the cake! the cake! and marshmallows, too

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Many many thanks to all of you who sent ideas (and encouragement) after last week’s puppy cake post. I promised follow-up on that cake and food for fun is here to deliver.Its deLizious facebook debut noted a resemblance to the … Continue reading

puppies, not ponies: time for another birthday cake

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My youngest daughter, she of last year’s pony birthday cake, is set to turn a year older. Which means I have an excuse to go all out with another cake. Her chosen party theme for turning 8 is “puppies,” so … Continue reading

special ed. with pink mushroom cake, vodka gummy bears, and a bourbon ball

Summer crazies have temporarily stalled out food for fun, but I’m back tonight with a special edition highlighting three unrelated tales of fun food and drink:

Tale 1 First, a look back at last post’s Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate Ice Cream. I had lamented that this Humphry Slocombe recipe seemed a lot of work and though it was tasty, wondered if it had been worth the effort. The ice cream accompanied a birthday cake for my oldest daughter and what with those summer crazies, I made yet another cake soon after for another birthday party.

now that's a cupcake

now that’s a cupcake

I used a much-loved cake pan, which when sprayed well enough with baking spray makes two cake layers that come together to make one big cupcake. (When not sprayed well, it makes a big mess.)

All went as planned until it came time to frost. Many a poorly decorated cake has been featured at food for fun (here and here, just for starters), so it should come as no surprise that this one got out of hand as well. Instead of the sweet “cupcake” I’d planned, it looked more like a big pink mushroom. (Or where Smurfette calls home per deLizious facebook post.)

again, best-laid plans

again, best-laid plans

As with my other decorating disasters, the cake tasted far better than it looked. The big surprise, though, was how amazing the HS chocolate ice cream was served alongside. Whether it had aged a bit in the freezer, mellowing its flavors, or was simply a better match for white cake than it was chocolate trifle, I know not. But that ice cream really dazzled here.chocicecream

A word about the cake: Mr. Wonderful White Cake recipe was found in Alice’s Brady Bunch Cookbook. Corny name aside, it’s one of the best white cakes I’ve had.

do you like the cake saw?

do you like the cake saw?

Mr. Wonderful White Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 egg whites

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two cake pans or spray with baking spray.

In large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add milk, butter, and vanilla; beat with electric mixer 3 minutes or until smooth. Add egg whites; beat 2 minutes longer. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove cakes directly to wire racks to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Tale 2 Another bit of cocktail news means that Weary Chef can’t be too far away. I found a link through one of her Happy Hour posts for vodka gummy bears and was smitten. With young kids underfoot, there are always gummy bears to be found, and I loved the idea of infusing them (the gummy bears, not the kids) with vodka.

I did exactly as instructed and was unimpressed when unveiling the batch a week later. My cute little sugar bombs had melted into the vodka, leaving me with a thick (albeit colorful) syrup. Anyone who has read food for fun knows that this wouldn’t stop me and I was forging ahead regardless. I mixed some of this goo with carbonated water and loved that it was sweet, fruity, bubbly, and boozy. It went down easy for sure. I’m curious as to why my bears melted down when I Sing in the Kitchen seemed to keep hers intact. Maybe gummy bear brand matters? Regardless, it was a fun cocktail.

the bears make it silly, but it's still a goo cocktail: refreshing and potent

the bears make it silly, but it’s still a fine cocktail–refreshing and potent

Tale 3 You’ll need to hop over to Blog of Funny Names for this tale. A recent guest post highlights another Kentucky favorite: Ruth Hanly Booe and other funnily-named folk who made Rebecca Ruth bourbon balls the internationally known confection they are today.

