made a last second decision to still use the icing for the filling between the layers but made a cream cheese icing to cover the cake. Everyone loves cream cheese icing (unless you are crazy), so I knew it would work out.

The other two side cakes included a chocolate chip spice cake and a chocolate cake with a raspberry and chocolate filling. The transportation of the cakes went fairly well. I bought some boxes for each cake and planned on assembling the two layer cake when I arrived. I cringed on every bump, especially when I reached the farm and I felt like I needed a 4-wheeler just to reach the venue. Fortunately the cakes were intact and unharmed when I arrived. I went into the house to assemble the cakes and the whole wedding party was there! Talk about stressful. Everyone was going to be watching me ungracefully place one cake on top of another. Half an hour later they were together, the flower was on top, and I was done.

The cutting of the cake is always my favorite part at a wedding reception, and this one was extra special. Especially when I saw the bride whisper “this is good” after she took a bite. It wasn’t the fanciest wedding cake, or the most professionally done, but if it tasted good, at least I could sleep that night.

*i made this cake last week for a work bake-off and lost. Again. I guess it wasn’t that good….

So, after 7 long months, I’ll tell you how I made the cake.

I found this beautiful white cake on tastespotting.com.
The directions are long and the author does a great job describing what to do. At the end of making the cake, fold in lemon zest from two lemons and then bake the cake.

When the cake is done, you can store it in the freezer for a day, which makes it easier to level. When you are ready to assemble the cake, cut up 1 pint of strawberries and store in lemon juice from two lemons and 1 tsp. sugar.

Prepare the white chocolate icing, as the instructions say. It is important to just continue beating the icing until cool and fluffy. I gave up the first two times and the icing never came together.

Place one layer down and pour on 1/3 of strawberry, lemon juice and then place 1/2 the strawberries on top of the cake.

20130224-094228.jpg

Add icing on top:

20130224-094413.jpg

Repeat with the next two layers, finishing the top level with juice but no strawberries:

20130224-094521.jpg

Ice with either the remaining white chocolate icing or a cream cheese icing. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

When I made the cake for the bake-off, I decorated with some chocolate covered strawberries:

20130224-094714.jpg

20130224-094731.jpg

If you want more info on how to assemble a two layer cake or more instructions on this specific cake, just let me know!

Advertisements

Chocolate chip cookie pie

I bake to celebrate friends’ birthdays. I bake for dinner parties. I bake to test out a new, intriguing recipe. I bake for weddings (well, I’ve just done one). I bake for bake-offs. I bake for my students when they have a long lab or a big test.

Sometimes I just need to bake… for me. Not because I need to, eat but because I need to bake. It relaxes me, calms me, and then finally cheers me up.

Yesterday was one of those days when I just needed to bake. As usual, what I always want to bake is a pie. I didn’t want to go to the store (even though it is literally a quarter mile from my house… Just so cold!), and I didn’t have any normal pie ingredients. I did have the normal baking essentials: flour, sugar, butter, and chocolate. What kind of pie can you make with that? Well… a chocolate chip cookie pie!

I ate one slice right out of the oven with a cold glass of milk, and it was the perfect way to end another successful baking night. I chilled the pie overnight, and it tasted even better today as the ingredients all came together.

chocolate chip cookie pie
adapted from the blue bell cookbook

pie crust
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup crisco
1/4 cup ice cold water

stir together dry ingredients.
cut in butter & crisco.
using a fork, mix in cold water.
cover in plastic and chill for 1/2 an hour.

cookie
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup chocolate chips (or more!)
1/4 cup dark chocolate (or more!)
1/4 cup walnuts

in a mixer, blend butter and sugars until creamy.
mix in eggs.
on low, mix in flour and salt until just incorporated.
stir in chocolate and walnuts.

roll out pie crust.
pour in chocolate chip mixture.
sprinkle on sea salt, if desired.
bake at 325 for 55 minutes.

