Friday, January 31, 2014

Baking Friday 2014 - 5th Friday # 1 - Cake

What does red taste like?

Does red taste like green smells?

That's right.  Apparently things can "smell green" according to quality specifications in certain circles.  Which is not to be confused with smelling like grass or a bush or peas or soybeans.  No, the verbiage is that the chemical should "smell green" and people know what to smell for.  So it would only seem logical, therefore, that red tastes.

Uh, right?

Let me back up a bit.  Today is a 5th Friday, one of four this year (or really most every year for that matter), but as a 5th Friday, it doesn't fit my normal cake, pie, bread, cookie Baking Friday 2014 pattern.

So what's a girl to do?

Bake, of course!  Something extra special!  Like this?  Does this count as special?
Wait, let me back up a little further.

Red Velvet.  I've talked about this before, but it confuses me.  Red Velvet confuses me.  I've tried it quite a few times (tasting not baking) and every time that I do, I am left with, "Huh?  I don't get it."  And the Red Velvet bandwagon rolls on along, but I just sorta wave and watch it go.  I don't jump on.

So I'm left with the question, "What does red taste like?"  And most of the time when I ask people that, I get blank stares.

So I gave up on Red Velvet.  For years.

And then I saw these recently, a special flavor for Valentine's.
It's a conspiracy, I tell ya.  A Red Velvet conspiracy.

So again, what's a girl to do?

Buy two bags, of course!

And decide that she has to tackle Red Velvet one more time...or maybe two more times....Yes, two more times, but this post is all about the first of those times.

So I began to research and look for recipes.  Only then my friend, C, had a birthday party at Cracker Barrel on a Sunday, and we had a wait, so I started looking around at their shop.  And saw a book called, Vintage Cakes.

Great title!  Combines the ideas of history with romance and baking.  What's a girl to do?

Start reading, of course!

And lo and behold!  To what did my wandering eyes appear, but a bonafide Red Velvet recipe!

And would you look at that?  Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting!  Of course!  Take cream cheese icing to the next level!

And look at this?  A full 1/2 cup of cocoa!  Not just a mere 1/4 cup that doesn't lend any real chocolate help to the "red" taste.  This cake has potential!
I will share the steps of making and decorating this below, but let me share the finished cake and what folks said at work about it yesterday first.
I debated about incorporating Red Velvet M&M's on the cake - Do I?  Don't I?  How many?  It really is the big questions of life that get ya.  So I finally decided to use some around the base, just enough to keep it sorta whimsical in addition to the flowers and ruffles.  And then I served the rest of the RV (we're close enough friends now that I can just abbreviate Red Velvet as RV now, right?) M&M's alongside for anyone who had never tasted them.

In an effort to boost all the flavor into this cake as I could, I decided to use French Silk as a filling between the layers.  Why hadn't I ever thought about using French Silk Pie filling as a cake filling before?!  It's so very simple and yummy and tasty that it makes a pretty perfect cake filling, but I'd never done it until this cake!

So that means this was a heart-shaped RV cake with French Silk filling and Mascarpone Cream Cheese Frosting.  Sounded like it had good potential to be a special 5th Friday cake!

And if the responses from those at work are any indication, I think I can safely say that it was!

My opening email to let folks know an RV cake was in da house included the question "Do you know what red tastes like?"

And I actually got some great answers!  I heard... tastes like cinnamon.  (Except isn't it cinnamon that tastes like cinnamon?) tastes like cherry.  (Except isn't it cherry that tastes like cherry?)

I'm starting to think I'm going to hear "red tastes like chicken..." tastes like red vines.  (At least that one is unique!)

But the best answer of all - by a true lover of all things RV - tastes like love.

I can accept that answer.  I may not know what it means in terms of a flavor, but the romantic in me can't find a single argument against that answer.

So there you have it.  Red tastes like love.

Unless, of course, you espouse to the belief that RV can't be sold as RV unless it is made with beets, in which case red may taste like beets, but I didn't make this cake with beets.  Not that I would be against trying it sometime with beets, but I might have to sneak that from G, if so!

