Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Inspiration photo of the day. My fabric bin sits next to my couch, adjacent to my hallway. I just folded and stacked the fabrics I used for my cupcake photoshoot and they're sitting there, their pretty patterns and colors staring me in the face when I walk by. My favorite's the brown polka dot. I'm a sucker for polka dots. Maybe it's b/c they look like sprinkles.
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I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving holiday. I look forward to sharing some of my holiday ideas soon!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sugarlush Wedding Post No. 02

Vanilla cake, raspberry amaretto frosting & rainbow nonpareils.
Sprinkles are my ultimate weakness.
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My second round of cupcakes for a wedding! Actually, a wedding reception. The couple was married in Hawaii over the summer and they just had a reception here this past weekend. A college friend showed her some of my pics on Facebook. See? All those fb photos aren't just for show! They're good for business! Anyway. The order started out being 5 dozen. Alright, no prob. Later, the girl called me back and changed it to 7 dozen. Eeek! But, luckily the cake flavors were just additions to what I was already making, with an additional frosting.

Total Tally:
• 84 cupcakes
• 2 dozen carrot cake, cream cheese frosting
• 2 dozen chocolate cake, salted caramel frosting (the most popular order)
• 1 dozen chocolate cake, citrus glaze
• 1 dozen vanilla cake, citrus glaze
• 1 dozen vanilla cake, raspberry amaretto frosting

WHEW! Thank goodness, with a little bit of prep work each day of the week, it's completely managable. Before boxing them up for pick-up, I did the usual living room photoshoot. And away we go!

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Carrot cake, cream cheese frosting & slice of carrot

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Vanilla cake, raspberry-amaretto frosting & silver dragee

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Vanilla cake, citrus glaze & decorative piping

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Chocolate cake, salted caramel frosting & fleur de sel caramel topper

So those are the cupcakes. They only look half as good as they taste, and they look pretty dang good, right? ;-) Sometime I'd like to venture out and do cute printed-paper toppers that could label the flavors &/or state the names of the couple. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough time to do that for this one but if you give me enough notice, it's certainly a possibility! It'd be perfect for baby showers too.

And with that, I bid you adieu so I can go clean the mess in my kitchen. WOO!! Fun Sunday! :-)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Monkey Cake.

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My boyfriend has two friends (a married couple) who have a super cute little boy who just turned one. They commissioned me to do a monkey cake, as the party was Curious George themed. The cake didn't necessarily have to be Curious George, but it did have to be a monkey. It also had to be big. Big enough for a guest list of 30-40 people. YOW! That's one popular baby!

Knowing that I love to bake, they hired me to do the cake. They were going to do it themselves, but figured it'd be best to hand it over to someone else. This is the first full cake I've ever done. Sure, I've made like a 9" x 13" sheet cake before, but those were lame, especially compared to this.
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The rectangular part of the body was made from a 12" x 18" pan, and the head was a 9" round. The ears were from a 4" ramekin, cut in half and trimmed down. And that thing that looks like a belly button? That's from the heating core. Wilton makes these heating core things that look like the middle of a bundt pan. You stick it in large cake so they bake more evenly. They're hallow, so you fill it w/ batter and when everything's done baking, you take the cake out of the core and plug it back into the whole cake! BRILLIANT! Thus the belly button in Mr. Monkey here.
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The cake is vanilla. All the colored frosting is vanilla malt. The darker brown parts of the monkey are chocolate frosting. This was also the first time I ever made chocolate frosting. Out of all the crazy, nutty things I bake, I have never once made homemade chocolate frosting. Funny, huh? Everyone always orders the salted caramel, vanilla malt, or raspberry amaretto frosting. But since this was both adults and kids, it had to be pretty tame.
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Here he is! In all his vanilla monkey glory. Not bad for a first time big fat cake, right? He probably would look better in fondant, but let's face it. Fondant's gross. I don't know anyone who likes to eat fondant. Do you? I doubt it. Even Duff from Ace of Cakes admits its gross--that's why they cover the cakes w/ buttercream before putting the fondant on. That way you can just take the fondant off and eat what's underneath. So gooey frosting it is!
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The piping wasn't perfect, but for someone who's never taken a class or been trained in anything... not too shabby, I'd say.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Cocktail Hour