20130221-223336.jpg

20130221-223353.jpg

20130221-223402.jpg

Mozzarella Class

I’m diverging from the main premise if this blog, which is to pass along dessert recipes that I have recently made. Cheese, however, is sometimes a dessert, so I’ll claim that this isn’t too much of a stretch. Plus, as I discover more gems in NYC, I want to pass them along to you.

I’ve been on a mozzarella kick since I had dinner at Mailino in the city last fall. (Ina Garten from Barefoot Contessa was sitting at the table next to us, so you know it has to be good.) We ordered some mozzarella and prosciutto as an appetizer. This was no ordinary mozzarella; it was clearly homemade and each bite just melted in your mouth. I probably could have had just a plate of that for my meal.

A few weeks later, a friend introduced me to the to the Italian market, Eataly. Unlike Chelsea market on a Saturday night, eataly has been completely packed every time I have gone. If you are into Italian food, or food at all really, then you should check out eataly. At the front of the store, they have Italian chocolates and coffee. (I stopped by one night when my friend Michael was in town to have some delicious hot chocolate!)

20130219-195439.jpg

20130219-195522.jpg

When you get deeper into the market, you discover fresh prosciutto, milks, cheeses, olive oils, and more Italian cookbooks than you would know existed. Everyone is bumping into you and talking loudly, so there is no mistaking that you are in New York and not Italy, but you can eat like you are in Italy.

The greatest part of the market is watching the staff prepare fresh pasta. When I was there last, they were making gnocchi. If I lived in the city, I’d go here to pick up fresh pasta for special dinner parties – or just to share with a friend – for a special home cooked meal. Nothing beats fresh pasta and cheese.

20130218-143542.jpg

Back to mozzarella. I discovered they had a mozzarella class, and I jumped on the opportunity to sign up. In typical NYC fashion, it was a way over-priced class, but you better believe that I got some delicious homemade cheese. We started the class by learning about the process of making mozzarella, and the origins of mozzarella in Italy. (Fun fact: unlike with cows, the milking process of water buffalo and goats cannot be mechanized, which is why their milk and cheese is more expensive.). We left the class stuffed full of multiple kinds of mozzarella, salad, pasta, and pizza all made with their fresh mozza.

Main take-away from the class, which I will pass along to you: if you ever see homemade barrata on the menu, order it. It is the most amazing, buttery, melty mozzarella cheese you will ever have. Use a slice of Italian bread to sop up all of the yummy goodness (on the left in the picture below). Offer it to me for dessert, and I’d choose it over chocolate any day.

20130218-144655.jpg

20130218-144707.jpg

20130218-144714.jpg

20130218-144723.jpg

Finally, I’ll end this post with a quote from one of my sister and my favorite movies. (Bonus points if you know the movie.)
Kate: Spasm! Spasm! Oh, God, here it comes… lactose intolerance!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

As I’ve mentioned before, I love having people over for dinner! I’m no expert dinner thrower though, as I usually need about an extra hour when I’m having a large group over. I did a chicken fried steak dinner for 10 friends recently, and if one of my friends hadn’t come over early there would have been no vegetable, and I had to completely scrap the gravy (usually the best part).

One problem though (and I’m sure most of you would not see this as a problem), is that I end up with extra wine. I’m not a wine drinker, so I never know what to do with it. When it is white wine, I sometimes make a risotto. When it is red wine, I might try a meat sauce that needs wine or make this red wine cake.

This is a really delicious cake that is easy to make and easy to clean up. The cake has a very strong wine, chocolate flavor, so the mascarpone cream sauce that accompanies it is crucial (and delicious). I recently discovered mascarpone when making some of giada’s mashed potatoes, and found it to be delicious. As the container informed me, it is just an Italian cream cheese. I even substituted it in a cream cheese icing recently, and it tasted great!

20130209-115839.jpg

So, next time you are looking for something to do with the left over red wine in your fridge, check out this recipe. I followed smitten kitchen’s recipe exactly, so I’ll just give you the link to her recipe and tempt you with my pictures.