So how was the cake once it was cut and tasted?
From those who are RV fans, I heard things like...

This is great!

That cake is so dang good if I have a second piece I will be headed for dangerous territory!
"Danger, Will Robinson! Danger, Will Robinson!"
(extra age points handed out if you know that reference without Google!)

My heavens, this is utterly divine.  I could be a very fat man... Thank you for blessing us with this!

And from those who, like me, are not RV fans, I heard things like...

This is so gooood.  Are you sure it's red velvet?

It's one of the top 2 red velvet cakes I've ever eaten but it's still low my cake list.  You moved it up to 47 from 50, but it's still pretty low.  (This from a man who didn't really care for the RV M&M's either.)

So what did I think?  In all honesty, I actually liked it.  For the first time ever I enjoyed a piece of RV cake.  Now that may sound like I'm bragging about my cooking, but I don't mean it that way.  I mean it is a good recipe.  I could taste the cocoa, and the French Silk filling plus the icing were a very nice complement.  The cake was moist and...dare I say it?  I tasted the love!  

There, I get to keep my hopeless romantic card for another week!

Anyone interested in seeing the full recipe and step-by-step pics?  If so, read below.  It not, that's ok.  I hope you enjoyed stopping by to hear this much!  Come back next week for RV Part II!

Here are the ingredients I used for the cake and the icing.  And if you want to use a French Silk filling, just use any French Silk recipe that you find online or in your recipe box, but chances are you will only need a half recipe.  So either only make half (like I did) or make a whole and use half on the cake and half in a tart!

For the cake
2-1/2 cups of cake flour
1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa
2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
4 T. buttermilk powder (see pic below)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Generous splashes of vanilla and almond
Up to 1 T. of red food coloring (I have gel paste on hand so that is what I used.)
3/4 cup butter (I used salted because that's what I have on hand)
1-3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 cup water

If you aren't familiar with buttermilk powder, I highly recommend you try it sometime!  You get all of the baking benefits of buttermilk without the corresponding worry of "what am I going to do with all of that leftover buttermilk?!"

This is what it looks like inside the can.
Preheat the oven to 350.  And prepare your 8" - 9" pans by lining the bottom with parchment and spraying the parchment only with baking spray.  (ps - I only have one 9" heart shaped pan, so I had to bake twice.)  (pss - I reused the same piece of parchment by simply turning it over for the 2nd baking.  You can call me cheap or frugal. Your choice!)

Begin by stirring together all of the dry ingredients, including the buttermilk powder (if using).  If you use full buttermilk, then substitute buttermilk for the water called for above.
Combine the oil, flavorings and food color together.  If you use gel paste, stir a bit to combine.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Then beat in the oil until well combined.  Beat in the eggs and egg yolks, and your batter will look pretty red!
Add the dry ingredients and the water alternately with the mixer on low speed, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients.  The batter won't be as bright a red; it will be more of a darker chocolaty red.  

Once all combined, spread in your pans and bake for about 30 - 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  
Do not over bake.  I checked at 30 minutes, and in my oven this size pan needed another 7 or so minutes. 
Cool on a rack for 10 minutes and then flip out onto the rack.
Remove the parchment and let cool completely before filling or frosting.

For the mascarpone cream cheese frosting, combine:
1/3 cup softened mascarpone (or up to 8oz.)
8oz softened cream cheese
1/4 cup softened butter
Dash of salt
Splash of vanilla and almond
1/2 cup of marshmallow creme (optional but a fun addition!)
1 lb. of powdered sugar
2 - 4 T. cream or half-n-half

Whip everything together until light and fluffy and yummy!

Here is the French Silk filling - sweet and silky and chocolaty!  Ahhhh....

And now for the assembly fun!!!

Split the bottom layer in half.
Create an icing dam border around the edge...
Fill the middle with French Silk. (Do your best not to lick the spoon!)
And then lather, rinse, repeat comes to mind...