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I had this splendid idea a few months ago to design a Cocktail-of-the-Month Calendar for 2010. I'm going to sell it on my Etsy site. Once it's complete, that is. During all this research & design time, I, of course, HAD to try out different cocktails to see what I wanted to include! I know, rough assignment, right?? I almost have them all picked out but I noticed I'm missing any representation from my favorite category... GIN! Perish the thought! You know what that means?? BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD! Or should I say "CUTTING BOARD" instead for some kind of pun?? Igh, maybe not.

My gin concoction will be for a winter month (the summers are all taken), which inspired me to use fresh rosemary to give it an alluring, woodsy aroma. "Woodsy" probably isn't a quality you put in the same sentence as "alluring" and "I want this in a drink," but lemme tell you... IT WORKS. It works, y'all.

I also thought, with all my drink explorations, a quasi-regular blog segment could be fun! Fun for me and fun for you! What do you think? Sunday Afternoon Cocktail Hour. It could be "Weekend Cocktail Hour," or whatever. But I find Sunday Afternoon a little more exciting. It just seems a little bit...naughtier. :-) And with that, I give you our first installment of (DRUMROLL PLEASE ........)


Blackberry Nymph

• 5-6 blackberries
• 1 tbsp simple syrup + 1 pinch sugar
• 1.5 ounces gin
• 1.5 tbsp triple sec
• 1 tsp rosewater
• club soda, to top (less than 1/2 cup)
• fresh sprig of rosemary

In a cocktail shaker, muddle blackberries with simple syrup & pinch of sugar. If you don't have simple syrup, go ahead and use 2 tbsp sugar for this part. After you've muddled the berries, fill the shaker with 3-4 ice cubes. Pour in the gin, triple sec, & rosewater. Shake the shaker (novel idea!) for about 15 seconds, until you can feel the shaker become cold. Pour the contents into a highball or collins glass. Top with club soda and garnish with rosemary sprig.
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Why the "nymph" in the name? First, try the beverage. Pretty good, right? The flavor & scent of the rosewater along w/ the aroma of the rosemary garnish create an ethereal, floral concoction. If you look up "nymph," the definition is "any of the minor divinities of nature in classical mythology represented as beautiful maidens dwelling in the mountains, forests, trees, and waters." Take another sip. Seems appropriate, right? I thought so.

This beverage would also be good with vodka, though you'll be missing the fine juniper flavor of gin. Maybe even use a citrus or berry-flavored vodka to enhance the fruit.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Heart Macarons. Times 10... or more.

This is a picture I stole from Fred Flare. I'm not going to lie. I'm not going to pretend its mine. I wish it was, but its not. I saw this on Facebook. I'm FB friends w/ Fred Flare, and therefore this little ditty was in my Live News Feed. A book entitled I Heart Macarons. (PS: Hi Fred, or should I say People of Fred. I've been a fan for a long time!)

Let me tell you. I. LOVE. MACARONS. I can't handle how much I love them.

See that? There I am in Beverly Hills (visiting one of my bestest friends who lives in LA) in front of Paulette, a macaron bakery. A STRICLY MACARON bakery. They are such wonderful, beautiful creations. I only wish I could go back to obtain more of the gorgeous goodies so I could photograph them in all their delicate glory. This photo is about a year and a half old now (a long-term love affair I have w/ this cookie) and looking at it makes me want to go into a whole new story (the packaging, the brilliant logomark macaron cut-outs on the bench, etc) but I DIGRESS. I'M TALKING FOODS HERE, PEEPS. I'm talking MACARONS!!

This photo? It's from Paulette Macarons website. I certainly did not make, nor did I photograph these beauties. But I do recommend you go to Paulette and indulge in a serious way. You'll be so glad you did.