Red Wine Cake

20130209-115718.jpg

20130209-115728.jpg

20130209-115737.jpg

20130209-115748.jpg

20130209-115800.jpg

Triple chocolate chocolate chip cookies

Oh how much has changed since a year ago. In Nashville, my exciting celebrity sightings included waiting in line at Starbucks behind Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, going to a Colbie Callet concert and standing next to Hillary Scott and Taylor Swift, and catching glimpses of other country music stars around town. Now I run into different kinds of celebrities. A few months ago, I walked out of my office as George W. was walking down the hall. Earlier this week, I went to get a salad and the chief of staff of the army, general odierno, was towering behind me (he didn’t stay in the salad line when he saw the other options…), as his secret service milled around.

Not only have my celebrities changed, I have learned a great deal about an institution I knew basically nothing about: the army. As people will quickly remind me, West Point is not “the real army,” but when you are going from no information, you can say my knowledge has increased infinitely.

Since many of you also might not know much about the army, I’ll give you a little lesson here. To enter the army, a person can take two routes: enlist for a designated amount of time or commission as an officer. People going through ROTC or West Point are all commissioning as an officer when they graduate. People on the enlisted side can also become an officer by going through OCS (officer candidate school – I think that’s what it stands for).

To make things more confusing though, there are a few types of “officers” in the army. There are traditional officers, which are the commissioned officers that I mentioned before. Then there are non-commissioned officers (NCOs) which are on the enlisted side but are more experienced. THEN there are warrant officers, which are considered “experts” in a craft, such as aviation. Confused? Don’t worry… I’m still figuring it all out.

What hasn’t changed in the past year, is my favorite chocolate chip cookie. I got this recipe from a Nashville blog before I left, and it has quickly become my go-to chocolate chip cookie. It uses self rising flour which both saves some time because it doesn’t need baking soda or baking powder and it leads to a super fluffy cookie instead of the flat chocolate chip cookies I used to make.

I made this batch for one of the NCOs that works in my office who just got accepted to warrant officer training school to become an aviation warrant officer. Quite exciting and pretty cool too.

Triple Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Slightly adapted from The Ultimate Southern Cookie by Mary Carter

Preheat oven to 350
Mix together:
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Gently mix in:
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. sea salt, heaping

Fold in (in a couple rounds):
2 1/2 cup self-rising flour (I don’t use self-rising flour much, so I keep it in the freezer)

Finally, fold in:
3/4 cup dark chocolate
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate
3/4 cup milk chocolate

Scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet in desired sizes. Sprinkle on some additiona sea salt. Bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on the size of the cookie. Sometimes I do huge cookies and sometimes I do mini ones, both are equally as good as long as you take them out when they are slightly browning.

Enjoy!!

20130209-113157.jpg

20130209-113221.jpg

Chelsea Market!

I’ve never been too keen on NYC. Before last summer, I had visited a few times and always enjoyed it, but for some reason it was never a place I wanted to live or really visit except to see friends. Just over a year ago, I began applying for jobs. In my mind, I wanted to live in a large city no further north than DC. I even crossed places off the list just because they were in NYC, but there were a few schools north of DC that managed to stay on.

Interviews came around and my first one lined up was with Colgate. I had been practicing my answer to “how would you like to live in Maine since you’ve spent all of your time in the south?” Sure enough that question came up, and I bombed it. Truth was, I didn’t want to live in the north, no matter how much I practiced being enthusiastic about it.

After first and second round interviews came job offers. I had two that I was really interest in: one in dc and one in New York. The first one met all of my qualifications: a job I would love in a city I already loved. The second one: small town, north of dc, and with the closest city being NYC. Never one to take the easy route, I chose the second job.

All of that is a long winded way of saying that having long been a skeptic of the city and having no plans to ever end up in this area, I am now a huge fan of NYC. It is awesome! I’ve barely explored it, but I’ve come to realize it has so much to offer! Last weekend (and the subject of this post), I went to Chelsea Market. If you live near the city or are planning a trip to NYC and you love food, I recommend checking this place out! (I am currently on the train to the city to visit another market -eataly – and take a mozarella class – more on that in another post.)

At the entrance, there is an anthropologie. Right there, you know that the place can’t be too bad. Once you enter though, you pass a bunch of restaurants, mini food shops, bakeries, kitchen stores, and so much more!