And now you're ready to frost the outside!  Once it is done, the cake should be stored in the fridge and then brought to room temperature when serving (if you can wait that long!  If not, cold cake is good, too!)

And then decorate as you please!  Here is what I did...
Borders first to support the ruffles and flowers.
 RV M&Ms on the base...
 One that enough?
 It just seems like it needed a 2nd ruffle!
 Fire and ice roses...
 Pink roses with red tips...
 A few hearts around the side..
And then POOF!  It was done!

Hope you enjoyed the story the pictures told!  A true Deb, I mean Deb Dessertation!

Just how long IS this post???

Seeya soon!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy! Happy! Birthday to S!

S - my first born - S's birthday is today!  I was 21 years old when I had him.  Seems unbelieveable.  As of today, he is 10 years older than I was when I had him.  Where did the time go?

I believe S's main gift to himself this year is a haircut.  Or a hair shave, really.
I like it!  I really like it!

But this isn't one of my Top 5 Things I love about Steve...those pre-date the recent shave by a long shot.

# 5 - He reminds me of my brother, B.  We lost B a little over a year ago, but I see B in S almost every time I see S.  His facial expressions...the way he thinks...his love of tech and art...his Renaissance ways...his love for A...his service in the church... B's widow sent two very nice coats to S, and it makes me very pleased for S to have them.   S never had much of a chance to spend time with B to know him well, but I assure you.  B never had a son, and S is his own man, but much of B can be seen in S.

# 4 - S loves the unique.  Unique Pie Night choices.  Strange Donuts.  Lesser known bands.  Pursuing unique skills and talents.  As A likes to put it, she married a real Renaissance man.

# 3 - S asks great questions.  I will always love and appreciate our conversations when he was in college and working.  Deep questions - about life and work and church and God and Scripture and friendships and his future wife and the kind of father he will be.  That?  Those conversations?  Those questions?  That's the good stuff.  Even though I intentionally didn't try to answer all of those questions, I knew I could leave some unanswered because he has a heart that searches.  He seems to have a profound sense that he only goes through this life once, so he wants to "carpe diem" like the best of 'em!
# 2 - S knows tech.  S is one of those guys who just plain gets tech.  Sound tech.  Lighting tech.  Video tech.  Work tech.  And he helps people do tech stuff cause of # 1 below. (I sound so techy right now, don't I?)

And the # 1 thing I love about S...

...S thinks relationship.  From gifts to games to letters to art to tech, he likes cool but he prizes relationship more.  He has a keen understanding that people matter.  Most.  More than technology.  More than music.  More than cool.  Each of those things are about connecting with people, building relationships.

And now for the Top 5 Things I would give S for his birthday if time, money and resources were no issue...

# 5 - A lifetime membership to the Coffee of the Month Club plus a membership to the Beer of the Month Club plus a membership to the Semi-annual Scotch Club.  Not that I'm saying S is a snob in any of those areas.  No, not at all.

# 4 - His very own tech room where he could simulate the acoustics of any venue and play with the settings to his heart's content plus teach others how to do what he does.

# 3 - A house in just the right location and just large enough that he and A can combine their love for urban missions with their love for redeeming family, building that safe haven for all the children God lays on their heart to bring into this world and care for by whatever means they come into our lives.

Which, if you think about it, could be the Brady Bunch house.  Not the decor or the fashions, but the bones of that house?  Very cool.  It is a great house!  I have loved this house my whole life!  It was Great Room before Great Room was cool, ya know?  (I've been thinking about this a lot lately as a matter of fact...)

# 2 - Make arrangements for him to meet his heroes of worship and sound production.  Not that I know those names, but he does.  And that's all that matters.

And the # 1 thing I would give S for this birthday if time, money and resources were no issue...

