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I’ve kind of been taking a break from baking. It hasn’t been intentional, it’s just the way the cards have landed lately. Between my car getting totaled (without me in it, luckily!), finding mold in my apartment, dealing with job stress, dealing with TMJ issues, dealing with more job stress and now, finally, apartment hunting… you could say I’ve been a bit preoccupied.
Even with my world spinning slightly off of its axis, I’ve managed to squeeze in a few different cakes/ cupcakes since my last post. Here’s what y’all missed:
My good friend from college asked me to do a graduation cake for her younger sister. Within this cake, she asked for a variety of elements to be included. See if you can find them all: a grad cap, UC Davis colors, Banghra (Punjabi) dancing, elements of “college life,” and something relevant to dental school. This cake was a challenge, but very fun and every bit of whimsical as I’d hoped it to be!
In January, my friend R threw herself one hell of a 25th birthday party. She asked me to provide a variety of treats including 2 types of cupcakes (shown above), a few trays of chocolate whoopie pies and 1 large cupcake cutting cake. The vanilla cupcakes were topped with a marshmallow cream frosting, and decorated with handmade chocolate accents and edible glitter. The red velvet cupcakes were frosted with a thick swirl of classic cream cheese frosting and decorated with fondant butts.
Yes, butts. You heard me right. When I accepted this order, R had mentioned that she’d been working out really hard for the last year or so, and wanted everyone at her party to, “have a piece of my ass!” I love her confidence, enthusiasm and the fact she’s so secure in her own skin! You go girl!
PS – These toppers would be great for a bachelorette party too… 🙂
In March, my buddy G asked for a couple of cakes. For his wife’s birthday, he asked for a small, super chocolatey cake. He mentioned that TokiDoki is one of her favorite things, so I did some research and designed a simple cake with hand cut fondant TokiDoki accents.
Two of his friends also happened to have a birthday during the same week, so he asked for a casual cake for the guys to take on a weekend trip. I knew that this group of guys were all die hard Giants fans, so I couldn’t resist surprising them with a hat cake. Just like my earlier hat cakes, it was decorated in fondant with hand cut accents.
My cousin, M, is an incredible kid and I was super excited when her mom asked me to do her birthday cake a couple weeks ago. Along with the cake, she was going to be surprised with new archery equipment for her birthday. I designed the cake to go along with her fabulous birthday present, making the archery target out of fondant and the arrow out of gumpaste.
A couple of weeks ago, one of my neighbors emailed and asked if I could do two dozen chocolate cupcakes for one of her employee’s birthdays. She requested the cupcakes to be as chocolatey as possible, and decorated in a “dog” theme. These hand cut fondant decorations might be my favorite cupcake toppers to date!
I was unbelievably stoked for last night’s lineup on Bravo – Top Chef finale followed by the premier of Top Chef Just Desserts!! It was the best motivation to get me through last nights grueling yoga practice. 🙂
Anyways – the ending of Top Chef worked out JUST as I’d hoped! I was super excited to see Kevin win… I thought he’d kinda been the dark horse through out the entire competition. All of a sudden he was in the finale, and I didn’t really understand why. I gotta admit though, he did an AMAZING job and squarely beat Ed & Angelo!! Angelo’s cockiness had been bugging me ALL season, and then Ed all of a sudden turned into a major d-bag in the first part of the finale. I absolutely love the fact that Kevin showed up both of those two, and did it with style and elegance. Congratulations Kevin!!
(Photo from here)
My favorite part of the episode was when Padma announced that he was the winner. Kevin just looked straight at Tom Colicchio and said “Are you serious??”
(Photo from here)
Top Chef Just Desserts was interesting to say the least. I thought the amount of bitchiness between the Cheftestants was excessive, but its a new show and they have to make their marks. The Quickfire Challenge seemed easy enough: create a dessert that exemplifies you as a pastry chef. Aaaalmost too good to be true, right?
