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Saturday, November 29, 2008


Well well if it isn't that time of the month again! I swear this month has been cake after cake after cake so going into it I was not too thrilled. So with that, I thought I would make them into cupcakes and then I saw that alot of people had already done so. So I whipped out my mini cake pan and the rest was history.
This months challenge was from Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater with cohosts Chronicles of Culinary Curiosity , Blondie and Brownie, Foray into Food, and Gluten a go go
I was incredibly surprised at how dense the cake itself was. I did decrease the amount of sugar that the recipe called for because everyone had said that the cake was way too sweet. I think the cake was really tasty the day after. It was more moist and less dry. I LOVED the frosting. The taste of the browned butter was delicious! When I read the recipe it seemed so complicated but once I started, it just flowed. I really didn't taste alot of caramel in it, perhaps next time I would use all caramel syrup instead of granulated sugar in the cake recipe. I wonder if that would give it a more caramel taste?

Shuna Fish Lydon's recipe

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperatures
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

1) Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.
2) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth.
Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.
3) Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase
4) Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl
again, beat mixture until light and uniform.
5) Sift flour and baking powder.Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry
6) When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry
ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called
the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high
proportion of liquid in the batter.}
7) Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is
uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan.
Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own
oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle
comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it. Cake will keep for three days outside of
the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)

1) In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture
feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush.
2) Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.When color is
achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is
very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.
3) Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers.
{Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}Note: For safety reasons, have
ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste
1) Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside
to cool.
2) Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk
attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to
take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth
and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated.
3) Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

Monday, November 24, 2008

Good Ole Kiwi Breakfast

I often think back to the times when I was younger and crazy about rugby when I lived in New Zealand. It's funny that a 13 year old girl would wake up at 4am to walk over to her neighbors house to watch a game. That memory aways reminds me of vegemite. Aunty Gay used to make us toast with butter and vegemite while Uncle Vaughan and I watched the game.

I was walking around World Market after church with Brandon a week ago and saw the cutest tiniest vegemite jar ever! I hesitated to buy it but Brandon urged me to and for the past week I have been having vegemite on toast every single morning. lol. Am I sick of it yet? Nope but I sure am glad that Brandon has no interest in it. hahahaha.
My beautiful 5am breakfast before I head out to work
Oh! and can't forget the latte. ;-)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Pleeeassse no more!

Shivering in the 40 degree F kitchen for 2 days, hovering over my undeniably insufficient cake whilst trying to make the best of it without bursting into tears that I know I would never get a medal for. Perhaps I was overconfident, or perhaps I had no chance to begin with since I was competing with cake decorating students or perhaps this is just not my area of specialty. I can't help but feel a little punched in the face and gut and beat down onto the ground with a baseball bat. All in all, I am SO glad this is over and I do not have to do another competition unless I want to.

My cherry blossoms that I made with gumpaste and painted with colored dust.

One side of my cake. It was a tough cake to manage. The yellow cake I had started to fall apart around the edges so the cake took forever to level and still it was not the most level cake. On top of that my buttercream icing made with all butter started to fall. After 6 hours of trying to ice and fix the darn thing, my friend helped with scrap it off and reice it with buttercream made from Crisco. I could not have done it without her. I was at my breaking point.

The judges told me the reason I didn't win anything is because my cake was not completely level, my branches were not delicate enough and my marzipan didn't cover the gaps as well as they should have between the bottom and top tiers. So all in all, a HUGE disappointment because I like to be the best at everything I put my heart into and when your results don't show your passion it really really hurts.My friend on the other hand got a medal. She did an amazing job. I can't say it enough. She presented a novelty cake of a sushi box. It was the most adorable cake ever. I told her I would eat her cake since I was hungry and sushi always sounds good. ;-)
A close up of the sushi box. The sushi rolls were really amazing. She made the rice out of rice krispies. She really deserved a medal for it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pinot Noir Party

How I needed a Saturday off. Finally I got one and I took the chance to have Neil and Renae over since I didn't have to go to bed at 9pm and I wanted to see what they thought taste the best with my wine for my school project. I chose an Oregon wine because I miss it so much and what is more popular in Oregon than Pinot Noir? So I went on a quest and there is only one Oregon Pinot Noir in Corpus. So I definitely didn't have much of a choice but it actually turned out to be an amazing wine.

We first paired the Pinot with some medium-firm cheeses. I chose a camembert, a sharp Gouda and a Jalopeno Havarti. Since Renae is Gluten-Free, I picked up some Almond Rice crackers and they went really really well with the cheeses to my surprise.

I went to HEB and got 8 lamb loins. They were small, that's why I got 8. Leben definitely approved of the lamb loins. He is SO cute! He also approved of the camembert because I found him seated on the dining room chair and his nose deep into the camembert. hahahahaha.

I marinated the lamb loins in olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours. I then seared both sides lightly and finished it off in the oven till medium-rare.