...A few extra hours every week.  About 10 aught to do it.  Time that he can spend just on himself.  He spends so much time working and serving others that I fear he gets neglected...that he gives up time he needs to replenish himself whether that is time by himself or with others.  A does an amazing job as his wife, taking care of his needs, but she is also one who spends a lot of time working and serving others, so I would give her the same 10 hours - cause really it would be bad for husband and wife to live in alternate time universes, but now I'm getting way too metaphysical for this blog, so I will stop right there, but I think you get the point.
I love you, S.  I could not be more proud of you and more happy for the life you have been building, are building with A now and will build in the future together.  I hope your birthday is wonderful and that you know you are loved and celebrated by not just me, but many.

Happy!  Happy!  Birthday to S!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bridge Building

I've been thinking a bit about building bridges the last couple of days.  

Two reasons:

Bridge of Hope - As part of A's Christmas gift from me this year, she requested a donation to Bridge of Hope a church plant in the city where A has volunteered and lead other volunteers.  I was able to stop by on my lunch break on Monday and drop off some cupcakes and brownies for their snack times.  I also got the 10-minute tour - which involved a LOT to much, in fact, that I forgot to take any pictures!  Steve and Robin Boda, the pastors, are building bridges in so many ways - from education opportunities, to a bike building and repair shop, to a clothing closet, a community garden, beekeeping...and the list goes on!  They are doing MUCH on very little and in an area where the needs are GREAT.  You can see ways to help out on their website, and since they said "snacks" and I like to make snacks, it seemed like the best way that I could contribute in A's honor!  My hope is to take snacks multiple times this year - and maybe I will remember to snap some pictures one of these times!  

Family Game Night - We got together Sunday evening for an appetizer and game night at S&A's for S's birthday.  I will be posting about S's birthday tomorrow, but for now I wanted to just share a few pics of family building bridges to family.

Sometimes that involves tickling...
"That tickles, Aunt A!  It makes me stick my tongue out!"

Sometimes that involves game playing...
"This looks like a serious game.  I'm ready.  Let's play."

Sometimes that involves a serious game of Mexican Train with scores kept on my phone...cause there's an app for that.  Actually there are LOTS of apps for that!  This is a basic app - no fancy bells and whistles, but it works!  
But oftentimes, bridge building involves lots of smiles!
Or a need to climb...
And sometimes...bridge building includes fighting over a grape tomato.  

Underwater Grape Tomato Fight for those reading this on a mobile phone.  

Or the video below for those on computers...
Please don't report us to PETA.  No turtles were hurt in the making of this video.

Yes, you're right.  My transformation into Mimi is complete.  We were at S&A's for S's birthday and all of my pictures are of J-man.  Or turtles...and they are S's turtles, too, so that counts, right?  Right?!

Sigh.  I promise I love you, S!  I will devote all of tomorrow's post to telling you just that!


Monday, January 27, 2014

1964...a very good year...

S...well, ok...Sheri...cause you can read it on the cake...returned to the year of her birth on Saturday eve for a cocktail party extraordinaire.  S loves old movies...Doris Day...Rock Hudson...Audrey Hepburn...Cary Grant...and she's always wanted to go to a 60's cocktail party!

So we surprised her with a return to 1964!  I got LOTS of GREAT ideas from all kinds of FB friends - too many for me to use everyone of them, but I tried to use as many as I could!

Now a couple of things right off before I start to take you back to 1964...

...first, the people coming to this "cocktail" party don't everything...well, almost everything...was a mocktail.  We did offer one real cocktail, and I'm not sure it would have been popular in 1964, but when I heard it was a favorite of S, I had to offer it!  Pay no attention to the fact that it happens to be my favorite, too.  That had NOTHING to do with our decision to offer it, I promise you!