Right. 🙂 The real challenge came when Gail and Johnny walked in 10 minutes into the challenge and said, “Oh wait… Your signature dish needs to be interpreted as a cupcake.”
Well there were some doozies in this bunch, but overall I was really surprised by how many pastry chefs were uncomfortable with making cupcakes! I mean, they’re not that difficult and anyone who has a pastry background should at least have an idea of what ratios they need to pull it together. Combine that with the fact that cupcakes have been the trending dessert for the last 5 years… I feel like the Cheftestants should have seen that coming a mile away! But then again… I tend to bake cupcakes every other week, so maybe I’m just being hard on them.
The Elimination Challenge was to create the most ‘decadent’ chocolate dessert to impress guest judge Jacques Torres, AKA, Mr. Chocolate. Most of the desserts looked beautiful, but my impression was that they didn’t look that decadent. Obviously taste is different than looks, but I just wasn’t totally wowed by any of them. I do agree that Heather deserved to win, and I’m surprised that Zak made it to the top even though he blew Disco Dust straight on to his dishes in FRONT of the judges!!! Thats right ladies & gents… he blew all over his food just like he would blow out candles on a birthday cake!
Well, that’s a little extreme, but still… WHO DOES THAT?!?!!!!
(Photo from here)
All in all I was pleased with the show. I think they have talented Judges, and Johnny provides a lot of no-nonsense/ raw whimsy that is refreshing to see. It’ll be interesting to see where the show goes, and the types of challenges that they can come up with. This spin-off has some huge shoes to fill considering it bears the same name as the Emmy award-winning show, but pastry chefs are talented artists. I’m looking forward to next week. 🙂
Viva la dessert!!
What I couldn’t tell you in my last post is that I had a surprise party planned for Reese on the night of his birthday. His favorite food is Mexican, so I conspired with his mom & BFF and succeeded in throwing a fabulous fiesta in his behalf. Best part? He had NO FREAKING CLUE!
Along with a diverse menu of Mexican inspired appetizers, I decide to create a margarita-flavored cupcake for dessert. And yes, I used tequila. PLENTYYYY of tequila!
I’m not the hugest tequila fan, and because of that I rarely drink margaritas. Several hours were spent on the internet looking at not only cupcake recipes, but reading about the history of margaritas and the elements that this classic drink was composed of. I learned quite a few new things, and came to the conclusion that a “original lime” flavor would work best for my needs.
Baking with alcohol can be very tricky as much of the flavor bakes off in the oven. To add more flavor, many bakers will actually brush their baked (and cooled!) cupcakes with the liquor of their choice… I’ve done this before, and honestly, haven’t been a fan. I decided the best way to infuse more margarita flavor into each cupcake would be to fill each of them with a lime filling that had a heavy dose of tequila. I was envisioning a lime curd that had the texture and density of that of a lemon meringue pie filling, but tasted fresh and tangy – exactly like a margarita should!
Food Networks’s site lead me to a recipe for a lime curd tart by celebrity chef Ina Garten. I used Ina’s lime curd recipe as a starting point, and kind of experimented from there. She calls for about 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice (about 4 fresh limes), and I juiced 3 limes and used tequila for the 4th. Oops. 🙂
For the cake I used a basic vanilla buttermilk cake recipe and added the zest & juice of 3 limes and a couple of tablespoons of tequila. This recipe is similar to what I came up with. Most of the tequila baked out of the cupcakes, but when I paired them with the lime curd I found the fresh, tangy taste I’d been dreaming of!
Most of the margarita cupcake recipes that I’d seen all used a rich swiss meringue buttercream to finish the treat. I was hesitant to use this kind of frosting because it is so incredibly buttery and rich – I wasn’t sure how that would pair up with the tequila and lime. It actually ended up tasting pretty good! Again, I used a heavy hand when flavoring the frosting, but I think the richness of the frosting balanced well with the citrus flavors. The buttercream was piped with a large french star tip, and then topped with a slice of fresh lime.
All in all, the party was a huge success! Great friends, lots of food, and a very surprised birthday boy. 🙂