A Tale of Two Cakeys

I have been baking for as long as I can remember. When I was in the third grade my best friend and I decided to make cookies as a surprise for my parents who were returning home from a vacation.

Since we had quite a bit of practice making cookies with my mother we felt confident that we would be known as the best little bakers in the world. We lined up almost all of the ingredients and worked together, following along with the Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from my mothers Better Homes and Gardens cook book.

The cookie batter was a bit on the soupy side and didn’t quite yield the 3 dozen little lumps of dough the recipe had promised us, but no matter, we knew what we were doing.

We spooned the pudding like stuff onto a cookie sheet and put it in the oven.

After the first batch came out of the oven we noticed the cookies didn’t puff up and get all golden brown in the oven. They kinda just ran all together and didn’t cook, or resemble a type of cookie we had ever eaten.

They were also very salty.

So we did what any other 9 year old girls would do. We checked the temperature of the oven and then re-read the recipe step by step.

We then came to the conclusion that we forgot to add the flour and realized that we used the flour measurement for the salt. Being the little optimistic problem solvers that we were, in a gallant (and in our minds practical) effot to save the last batch of cookies, we decided to fix the error and salvage the cookies by sprinkling some flour on top of each cookie.

Yup.

We thought that would work.

Needless to say it didn’t and the cookies were a homemade disaster. I’m sure my mom was pissed that I wasted all of those ingredients but didn’t say so and instead calmly scolded us for using the oven when a grown up wasn’t home then quietly threw out the 12 or so “cookies” our custom recipe had produced.

Since my first attempt of baking without a parental supervision I have produced probably close to a hundred batches of cookies, muffins, brownies and cakes.  I have gotten quite good over the years but of course I’ve  learned by trial and error.

And I still make my mistakes. In fact, being as I’ve made more than a few dozen mistakes I thought I’d help out by sharing some of the most important lessons I’ve learned thus far.

Below are a few key things that every novice baker should know:

  • Preheating the oven IS important
  • Knowing the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon and a cup can make or break a recipe.
  • If you forget to pretreat your pan with butter and flour that cake isn’t going to resemble a cake when you try to remove it from the pan.
  • If you use an 8 inch round cake pan instead of a nine inch round cake pan the cake is un-doubtly going to over flow.*
  • If your oven is too hot and you think it will just take less time to cook you are wrong.
  • Egg shells are not a fun surprise ingredient. In anything. Ever.
  • If a recipe calls for baking powder don’t think that using baking soda will be a good substitute.
  • Follow your recipe exactly. Baking is a science and until you understand ratios don’t mess with them.
  • Placement of the racks in the oven is an important but sometimes (in my case) over looked step
  • If you really love baking and don’t give up you will be a good baker.

Even after baking for the past 23 years I still don’t consider my self an expert and again, let me stress to you that I still make my mistakes.

Case in point:

*If you use an 8 inch round cake pan instead of a nine inch round cake pan the cake is un-doubtly going to over flow.

Yes, this was learned on Friday as in three days ago.

“Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.”

Sophia Loren

In my defense, (of course I have a defense) I was tired after working all week and not thinking correctly AND feeling pressured to produce a lovely, yummy goodie because I promised Huz that I would make him a cake after hearing his choice word “CAKE” damn near a million times over the past two weeks.

I used a recipe from my new book BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher, which I had received as a gift from the Huz shortly after pitching a hissy fit in the Barnes and Noble because I couldn’t justify spending $40 on a book for myself. He knew he’d get goodies out of it and maybe even a smile from me so he surprised me one day with the mother of all baking guides when I arrived home from work.

I planned on documenting the entire baking session for the purpose of the blog and took a lot of pictures through out the process.

Now, I did acknowledge that I was using the wrong sized pan and to make up for the size difference so I left a portion of the batter out of the pan and ate it all to make the recipe work.

Epic Fail.

The batter overflowed onto the stone I had under the way smaller than I thought cake pan and from there spilled to the bottom of the oven.

And all I could do was watch.

And whine.

And stomp.

And cry.

I acted like any other 32 adult would as I raised my voice and carried on and on about my very best cake ever being destroyed.