I made a side of red potatoes tossed in olive oil, basil, garlic and salt and pepper and baked it until golden brown. Yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.
Since I don't eat Red Meat (though I was REALLY tempted) I baked some salmon with diced tomatoes, diced onions, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. It went really well with the cherry flavor of the wine. Oh So Good!I was sitting in the office typing up my powerpoint presentation for my wine project when all of a sudden a blast of basil aroma shot up my nose. I found Leben in the other room with a stem of basil (the best looking stem of the bunch) haning out the side of his mouth. I was angry but at the same time it was SO funny. Our friend Karl calls Leben the OC dog because he is SO snobby when it comes to lifestyle. He does not like to be outside for more than 10 minutes, he has a $200 bed, he sleeps on the couch, on our bed, he LOVES cottage cheese in his food and he is extremely picky about his dog food. He savors his rib bones when I boil them for him and he definitely knows his cheese. ;-) Almost 1 years old and he is the joy of our lives. I can't imagine life without him greeting us at the dog, nubbin wagging and all. He is the biggest baby that I have ever laid my eyes on yet he protects me so well. We love him with all our hearts and he is the biggest daddys little boy in the world.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Cake Fever

This month must be cake month because I feel as though I am surrounded by cakes. This whole school salon competition is really starting to seem like a big deal. It's just weird to have competitions in something that to me is more of a passion than a need to win. I mean sure I want to be the best at what I do but having to be judged on's creepy. I'm all for criticism to better my work, but it seems as though the grades are based on the judges preferences. For example, if they prefer that the cherry blossoms on my cake should be white instead of pink then I get graded down. So needless to say, it is a little stressful.

Today we practiced decorating for salon and there were a couple of things that I need to fix. I didn't add enough milk to my buttercream so it was a little uneasy to spread. My cake needs to be taller so I need to double the recipe. Other than that everything else seemed to go quite smoothly.
This is the simplified version of my salon cake that I have sketched up. I didn't have time today to do the whole marzipan border on the base of the cakes so I just did some royal icing designs. The cherry blossoms also are done in icing.

All in all it turned out decent. The car was a little too hot for the cake so the buttercream slid around a little bit and one of the blossoms fell off. I really need to get everything prepped before the day of the salon otherwise I will go crazy. I'm not joking either. I was told the judging takes at least 3 hours. What am I gonna do for 3 hours??????? That just does not sound like fun. Oh well...once in a life time right? Hopefully I walk away with at least a decent grade and an award (that's dreaming high).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

curried sweet potato fries

How I wish I could get my hungry little hands on some purple sweet potato. Emmm...when I was little, mom used to just poke a couple of holes in them with a fork and microwave them then in it goes into my belly! They were so delicious. Much sweeter and more intense in flavor than the usual sweet potato. I try and justify that if you bake a potato, it is healthier and sometimes a gal just NEEDS her fries. These are delicious baked in olive oil, curry powder and garlic powder. Toss it together and bake at 400 degrees F. Emmm yum yum!

Brandon has been doing night flights so basically when I get off work, he leaves for base to fly and I am stuck at home by myself. I have seen him for a total of hmm...15 minutes in the last 48 hours. It's tough and it's going to be tougher tomorrow when I get out of school at 1pm and have the rest of the ENTIRE day by myself. Usually, that would be something I look forward to if Brandon were home. So I have come up with an idea. I was watching the movie "The Jane Austin Book Club," last night and it really made me want to dive right into one of her books. So my plan for 'Val's day to herself,' is to go buy a jane austin book I haven't read before and have a book club of my own.

Oh! I unboxed my yoga dvd today after work cause I figured that it would help me with my insanely tense muscles and sore back and neck. Boy did it do wonders. I felt SO loose afterward, of course I am just a tense person and I can already feel the tension coming back. I totally need a professional massage - perhaps for my birthday??? hmmmmmm

Monday, November 3, 2008

Beach hike and pastry spree

It still feels like summer in November. There is absolutely no feeling of fall here. No crunch leaves to step on and kick, no chill to wear my sweaters for and definitely no craving for hot apple cider which I LOVE during this time of year. It's not all bad though. You can't complain when you can hike along the beach during this time of the year.
If you like to trash hunt, this is the place to do it. The beaches here are littered! We found a HUGE oil tank!

We packed the puppies into Karls new SUV and they were so excited to be going to the beach together "best buds for life."
It's rolling to that time of the year - fall semester is almost out. 3 more classes left and we are preparing for our salon competition which is basically a competition judged according to the ACF standards. It's exciting but at the same time nerve wrecking. I want to do good but I'm such a novice with cakes, I really cannot guarantee the end product.
So today I went on a pastry shopping spree which I haven't done in like forever! I stocked up on cake supplies and some gum paste mix and I hope to become more comfortable working with it. What I have in mind is a 2 tier square cake with a red marzipan strip that covers both of the base of the cakes and branches of cherry blossums spreading around the cake. I got a bunch of pastry tips and disposal bags and some sprinkles for the pollen of the cherry blossums. SO cool! I love looking at pastry supplies but I tend to stay at those stores too long...and that ends in too much money being spent! I will keep you up to date about the progress! I will start on my gum paste cherry blossums tomorrow! YAY!