Posts Tagged cake

Weekly Roundup: Spring Is Coming – Let’s Cook

Elena's Birthday Cake

A secret cake - revealed.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter – you might remember that I was doing a “secret” baking project on Wednesday, which I promised to reveal in today’s weekly roundup. Well this is it – a surprise birthday cake for Elpis and Justice! It’s red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and I was very pleased with how even the cake layers came out. Slowly, but surely my piping skills are improving. Just ignore the writing, please. Also, I’m putting it out there that my cake making skills are for hire. Email me for the scoop.

And, in other news it’s finally Spring in DC.

I know that the conventional wisdom is that people want to hole up in their apartments and cook during the winter, and then go out and party in the spring, but I think it’s the opposite. At least, it’s the opposite at the end of winter, when everyone’s sick of the root vegetables and apples they can get at the farmers market, and can’t stomach the tasteless imported produce in the grocery store. But Spring? Spring brings asparagus. Spring brings rhubarb. Spring brings weather in which we can eat dinner on our balconies and have people over for parties without asking them to trudge through the ice cold  in the rain. Spring is an excellent time to cook.

And I can feel the excitement in the blogosphere this week – Spring is here, and we’re ready to to raise our knives, put our pans on our burners, and get cooking.

Recipes I want to try, from this week’s Internet dabbling:

  • Homemade meatball subs, from The Arugula Files. Man, I love meatballs. Man, I love bread. Meatballs on bread? Heaven.

And in other foodie blog-ish news:

  • Hillary at Lancelot Sturgeon has a roundup of her experience at the Food and Sports blogger happy hour, that, as a co-organizer, totally warms my heart.
  • Melissa McCart, of Counter Intelligence, is back! She’s moved to Tumblr, where she laments the lack of a really good hotdog stand in DC. I was a fan of the Hot Dog at Againn when I had it off the happy hour menu. But that’s not exactly a stand.
  • Oh my god! A comment I made on Young and Hungry about Top Chef (because, you know that Tim Carman plays it all cool like “oh, yeah, Top Chef DC, no big deal” but seriously, he has to be excited about it – who couldn’t be?) actually inspired a post! I feel like this is a special moment in my food-blogger-career – to be (gently) teased by Tim Carman.
  • So, like, there were many reasons to be jealous of all the peeps on my Twitter Feed at SXSW, but the write ups of the Bacon Throwdown over at One Bite at a Time and FloridaGirlinDC really take the cake. Or should it be take the bacon?
  • Tim Carman ponders the beauty of the changing seasons. Yes, I’m talking about the advent of Food Cart season in DC. What splendors will the sunny weather bring to your plate?
  • Executive Chef, Brian Robinson of Restaurant 3 is making homemade peeps for Easter. Get the details on Dining in DC.
  • Endless Simmer investigates a little known farmer’s market find that’s currently in season: the cherimoya, or custard apple. Well, I mean, I am a little tired of apples and pears.
  • Did you read that big article in the New York Times about how Katie Lee, former wife of Billy Joel, is about to become a Food Network Star? Then you’ll enjoy this piece from The Internet Food Association, which pretty much tears the article apart. I’ll admit, I totally forgot until I read the IFA piece that Katie Lee was the awful host on Season 1 of Top Chef in the pre-Padma Days. They want to give that piece of wood a cooking show? Seriously?

Happy Friday!


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Almond Birthday Cake With Lemon Curd, Blueberries, and Mascarpone Frosting

Mom's Birthday Cake - 1

My mother's birthday cake.

I haven’t been home for my mother’s birthday for years – not since my Freshman year in college, when my parents forced me to live at home so I could finally get my driver’s license (to this day, I am thankful that they made me do that). But my trip coincided with her birthday (no, I’m not allowed to say which birthday it was), and I was very excited to have the opportunity to make her a birthday cake.

Mom's Birthday Cake - 2

Not sure if the lemon curd drizzle "works," but I like the blueberry decorations.

My mother is a big fan of lemon desserts, so I was determined to make something with a lemon accent. I’ve also been hankering to have the almond cake from The Cake Bible again, ever since I made those almond cupcakes for my coworker. And since it was berry season in Oregon, I decided to include a berry accent. I originally wanted to use raspberries, but since blueberries were half the price, I went with those instead.

In the end, I decided on making a double batch of Rose Levy Beranbaum’s almond cake, and baking it in 8 inch by two inch cake pans, which created a marvelously towering cake. I filled it with lemon curd (store bought – I didn’t have time to let my own set up) and blueberries.