But I let the sucker bake until it was done and in all of the chaos I forgot to take pictures of the evidence proving that I’m not all that wise when it comes to baking no matter what the book says.

But take my word for it, it was a mess.

A few minutes after the I pulled the too big for it’s own britches cake out of the oven Huz came in to see what all the ruckus was about. As he was consoling me he casually started to peel the overflowed cake off of the stone and eat it. Then he began to devour it so I joined in to see what all of the “mmms and ahh’s” where about. We ate a quarter of the cake even despite the fact that it was as hot as hell and looked nothing like a cake.

It was, by far, the BEST cake I’ve ever made.

Since we ate most of the cake in a matter of 5 minutes, at that point, there was no reason to make the icing. And since the cake was so flipping delicious I knew exactly what I was doing on Saturday. I was getting the right sized pan and making the best cake ever.

Again.

So the next morning after my Weight Watchers meeting I headed over to the HomeGoods and as luck would have it I got the ONLY Calphalon 9 inch round bake pan in the store.

I made way back home and started to re-create the best tasting thing that has ever came out of my oven.

Pour batter into oiled and floured pan. Drop pan onto counter from 4 inches up to knock air bubble out and place on baking stone in lower 1/3 of preheated oven.

Bake for 40 minutes (until center bounces back and toothpick inserted comes out clean.)

Let sit until cool enough to handle and then turn onto rack to cool completely.

Now, lets make some icing!

Slice fully cooled cake into 3 horizontal as even – as you can make them – layers.

Spread the first layer with about 1/4 inch of the icing, making it a bit more thicker at the edges. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup walnuts and add the second layer.

Repeat the layer.

Put the last lovely layer on and ice the top of cake, then the sides. Press the remaining walnut pieces into the sides.

Step back and wipe the drool off your chin.

Grab a big cup of milk, coffee or tea, a plate, a fork and a cake eating buddy.

And forget all about your diet, because you’ll want to eat another piece of this delectable cake when your finished devouring the first one.

If you are looking to add a wonderful book to your cooking/baking collection, are a beginner or advanced baker, want the full recipe for the cake I just wrote about or just want to learn some fantastic tips and DELICIOUS recipes, get this book:

BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher

It will be the best $40 that you have spent (or threw a hissy fit over) in a long time.

 

 

 


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Quickie Cross Off

I have a BIG HUGE post that I will be sharing with you a little later on tonight, in fact it is so BIG and wonderful that it made me fall asleep before actually finishing it.

Hmmm…. I just hope you don’t fall asleep while reading it. Honestly, my kids whined and cried that I was being a computer hog so I let them have a go at it and turned into a lazy bum.

Excuses.

Excuses.

In the mean time though, here are 3 things that I accomplished last week and all the while I was at work:

  • Bring a nail file to work. (Oh, yes. It was difficult. Shwoo!)
  • Go out to lunch with a friend. I actually had a chance to go out to lunch with 3 friends last week! We all went over to a Mexican place and had a fantastic meal and  gossiped like ladies should. It was a such a nice break to the work day! Ladies who lunch together ahh <3!
  • Lastly, I wrote a CHAMPS card, which is our way of recognizing when someone does something fantastic and over and beyond what is expected of them. Yay! Great job Gwen!!

Okay, now I’m going to rush home and finish the biggest post this girl ever did make!

Shabby (un)Chic

The only thing I didn’t like about my house when we bought it was the kitchen. I had big plans and an agreement with the then boyfriend that after 5 years I would gut it and put in brand new everything.

Ahh, don’t you just love those big plans?

When we reached the 5 year mark I simply didn’t want to cough up 20 grand to re-do the kitchen. I’d rather use the money to put towards the mortgage (so worth it – we’ve already paid it off), buy new clothes, go on vacations, get a newer used car. You know, all of the other things that money is better spent on.

Over the past 3 years, sometimes against my better judgement and usually before a big party, I have made changes to the kitchen.

In fact, the huz will tell you that one night he innocently came home from work to unhappily find a wall missing. You see, my wonderful old house has terrible plaster walls. I hate love the plaster and all of its charm and when it cracks, crumbles and deteriorates it’s not my favorite thing to fix.

