Welcome Sprout!

August 27, 2012

It seems like its been forever since I made a cake – the last one was Caelan’s birthday cake – so I was very excited to make a cake for a friend’s baby shower this weekend. I “met” Lindsey on my message board about 4 years ago and now she is expecting her first baby – a little girl nicknamed Sprout.

Lindsey is an excellent baker, cook, and hostess herself so I was slightly intimidated to make a cake for her. I ended up using a recipe from her own blog, Our Share of the Harvest, for a lemon cake that she raved about. I love lemon cake also and love an excuse to make one!

I was also going to use the recipe in her post to make a homemade raspberry filling. Unfortunately, I messed it up. No one wants raspberry filling with clumps of cornstarch in it! I didn’t have time for another attempt, so I just went with raspberry jam for the filling.

For the icing, I used my favorite vanilla buttercream (1 1/2 batches, but I think just 1 would have been enough). I assembled the cake and crumb-coated it with white icing and while that was setting in the fridge, I divided the rest of the icing and colored it. I used Violet and Red-Red for the purple color and different amounts of Lemon Yellow for the yellows.

I saw this icing technique on Pinterest and it was actually pretty easy. I spread the purple on the top first, smoothing it out and letting a little bit go over the edge. Then I put on a (messy) line of dark yellow around the bottom and then the light yellow went in the middle. I took my icing scraper (aka a large plastic putty knife from Home Depot) and scraped the sides of the cake while turning it. The icing colors blended perfectly. To be honest, I was kind of surprised at how well it worked! I kind of wish I had made the dark yellow section thicker or that I had been a bit messier in applying the icing so that the layers wouldn’t be so defined, but I can try that next time. I think this technique would look particularly good on a taller cake.

I topped the cake with some silver and pearl sprinkles. I thought it looked really sweet and feminine and I was temped to not write on it because I knew my handwriting would mess it up! I thought the cake called for writing in script, not print, and my script writing is just not very good. That would be why I’m not including pictures of the entire cake in this post, just the edges 🙂

I had to leave the shower before cake time so (as is often the case) I didn’t actually try this cake. I hope someone at the shower enjoyed it!!

Taking a detour

August 16, 2012

See that long red and black line? That’s my commute (or a good chunk of it). It normally takes about 40 minutes, but when it’s red/black like that it’s more like 70 minutes. And it was red/black for several days in a row last week. On the third day, when my blood pressure shot up and I was ready to claw my own face off, I decided to try to take a detour. Seems like an obvious plan, but there aren’t really any obvious detours – just winding back roads and I always get lost when I try to improvise and then I get upset and it’s just not a good situation.

By some miracle, my GPS (which had been on the fritz for months) came on, I made a u-turn and I was on my way. Even with my GPS on, I made a wrong turn (because I’m awesome like that) and my GPS recalculated a new route.

:: cue angels singing ::

My new route takes me past cornfield after cornfield, farm after farm, down winding roads through woods and quiet housing developments filled with lovely homes I only wish I could afford. My old route took me past farms also, but there was a lot of traffic. Not only is there no traffic on my new route, there are barely any other cars on the road. Finally my route takes me out onto a main road 1/2 mile from my office – 30 minutes flat.

Now I actually look forward to my commute! It’s almost relaxing. I take this quiet drive and I daydream that I will somehow stumble upon a secret neighborhood of affordable housing in this area. Highly unlikely, but you never know 🙂

The only problem I’ve come across is that I’ve been taking my old route for so long that I do it on autopilot now. More than once this has resulted in me missing the one and only exit onto my detour. Hopefully with a little more practice, I will get used to taking the new route. It’s definitely done wonders for my stress level.

Banana Mini Muffins

August 6, 2012

Caelan and I were invited to attend a play group hosted by a Bumpie friend of mine. It was a pool party so attendance was much higher than usual for the play groups. I’m not sure what the final head count was, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 adults and 20 kids (most of them <2 years old!). Epic.

Naturally, such a large turn out called for pot luck for the food items. I decided to make some banana mini muffins since I wanted something small and kid-friendly. I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Annie’s Eats. I skipped the sugar/cinnamon topping because while I’m sure it would have been delicious, I was sort of trying to avoid 20 toddlers on a sugar high.

The recipe claimed to make 10 standard size muffins and I ended up getting 47 mini muffins (so nearly 4 dozen). For some reason I always think that 1 muffin = 2 mini muffins, but that’s not really true. It’s more like double that. The muffins were good, but I think they would have been even better with the crumb topping.

Of course I didn’t plan ahead and I bought the bananas I needed for this recipe the day before I was going to make the muffins. I did put them in a paper bag to try to speed the ripening process, but I knew they’d never make it in just one day. So I Googled around and found out that I could bake the bananas to get them to the right sweet, squishy consistency I’d need for baking. I popped 3 of them in the (toaster) oven at 300° for about 30-45 minutes. They were frighteningly black when I took them out but not burnt or anything and they were nice and squishy on the inside. It was a nice short cut!