Many thanks for stopping by during what I know is YOUR crazy-busy life. Your visits here are always appreciated 🙂

best laid plans or a ding-dong trifle and d@mn chocolate ice cream

With my oldest daughter’s birthday on its way, I got in gear to bake an amazing cake. (There was that pony cake to match, if not top.) And because she loves chocolate, I also wanted to make her a batch of brilliant chocolate ice cream. But…

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

diner fare and the inspiration for the cake roll

After enjoying a Swiss-roll type of cake at a local diner, we knew we’d found  the perfect treat for her big day.

A quick internet search for “homemade chocolate ding-dong” (Can hardly type this with a straight face, but that’s the snack cake I thought I was going for. My Hostess-savvy husband has since pointed out that ding-dongs are not cake rolls. Just the same, the name stuck.) brought me to Smitten Kitchen’s Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll. I could do this.

Turns out I couldn’t. The fact that there was no flour in the cake should have concerned me, but I figured SK knew what she was doing (and I’m sure she did–her cake roll turned out quite nicely) so jumped in.

My mistake was taking the cake out of the oven too soon; it was overly moist and stuck to the dish towel. But, I was trying to follow SK’s advice to not overbake lest it become too dry for rolling. Not ready to admit defeat (I had six eggs and six ounces good chocolate already invested), I set it aside to deal with later.

so not was I was going for

so not was I was going for

Next up was the ice cream, so I turned to trusty Humphry Slocombe for their Here’s Your D@mn Chocolate recipe. Intriguing! Though I was making this for an 11-year-old, I loved the name and had been eying the recipe since buying the book. (HS claims they had no intention of making flavors as mundane and ordinary as chocolate, but when their customers wouldn’t let up about it, they developed this rich, velvety chocolate ice cream and gave it an in-your-face name. You can read Attempts in Domesticity’s post for more on their Here’s Your D@mn Strawberry Ice Cream.)

This ice cream was a tough gig. First step was melting sugar into caramel, then adding water (though I subbed in coffee), cream, and milk before tempering with egg yolks and adding shots of cocoa powder and a final blast of dark chocolate. Lots of muscle was involved when my caramel hardened and I had to cook and stir, cook and stir to melt it down again. But I don’t go down easily in the kitchen and was proud to emerge victorious. The resulting custard was dreamy and dark, and I chilled it overnight.

churning the dark chocolate custard

churning the dark chocolate custard

Humphry S had described this ice cream as being pudding-like, so I wasn’t surprised at the thick custard that greeted me the next morning. But I was surprised when it didn’t freeze while churning. After a half-hour or so, I took matters into my own hands and set the canister in an ice-water bath and beat it with a hand mixer. The dark brown chocolate gradually lightened as it filled with air and when it was light enough to overflow the canister, I transferred it to another container for freezing.

look at how much lighter it is!

a lot lighter

Back to that cake: Rolling didn’t seem an option, so I did what any self-respecting failed cake baker would do: I made a trifle. Into a lovely glass bowl went layers of crumbled moist (flourless) chocolate cake, sweetened whipped cream, sprinkles of cacao nibs, and a killer chocolate ganache. Birthday cake? Not really. But we stuck a candle in it and called it good.

pre-candle

pre-candle

The birthday trifle certainly didn’t need a rich ice cream to accompany, but I’d gone to the trouble of making that d@mn stuff, so serve it up we did. More frozen chocolate mousse than ice cream, it was light, ethereal, and almost otherworldly. If I made it again, I’d serve it solo and let folks enjoy it for the rich and creamy and deeply flavored chocolate treat that it is.

Did my daughter enjoy her birthday desserts? Sure. Though it seemed over the top, especially on a weekday evening when dinner was slotted between an afternoon playdate and evening tennis lessons. This may have been an instance when a simple cake and store-bought ice cream would have been sufficient.

over the top birthday treats!

over the top birthday treats!