But this particular wall in our kitchen was just begging me to rip it down… at 10pm on a Friday night.

So down it came.

And of course, I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t think too far ahead about how I was going to fix the big disastrous, dusty mess that I was creating  so I did what any other stupid silly girl would do.

I called my Dad.

And whined.

And cried.

I begged, bribed and convinced him that he should feel sorry for my predicament and come help me rebuild a wall.

The next morning my super hero dad came up to my house with saws and levels and tools.

Lots. of. tools.

Over the next two weekends he did all of the work helped me turn the terrible mess I made back into a wall, minus the holes and cracks. He also helped me remove the plain trim that didn’t match the rest of the house and an out of place panel that was glued to another wall.

When he left my house the last weekend of our project there was no more missing wall but it was a far cry from complete and my poor, sad kitchen sat in disaray… for a year and a half, without trim, only half way painted and way worse looking than it did with the 3 inch hole in it.

Really, this is how I roll?

Sigh. Again.. admitting flaws.

Of course, I hated the kitchen but instead of completing the wall work I decided it was the floors fault. Said floor was terrible parquet that was scratched, dented, water stained and basically destroyed. It was impossible to clean because it wasn’t sealed correctly (or ever) and I suddenly decided that it was a bad idea to have (un-original to the house) hardwood in a busy kitchen.

Now, if the previous home owners had left the original oak I would have just refinished them but they didn’t so that wasn’t an option.  Plus, if you haven’t noticed by now, I love big messy projects.

So, (three days before hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner) I had the wreck of unsalvagable flooring ripped out.

Wisely, I didn’t take this project on by myself because well, I’m not that stupid; I hired the pros and they replaced it with simple easy to clean tile. They also finished all of the trim work that was left over from the wall escapade 18 months before and put smooth set on the wall that the paneling was removed from.

Sweet Mary, all of the pieces were in place.

And there sat my kitchen, complete with four walls, all of the trim work and wonderful tile floor.

I still wasn’t happy though.

The cabinets were dingy.

I avoided painting them for quite a long time because after all of my other failed attempts at projects I thought it would just lead to another disaster.

Then one day back in February (this year thank you very much) after repainting the bead board backsplash I decided I couldn’t take it anymore and that I would attempt to get the cabinets done.

Naturally, in proper Ginger form, I only finished some of the cabinets and let the kitchen sit for a good month before I  tackled the rest of them.

Finally, they are done and they look great!

I even painted the hardware to save myself a couple hundred bucks and I love the way everything turned out.

Of course I wouldn’t be me without saying the kitchen is not complete.

Now I am thinking I should paint the insides of the cabinets, too. They will look really good painted and with new contact paper (when they are open).

And aside from re-doing the insides of the cabinets I still need to repaint the window frames, the door, get new fabric for the windows and maybe even re-paint the refrigerator (or get a new one).

I  am also thinking of replacing the faucet, adding under the cabinet lighting, buying a new trash receptacle and I’m continuing my Craigslist stalking for a new used kitchen table.

I would really love to add bead board to the rest of the walls because I love the red but it feels very unbalanced in there. If I don’t add the bead board I will be re-painting it a lighter color creme but I think I’d much rather add the bead boarding.

Unfortunately, I have NO idea how to operate a saw and no one seems too interested in helping me. (Yes… I’ve asked just about everyone I know.)

I have to say though, after hating on my kitchen so much, for soooo long, I finally love, Love, LOve, LOVe how it is coming along.

Love Forever and Ever. Who’s Really Counting?

Just the other day I had to ask the huz how long we have been married. No, it wasn’t a trick to get a present or a way to win an argument or a sneak attack way to make him feel bad; it was a serious question.

We aren’t exactly the most conventional couple, we never have been and we probably won’t ever be. I met him a year after graduating high school and within 3 months I was pregnant. Shortly after our one year anniversary and my 20th birthday we were living in a tiny apartment above the pizza shop the then boyfriend worked with our brand new baby girl. Fast forward another year and we were living in a slightly bigger apartment with our 15 month old baby girl and our newborn son. Nine years had passed before we flew to Vegas and eloped, despite my mothers desperate pleas for us to have a big wedding. I never even showed my mom the pictures of our “ceremony” for fear that she would have a heart attack when she saw me in my camouflage hat, large hoop earrings and a tank top while reciting my vowels. I’m sure she wonders to this very day if we actually did, in fact, get married.

