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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Epic Cake

Have you guys heard of Pinterest? Neither had I, up until a month ago, but now I am absolutely addicted to it. It’s probably the main reason why I haven’t been blogging as often as I would like to lately.

What is Pinterest? Well, it’s kinda like Facebook but with a lot more pictures. It looks like this:

image

If you are a visual person like me, this thing may just become your heroin. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!) How does it work, you ask. You basically “pin” images (and links) of things you like – foods, places, things, ideas, quotations, books, and whatever else floats your boat.  You put them in various categories (boards) on you profile. You can browse other people’s pins and “re-pin” them, “like” them, comment on them or follow other people.

Prior to discovering Pinterest, I’d stumble on really cool things while surfing the web but often couldn’t find them again when I needed to. Not any more. Now, I can just pin the things and save them in the appropriate categories(boards) on my profile and then when I need them, Bada Bing, they are there! It’s really awesome. And no, I am not paid by Pinterest to advertise for them, I’ve just been so inspired by them that I had to share the joy. It’s still in beta and you have to request an invite to join but it’s fairly simple and quick.

So, anyway, I was sitting on the couch one night looking at cool stuff on Pinterest, when Her Cuteness sat next to me and started looking at the pretty pictures (and I don’t mean Gilles Marini ‘cause I hadn’t pinned him just yet but that’s a whole different story…). She was instantly intrigued by this:

Can you blame her? It’s the Rainbow Doodle Birthday Cake and I was kinda drooling when I first saw it too. It took Nia a couple of seconds to decide that it’s the cake she wanted for her birthday. Well, I thought, her birthday is not until November, I have plenty of time to figure out how to make it, so I foolishly said “Sure, honey, why not!”

Then, just for the hell of it, I looked at the recipe. Boy, was that thing way out of my cake league. It was quite intimidating but inspiring and irresistible at the same time.  I couldn’t risk making it for the first time for her birthday. So many things could go wrong. I had to figure it out... like NOW. And since my birthday was conveniently coming up in a couple of weeks, I thought, “What the hell, I’ll test-make it for my birthday and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll eat it anyway.” So, happy birthday to me, right!???

This is probably a good time to mention that one of my birthday gifts this year was a…

KitchenAid KSM75WH Classic Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

… yup, a Kitchenaid stand mixer and I was just dying to use it for something awesome. So it just had to happen, you know,  the stars were perfectly aligned. Her Cuteness’ request, the recipe, the mixer – it was a trifecta, really…

The only problem was I had never made anything so involved. This was not a whip-it-in-a-half-an-hour cake. I mean, when I first read the recipe, I had to look up a few words. It has things like Swiss Meringue Buttercream and fondant, for crying out loud. Those are not for the faint of heart. But for my sweetheart, I was going to figure it out. So about 10 days out, I started collecting coupons (‘cause I am a coupon maniac queen) and buying the supplies. I had to find just the right kind of food coloring (gel) and the decorator pens. I actually cheated on the decorator pens because I am cheap thrifty and the ones the recipe called for were quite pricey and unavailable at my local craft store, for which I had 50% off any one item coupons. I ended up getting a set that had half the colors but ended up costing me a lot less. I also had to get industrial amounts of butter and sugar because that’s like 90% of the cake. Seriously!

It took me the better part of three days to finish the darned thing but finish it I did and it looked like this:

Rainbow cake2

Not too shabby, eh?

It didn’t have to take three days to make the cake but there were diapers to be changed, homework to be done, dinners to be prepared, and all kinds of other fun stuff, so I had to squeeze cake making where I could. This is how it went down. On day one, I made the layers, put them in plastic wrap and stashed them in the freezer. On day two, I whipped up the fondant. I opted for a marshmallow fondant recipe but used butter instead of shortening. I have a thing about shortening. It kinda grosses me out. The fondant had to sit overnight before I could use it. On day three, I made the Swiss Meringue Buttercream and assembled the whole monstrosity cake. The buttercream actually turned out exactly as described in the recipe. The fondant on the other hand was kind of tricky but I am guessing, it may have had something to do with my substitution of butter for shortening. It ended up sticking to the countertop, so my Mom had to help me with it (she has some wicked rolling pin skillz) but we figured it out.

Last but not least, we had Nia decorate the cake with the decorator pens (markers, really):

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She wanted to draw a fairy with black hair and diamond wings. The final design looked a little Goth but she liked it and that’s all that matters, right? Here we are before cutting our masterpiece:

Rainbow cake1

Was it tasty? Well, yes but to be perfectly honest, it was so rich that we had a hard time finishing our pieces. It’s incredibly sweet. So sweet, as a matter of fact, that Nia decided she doesn’t want it for her birthday after all. So sweet, that 10 days later we still have a quarter of it in the fridge. So unless I figure out something lighter to use instead of the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I probably won’t be making it again. Which is a shame because it is such a beautiful cake and I just figured out how to make it. The fondant didn’t help either. But if I figure out a substitute for the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I can make it without the fondant. I’d also use a white cake mix instead of making the layers from scratch. Oh, and I’d probably hide the black marker – it made the design a little scary.