But homemade trifle and creamy-rich chocolate ice cream should be celebrated and I don’t regret the time and effort that went into making either. It was a bit more of a battle than I’m used to, but a kitchen challenge is a call to action and backing down was never an option. Happy Birthday, my dear Clare. May you dodge the bullet of inheriting your mother’s crazy-obsessed food DNA.

partying like ponies and an awesome birthday cake

Loving any excuse to maffick (follow the link as this is a word you will want to know and use), I take great joy in throwing parties. Two young daughters give me a twice-yearly excuse to invite friends and family over for birthday celebrations. A fair amount of planning goes into the food for these parties.

Knowing my youngest’s seventh birthday approached and her family party was on the calendar, I laid awake one night wondering what to do for the cake. (My husband notes that many folks buy birthday cakes at bakeries–Costco cakes are indeed divine–or whip them up with cake mixes, but for many reasons, that folk is not me.) While I very much enjoy making from-scratch cakes for family birthday parties, I am not known for my cake decorating skills. Exhibit A: These cat cupcakes taste good, yes, but they also look a wee bit scary.

birthday treats--yes, they're supposed t

birthday treats–yes, they’re supposed to be kitty cats

While effort has gone into improving my cake decorating skills, I’m still better with ideas than implementation. As I lay there contemplating cakes that night, keeping in mind my daughter’s request for a pink and purple Little Pony cake, I envisioned baking the batter up in 13×9-inch, 11×8-inch, and 8-inch square pans. If the cakes were stacked bottom-up from largest to smallest, then filled and frosted, could we call it a hillside on which to place a few of her precious Little Ponies?

three cake layers ready for baking

three cake layers ready for baking

When I posted the above photo and idea on deLizious facebook and got an enthusiastic response, I knew I was on to something. A friend who commented offered the services of her daughter, who has taken multiple cake decorating classes and is also a friend of my eldest. Knowing I had help, I fully committed to my hillside pony cake. The day before the party, I made a crazy-good batch of French buttercream (from Rose Levy Beranbaum‘s Cake Bible) and gave the birthday girl free rein with the icing colors. I was wowed by her sense of color.

vibrant hues

vibrant hues

Lexi came over the morning of the party, pulling her extremely large decorating kit behind her, and along with my older daughter, filled, frosted, and ponied up one of the most amazingly fun homemade birthday cakes I’ve ever seen. (Crack-me-up comments like “I trust no ponies were harmed in the making of this cake” and “I think there’s room for one more pony” greeted its fb debut.)

could there be any more ponies?

could there be any more ponies?

This cake made my seven-year-old happy. It made the decorators happy. It made party guests happy. It made me happy. And this, in the proverbial nutshell, is why I love parties and celebrating: They make folks happy. There’s so much sadness and tragedy and even just general annoyances in life that I choose to live by words I remember my mom saying more than once: “You have to celebrate the good stuff.” (This was an order from my mom, mind you–she used the words “have to.”)

Because the party was all about ponies, I served up a spread of grazing foods–popcorn, cheese, crackers, fruits, carrots, hummus. (My oldest pointed out that horses don’t actually eat most of these foods, but as hay wasn’t an option I stuck with my original plan.) So in addition to the cake making folks smile, there was plenty of finger food to munch on as well. (And we musn’t forget the fruit-infused water: I subbed in a sliced apple and handful of blackberries for the more-often used lemon or cucumber slices.) It gave me great joy to see friends and family visiting and laughing and eating the foods I’d had so much fun putting together (with help from others, yes).

party spread for grazers

party spread for grazers

apple-blackberry water

apple-blackberry water

This led to a bit of pondering and the realization that foodforfun, while always about cooking and baking and food and drink, is at its core really about wanting to share happiness. (same goes for deLizious facebook) We all have our vehicle–some love movies, some music, some gardening, some sports. But in the end, we’re all sharing happiness. I like that thought a lot and put it out there even in the wake of what seems like so many recent tragedies. I’m going to remember and honor the sad things, yes, but will focus on celebrating the good (thanks, mom) and I raise a glass of fruit-infused water and invite you to join me.

Victory Part 2-1

Why is Ryan Gosling here? This is why.