The macaron is, like I said above, VERY DELICATE. It's a curious little puffy shape, the entire constructed cookie sandwich looking hamburger-esque. Its sturdy but the second you touch it just a little too hard it will crumble to pieces. Its made of mainly egg whites, almond flour, sugar, and maybe some flavoring for the cookie part. The inside is usually a ganache, jelly, or jam concoction. My favorite flavors involve pistachio and/or anything floral--rose, lavendar, whatever. I'm a sucker for it everytime. Besides cupcakes & frosting, these are such a wonderful vehicle for experimenting with dessert flavors.

I've tried making these many a times. I wouldn't quite say I SUCCEEDED, but I certainly didn't fail (well, I failed once, but other than that...). I'm like...85-90% there. The basic idea is down. It's a tough nut to crack. Its a French creation, which means most recipes (even the ones in English) are in metric measurements. It's one of those moments where you feel like an American hick w/ the rest of the world all speaking metric and here I am, trying to translate 55 grams of egg whites into a measurement in cups. LAME. But its worth the struggle. I never went to any sort of baking school so I go into these experiments blindly. I just really want to try to do something so I don't actually realize how difficult or tricky something might be until the 4th time around b/c... I just don't know better.

In order to find recipes, I scoured the internet and generally fell into the same two or three recipes that were pretty widely used. I received Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook last year for Christmas which ALSO has a recipe for French macarons, which I have yet to try. (I KNOW. I KNOW!!! What have I been doing?!?!) BUT THIS??? This is like a godsend. Or maybe its not, I don't know. But it looks amazing. So between Martha & this? I have to think I'd be able to kick some Macaron ass, right? Maybe? Hopefully?

So this post is in honor of Macarons. It's in honor of this book, in honor of Fred Flare, and even Paulette Macarons. Thank you, wonderful people, for providing us with either the baked confections or just the resources with which we can create our own goods. I'd hold up a champagne toast but I've got no bubbly so we'll just have to pretend. Here's to making beautiful, colorful, luscious treats for one and all! *CHEERS!!!!!!!!*

And just for fun, here are some photos from Paulette's site. Really, if you're ever in LA (Beverly Hills, specifically), make it a point to stop in and take a few bites. The staff was incredibly kind, the space was chic, and the cookies were tops. And the logo & business card? Yup, even those are good too. ;-)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Buckeye Baklava!

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I'm in Ohio. Ohio, where our nickname is "The Buckeye State," and on any given weekend during the fall there's a colossal amount of people in scarlet & gray getting ready to cheer the beloved OSU Buckeyes onto (hopefully) another football victory. Pretty much, if it's Buckeye-themed or scarlet & gray, whatever "it" happens to be, you'll gather at following. And that's how these little babies were born.

It all started one day when I was driving back from visiting my parents (or "home-home" as I like to call it, as opposed to "home" which is where I am every other day of the year) and I had a brainchild. Just out of the blue. An Immaculate Conception of an idea. I...would create... BUCKEYE BAKLAVA.

I'm a baker who likes to give common treat-favorites a little twist so suddenly they're anything but common. I'd love to make a living having my own bakery someday. This just seemed... NATURAL. Here I am, in the home of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Buckeye State. WHY THE H- NOT???

Buckeye Baklava is a twist on the luxurious Meditteranean treat of walnuts, pistachios, honey, & filo dough. Buckeye Baklava is like traditional baklava and a buckeye candy had A REALLY GOOD BABY. It's peanuts (w/ some pecans), chocolate chips, some flavorings, layers upon layers of filo dough and butter, a magical peanut butter sauce full of layered flavors, and chocolate ganache. I can't tell you everything b/c it's a secret. You know how I said I'd love to have my own bakery? Yeah. I gotta keep this stuff close to the vest if I want to make a living off it, you know what I'm sayin'? No one wants to buy the cow if you get the milk for free. So... buy my baklava! Just kidding... no, not really. Buy my baklava. Please.

So that's the story. I CAN tell you my source recipes to which I referred for measurement approximations & all that. I used one from Epicurious and one from Food Network by Emeril Lagasse. I'm not going to lie--it's time consuming whether you're experienced or not. But it's worth it. Sooooo worth it. ;-)
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