Mom's Birthday Cake - Center

The lemon curd and bueberry filling.

I also thought long and hard about my frosting options. Like me, my mother isn’t a fan of classic, all-butter buttercream frostings, and she’s always thought that powdered sugar frostings were too sweet (she doesn’t share my love of Safeway cupcakes). So I opted for a whipped-cream, marscarpone frosting. I was really excited about it, and flavor-wise it was spot on. But I did something wrong, because the frosting texture was all off. Instead of being light and creamy, the frosting had an unappealing grainy texture – as you can see from the photos. I think that I overwhipped something at some point – although I swear to God I tried as hard as possible to not overbeat the mascarpone.

Mom's Birthday Cake - Crumb Coat

The crumb coat.

It was still a beautiful cake – and one that I would make again, although perhaps with a cream cheese frosting instead. The almond cake really tastes of almonds – the almond extract subtly enhances the flavor of the nuts themselves. And the sweet almond cake pairs nicely with the tart lemons and blueberries. The frosting isn’t too sweet, and has a nice tang and complexity to it – if the texture had held up it would have been perfect.

Mom's Birthday Cake - Piece

A finished slice.

Almond Cake With Lemon Curd, Blueberries and Marscarpone Frosting

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Back, With Cake This Time

busy day cake

Cake to soothe the soul.

Hello Modern Domestic readers. I’m happy to say that I’m back to blogging, after my three week hiatus.

Just to keep you readers in the loop, Wonk the Plank and I have gone our separate ways, so I’ve spent the last three weeks apartment hunting and moving, leaving me little time for blogging and even less time for my domestic pursuits.

But I’m happy to say that I’m happily now ensconced in a studio in Adams Morgan, and while the kitchen is minuscule, I believe it is capable of great things.

I did manage to find some time last week to make a recipe that I had been hankering to make for weeks now: Orangette’s Busy Day Cake. The cake is a simple soul, which my favorite desserts usually are. Made with half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour, and generously flavored with nutmeg and vanilla, the cake has a sweet, slightly earthy flavor that marries well with a cup of tea or coffee.

busy day cake 2

Sometimes it's the simple cakes that are my favorites. This is one of those cakes.

You can serve it the next time you have people over for brunch, or if you have people over for tea (although does anyone actually do that these days? I haven’t had tea parties since I was in elementary school). Or you can bake it up, slice it into wedges, put it in the freezer, and enjoy the occasional slice with your morning coffee whenever you feel like it.

You can get the recipe for Busy Day cake on Orangette’s site, here.

Note: Orangette uses white whole wheat flour in the recipe, which I didn’t have, so I substituted regular whole wheat flour instead. It came out very nicely, and has inspired me to try more recipes that use whole wheat flour.

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Fall-Themed Wedding Cake

Kate's Wedding Cake 1

A Fall-Themed Wedding Cake, complete with little pumpkins!

Wonktheplank and I have had a windfall of weddings to attend in the past few weeks, which means that I’ve been sizing up my fair share of wedding cakes. It’s been an interesting little cake-journey, and has given me some ideas about different types of cakes that I’d like to try out in the future (which is possible now that the ModernDomestic Presidential Cookie Bake-Off is over. My goodness did that take up a lot of baking time and stamina!).

Last week, we attended a really beautiful wedding of WonkthePlank’s cousin, which took place in an old mansion outside of Philadelphia. The mansion was stunning, the food was stunning and, of course, the cake was just breathtaking.

Katie's Wedding Cake 2

Another view of the cake, which was on display in the mansion's sunroom, where they had the ceremony.

The wedding was fall-themed (which makes sense, since it took place in early November), and the cake was appropriately festive and autumnal. I especially like the little pumpkin and leaf details, which contrasted beautifully against the chocolate frosting.

Kate's Cake Detail 2

Those leaves look good enough to eat. And they were.

I couldn’t figure out if the cake was oil-based or butter-based; most of the butter cakes that I’ve had tend to be very solid, whereas this cake was extremely light and fluffy. I think the chocolate frosting was a buttercream made with powdered sugar; it was sweet and light, with a rich chocolate flavor. The best part of the cake was the peanut-butter filling — I don’t know if it was a peanut butter mousse or a peanut butter frosting, but whatever it was it was delicious.