My favorite place, which unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of was the filling station. It is this little shop that sells flavored salts, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars. The best salt was the truffle salt by far, and if I didn’t have a bunch of new flavored salts at my apartment, I would have bought some right then. Diana and I tried pretty much all of the vinegars. The strangest was cinnamon pear. Who knew that would be a balsamic vinegar? My favorite was the cherry flavored one.

Next we went to the miniature doughnut shop. If you’ve ever been to a Krispy Kreme, this place will make you laugh. The doughnut maker is a tiny model of the one they have in the stores. They are just missing the “hot now” sign. You can ask for all sorts of favors with strawberry and sprinkles being my choice, of course. We picked up a dozen or so for the bday party we were going to, and they were quickly gobbled up.

20130202-115637.jpg

20130202-115648.jpg

20130202-115655.jpg

Next stop: hot chocolate. Seeing as the temperature outside was sub 30 degrees, this was an obvious choice. I’ve always heard that chilies in chocolate are awesome, but I’ve never actually tried it. In an adventurous mood, we got the wicked hot chocolate to sip on as we did more exploring.

20130202-120410.jpg

20130202-120417.jpg

Finally, I’ll tell you about the tea/spice shop. I drink tea every day. Well, many times a day. Mainly English breakfast tea, but I’m trying to branch out. This place had any kind of tea imaginable and all made by the guy behind the table. Also, if you were looking for any time of spice combination (think: guacamole spices), they had that too. I ultimately settled on a strawberry tea that I’m going to have to break out this week.

20130202-120254.jpg

Ok, this post is long enough. Moral of the story: NYC is a pretty cool place, and I recommend Chelsea market.

I’ll leave you with this fun fact: the New York state insect is the lady bug.

20130202-115812.jpg

I’m back!

Hello! Sorry I have become so delinquent with posting. I just found an ap for my iPad that will allow me to post pictures, so I am hoping I will start posting more again! I end up taking the train into the city most weekends, so it will be the perfect time to share the latest with you.  Since it has been so long, I thought I would just post an update with some of the things I’ve made since I moved to New York and mainly recently.

For labor day fireworks at west point, I made some ice cream sandwiches from the smitten kitchen blog. I picked up some cake batter ice cream from one of the five ice cream shops in my little town to give it a little bit of a different twist. smitten kitchen ice cream sandwiches

20130126-161911.jpg

Izzy loved them:

20130126-165428.jpg

I found an awesome grocery store just 20 minutes from me (everything is 20 to 30 min. away), and they have the best fruit in the summer! I went on a blueberry kick and made a bunch of blueberry yumminess, including these blueberry crumb bars, again from smitten kitchen.

20130126-162353.jpg

After hosting dinner parties at least once a month in Nashville (if not more), by November I had made enough friends to have one in new york! One of the desserts I served was a cranberry apple pie from cooks illustrated.

20130126-162747.jpg

20130126-162757.jpg

20130126-162809.jpg

In December, my good friends Raven and Joe hosted a holiday mad men party. In honor of the theme, I made a Christmas jello mold. One person tried it at the party. I took it into work and it took almost a week for it to disappear (which is impressive given that most things put down in the lounge are gone in less than 15 min). I guess jello isn’t so popular anymore.

20130126-163149.jpg

If you are looking for a delicious but easy dessert, try a molten chocolate cake. The recipe called for 13 minutes in the oven. I’d recommend reducing that to 12… Just to increase the gooeyness. molten chocolate cake

20130126-163424.jpg

20130126-163436.jpg

20130126-163445.jpg

Finally, while not meant to be a dessert, I thought I would share that I recently competed in another food competition. As you may remember, the last time I entered one, I lost miserably. (See my blog post on it.) This one ended in the same result. Maybe the third time will be the charm. I made a lemon, strawberry pizza. It was supposed to have fresh basil, but I bought bay leaves by accident…

20130126-164212.jpg

The winner made a pear, Gorgonzola, walnut pizza:

20130126-164315.jpg