...second, I couldn't have done any of this without help!  The FB friends who gave me ideas then lead me on a chase for props!  However I didn't have time to do much searching, so others came to my rescue!  A lady from work gave us hair bows and gloves and shoes.  And my friend, J, gave us an ice bucket plus a silver chafer dish as well as sheer aprons, a couple of mink stoles and a fox!  It was quite the attack fox, I assure you!
...third, I didn't take any where near enough pictures!  I was too busy hosting and working on the next course and "shaking not stirring" I didn't take pics like I should have.  So I will rely on words to hopefully paint a picture of our evening.  We really did have a fun time, and our birthday girl below said it was the happiest birthday party she'd ever had!
I guess that's the end of the Deb Disclaimers, so I will begin with our menu.  We essentially had a 7-course tasting menu, 3 appetizer courses in the Living Room with "Martinis" and Amaretto Sours (real ones!) and 4 courses in the Dining Room.  I set up a "bar" in our Living Room by removing one chair and setting up two TV trays at an angle to each other.  I covered them with red clothes, and I really wish I had taken a picture of the setup, complete with martini glasses and bar garnishes, cause it turned out quite cute.

We began with cheese cubes and olives on toothpicks plus pickles passed on a tray as well as little wienies with bacon wrapped around them and held in place with toothpicks.  If we hadn't had two diabetics in the party, I would have added some brown sugar on the outside to caramelize along with the bacon.  But they were yummy even without the brown sugar!

Since S loves old movies, we showed two clips from the old Doris Day/Cary Grant movie, "That Touch of Mink."  I've always loved Automats, but I never had a chance to go to one.  So I've always loved that scene from the movie - where Doris Day and Audrey Meadows talk to each other through one of the Automat windows.  I remember watching it as a child - yes, a long time ago!  I loved it then, and I love it now, but more importantly, our birthday girl enjoys it, too!

After our first clip, we served this tray of vegetables.  Does this scream 1964 or what?
After passing this tray, we also showed the fashion show at Bergdorf Goodman clip from the movie.  And how could we show that without having a fashion show ourselves?  This young lady was our hairdresser, makeup artist and model!  I owe her a BIG thank you!!!  Things like this party REQUIRE teamwork to be successful, and S knows that full well!
And since our party attenders weren't appropriately attired for 1964, we "had" to share our costumes with these ladies!  But gloves can be trouble...
...and funny...
...really funny, in fact...
We finished out our courses in the living room with spinach and artichoke toast points and cheese fondue before heading to the Dining Room now that all of the ladies were properly attired for dinner!  This brought us to our Consomme course with bacon wrapped crackers and "Bloody Marys".
 Rather pretty, no?

Here is a closer look at the bacon wrapped crackers.
These are a Pioneer Woman recipe, but with a couple of Deb twists.  I made these at Christmas, and they were just ok.  I used Club Crackers then, and I wanted to add mustard when I made them then, but I didn't add it at the time.  So this time I used a different cracker and added the mustard.  It was actually somewhat providential that the cracker I chose first showed up in 1964!  Chicken in a Biscuit brought a much better flavor boost to this appetizer than the Club Cracker as did the mustard!  I used an onion mustard, but most any mustard would be good!

Our 5th course was the surprise yummy of the night!  It was just normal Swedish meatballs, but they were so good!  I thought I had noodles on hand, but alas, I did not, so I broke up fettuccine pasta and cooked those up instead!  I tossed the pasta with butter and herbs, and we ate that stuff up! This is the course that I served in the silver chafer dish, but picture...sigh...

Chicken roasted on skewers and carrots cooked in chicken stock plus herbs rounded out our meal along with "champagne", and then we finished us out with a classic 1960's dessert - orange chiffon cake with 7-minute frosting.  It was yum-my and as one guest said, "It tasted just like they remembered!"  I used this Lemon Chiffon Cake from King Arthur but substituted orange peel, orange extract and orange oil for the lemon.  Seriously - easy and good!  And this is time to say another "thank you", this time to my sista, W, for letting me borrow her 10" tube pan!  I only wish I had a cake dome large enough to go over this cake!  The 7-minute frosting got exposed to the air a little too long, but it was still a great tasting cake with a wonderful texture!

I wish I could have used ALL of the great ideas that people passed along!  And I would enjoy doing this party idea again sometime with others to help with the tech stuff and the pictures and a bartender,  but this was great fun nonetheless!

Hope you enjoyed going back to 1964 with us!  It was a very good year!