Kate's Cake - Destroyed

A cake layer, after the slicing has begun. I think they used big straws as supports for the layers—you can just make out the tops of the straws in the photo.

As we left the wedding they handed out slices of the wedding cake to the departing guest. I think we were supposed to save the slices for home or something, but WonkthePlank and I ended up devouring at the hotel bar later that night. Which only goes to show that it was some really, really good cake.

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Wine-Themed Wedding Cake

A couple of weeks ago, Wonktheplank and I attended the lovely wedding of his cousin-in-law. I was excited to go to the wedding, but not only because it was a chance to see friends and because I had heard that it was going to be quite the shin-dig. No, I was excited about the wedding cake.


(I only wish I had gotten a photo before they took the little bride and groom figure off!)

Wedding cakes are one of those fantasy items that I just love to drool over, but since I haven’t been to many weddings, I haven’t often had the opportunity. As you can see, this cake was just lovely—the yellow cake layers were covered in simple white frosting and decorated with grape leaves (the wedding had a wine theme, hence the grape leaves). The only thing I would have changed was the cherry-flavored filling, as I am not a fan of cherry fillings in general. However, that is entirely a matter of personal taste and doesn’t reflect on the cake one bit.

I have to say, after spending so much time and effort making my last two cakes, it was nice to sit down to a piece of cake that I didn’t have a deep emotional/financial investment in. Of course, it was far prettier and polished than anything I could make on my own, but sometimes it’s nice to be around a cake that’s so far out of your league. If anything, it serves as an inspiration to aspiring cake-bakers like myself.

More photos of the illustrious Wine-Themed Wedding Cake.

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A Brush With Curdled Milk Disaster

My Lavender Lemon Honey Birthday Cake is well on its way to being completed, and I couldn’t be more satisfied.

In an uncharacteristic move for me, I decided to plan ahead and make the cake layers in advance. So I am quite pleased to say that they are currently sitting in my freezer on a makeshift system of wobbly cooling racks that have been stacked on top of each other.

I decided to make the cake layers the weekend before my birthday because making The Beehive Cake, which I started two days before it was served, was way too stressful. I was so consumed by making sure that each of the cake’s elements came together, I almost fell into that hostess trap where you’re too worried about how the food will turn out to be any fun to talk to.

However, while I’ve been good about starting this cake in advance, I’ve still manged to have several bone-headed moments during its creation. In a much more characteristic move for the space-cadet that I am, the cake had a brush with disaster in its very infancy — all because I never paid attention in chemistry class and completely forgot that lemon juice curdles milk.

You see, I decided to modify a Cake Bible recipe and add some lemon flavoring to Rose Levy Beranbaum’s White Velvet Butter Cake recipe (which I doubled). The White Velvet Butter Cake is a slightly different recipe than the Downy Yellow Butter Cake, which I used to create The Beehive Cake. Instead of using whole eggs, the recipe uses only egg whites. The resulting cake has an exceptionally tender crumb and is a pale, creamy color. It perfectly fulfills my desire to make the Blanche DuBois of cakes — the ultra feminine, ultra girly type of cake best served at a bridal shower, baby shower, or other feminine event.

As I explained in the Banana Bread entry, The Cake Bible uses a two-stage method for mixing cake batter, by first mixing together the dry ingredients, butter, and a little liquid (stage one), and then beating in more liquid in small additions (stage two). The White Velvet Butter Cake uses a combination of egg whites, milk and vanilla in stage two, that is added to the stage one mixture.

And it’s here that I got a little tripped up and almost ruined the cake.

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The Secret Life of Bee(hive Cake)s

My birthday is coming up next week. For most people birthdays bring up lots of questions: what do you want to receive? Should you do a night out on the town, or a dinner at home? Did you really think this is what your life would be like by this age? My god, I’m how many years old now?

But for me, the great question is: how do I top The Beehive Cake?

Beehive Cakes

Yes, The Beehive Cake: my last great cake creation, as captured by the cellphone camera of CupcakeMonsterLee.

This cake, which I made a month ago for my boyfriend Dave’s birthday (shout out: he blogs about investing and business-y type things at wonktheplank), was my grandest creation yet. It was conceived in a fit of madness and daring, and was inspired by a Martha Stewart cover that Dave and I glimpsed in the grocery store, and that probably drove up sales of Williams Sonoma’s beehive-shaped cake pan by, oh, three hundred percent or so (really, who’s going to actually go out and purchase a specialty cake pan that she will use once every five years, if not to emulate The Martha?).

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