The inspiration behind this cake actually did not have the fondant and it was featured on Martha Stewart, so if you want to try making it, you may find this video helpful. The recipe for the original Rainbow Cake (without the fondant and the doodles) can be found here. It is very detailed and has links for making the Swiss Meringue Buttercream as well. The original recipe called for lemon extract in the buttercream but I am not a big fan of lemony cakes, so I used orange extract in mine and it turned out good.

If you know of a good, lighter and less sweet substitute for the Swiss Meringue Buttercream, please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Boobman

My son is exclusively breast fed, so it’s no surprise that he is quite fond of my boobs. They feed him after all.

But at a recent family gathering I caught him doing this:

IMG_0180-1

That’s right, folks, he was cheating on the boobs that feed him with, you guessed it, younger, prettier ones.

At least he kept it in the family, for the object of his affection was none other than his cousin. At her bridal shower no less!

When her husband-to-be got wind of the young groper, he just said: “It’s those little ones you have to watch out for. They look so innocent but the moment you turn your head, they go straight the kill!”

In other boobman news, I am thrilled to share that he seems to be growing out of his colic, slowly but surely. He doesn’t strain and cry as much as he used to and we get a few hours of smiles and coos every day, which is utterly delightful. He also seems to have kicked the jaundice in the butt and is growing like a weed. He was 15 lb the day he turned 3 months. Not too shabby considering that he came 5 weeks early!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arlington Cemetery

Here’s another overdue post. Thirteen years ago, when we lived in Springfield, VA, I used to go by the cemetery on my way to work on the Metro every day. I’ve wanted to go visit it ever since. A couple of weeks ago we loaded up the kiddos and my Mom and made the trip.

It was very much what I expected but really neat nonetheless. Needless to say, it’s a very somber place and it makes you think about all the men and women who gave their lives for this country through the years. I am really glad there is such a dignified place for them, where we can go and pay our respects. It was a beautiful spring day with lots of flowers and trees in bloom.

We walked all the way up the hill to the Tomb of the Unknown and saw the changing of the guard, which was very solemn and cool. We had read about it online beforehand but it was still pretty amazing to see in person. The precision of the ritual is amazing. All the guards take the exact same number of steps in the exact same places every single time. After performing it so many times over the years, there are rust stains on the granite where the metal plates on their shoes have touched the ground.

After that, we made our way to the Kennedy grave site, then walked around the cemetery some more and talked about its meaning with Nia. She’s probably a little young to truly understand but I think she got the general idea. We’ll have to go back one day when both she and Chutney are old enough to understand.

2011-04-17

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Possibly the best pizza I’ve ever had…

I am behind with blogging. There are several things that I have been meaning to blog about but haven’t quite gotten around to it. This is one of them. So, here we go.

We had been thinking about trying We, the Pizza for quite a while. It’s a pizza place run and owned by Spike Mendelson, a celebrity chef, who was on Top Chef. He also runs Good Stuff Eatery, which I reviewed not too long ago. You can find my review here.

We finally went to We, the Pizza a couple of weeks ago and it was better than we expected. We tried several different types of pizza – peperoni, sausage and peppers, Greek (Feta cheese, onions, olives and peppers) and they were all good. I have historically been a pan crust type person but I actually rather liked their thin crust. Who am I kidding – I couldn’t get enough of it, it was that good. The crust, I mean. The toppings were fresh and yum too but the thin crust, oh the thin crust... It was to die for! I’d love to get my hands on the recipe.

They also sell home made sodas, which we tried. We had the I’ve Gotta Orange Crush on You and Very, Very, Sour-ry Cherry and they were both pretty awesome!

But the icing on the cake was that we happened to be there at the same time as the Michelle O. and a bunch of her friends. How cool is that?!!! Apparently, she’s also a fan of We, the Pizza and eats there quite often. The place was pretty crowded because of that and there were a bunch of special agents all over the place ensuring the First Lady’s safety. They searched us as we were entering the place but were very nice otherwise. We asked them what the search was all about and they just said that someone special was eating at the place. We weren’t sure who it was and tried not to stare but I definitely saw the First Lady and a bunch of people at a table on the second floor. Later on in the evening Paul told me that Sasha and Malia were also there according to Twitter but we didn’t see them.

So, yeah, We, the Pizza is really good. It’s definitely worth making a special trip to Capitol Hill for it. So, go try it and let me know what you think.

Just remember, they too are closed on Sunday.

2011-04-11

 
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