As I said, we are unconventional.

Anyway, the other night after a little head scratching we both agreed that it would be our 4th anniversary this year, but as I started to write this post tonight I did a little more math and then looked back at my expired license that I got after we were married only to realize that it will be 5 years.

The point of this posting ultimately is to say that last week I finally changed my name at the bank. It only took me almost four five years and I suppose I shared with you a little bit more about my crazy self.

 

Just Say No.

Obviously I have not been doing my part to keep up with the Post -A- Day Challenge so I am crossing #296 Say No off of my list after failing miserably at #297 Say yes. My intentions were good but I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself when I checked that sucker off.

Ahh.

I can admit defeat.

Defeat admitted.

Of course, I will post every day now because that’s just how this sdrawkcab girl rolls.

Smorgasboard of Doneness

Let me start off by warning you that this post is probably going to be

all.

over.

the.

place.

First off, I know that I have been sucky with writing  here lately but I have been getting a shit load of things done on my list. On top of that, I’ve realized there are some items I did even more than a few weeks ago so this is going to be one super random catching up post.

Brace yourself… I am just going to spit stuff out and give you a short and sweet summary for each accomplishment.  Hopefully after this I’ll be able to keep up with this blog because well, who can have a blog when they don’t actually write one?

ME. THAT’S WHO!

This past weekend I went up to north Jersey to visit with my mom’s family. My cousin Daniel and his wife are having their first baby and Sunday was the baby shower. Since I hadn’t been to visit in two years so I decided it was high time to go with my momma and bring my new travel buddy, Nan.

The party was lovely and while the alcohol was a flowin’ I crossed off another resolution and went to a party and didn’t drink.

Of course, I drank the night before at the party at my aunt’s house but my hangover that had nothing to do with my sobrity!

Way more than a few weeks Huz and I took the kids on a day (and overnight) trip to the mountains. Since we don’t officially know how to ski, (or snowboard- I doubt that will be getting crossed off the list now cause I didn’t take my opportunity when I had it) we went snow tubing for like a hundred hours.

It was a ton of fun and the resort we went to, Bear Creek Mountain, was really, really nice. The food was fantastic, the resort was top notch and everyone we met was super nice.

The weather was warm and that made it easy for me because I’m a big huge mess bit of a cry baby when it comes to being cold. It wasn’t hot or anything though. The fake snow almost felt like real snow but it wasn’t cold enough to stop the kids from having a blast swimming outside in one of the heated pools at night.

Next up was wear a great outfit to the State of the Union. Big meeting. Work. I’m sure you’ve read it before. Again, this was weeks ago and weeks before I got my fancy camera so the picture I took on the imac is lame. Nonetheless, I looked fancy, fan-cy and got plenty o’ compliments on what I wore.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blazer: Diane Von Furstenberg

Tank: Express

Blouse: INC

Skirt: Shelly Segal

Stockings: Betsey Johnson

Boots: BCBG

Mooooving on: get to work early. Let me tell you something, for the first 31 years of my life I was late to everything. Then last year I was just late to most things. This year (so far) I’ve only been late to a few things. Work, eh. I was always late. Getting the kids ready, traffic, my shitty commute. However, just about every day I have been there early! Ahhh, it feels good to be on time! Growing up isn’t always a bad thing!

I seriouslyhope I didn’t just jinx myself.

The coolest thing I’m crossing off today is skip (I’m so festive with my fonts)

I admit:

I am a dork.

I skip all of the time. I’m an adult.

I skip.

AND I have fun doing it so I’m not going to stop.

Yeah. Soooo if you see some big dork skipping somewhere… it’s me.

Feel free to laugh.

This week I also bought flowers.

But I didn’t buy them for myself!

Yay!

I brightened someones day!

I also bought a lottery ticket it (scratch that) I bought two!

Yup. And gues what I walked away with??

Whoo freaking hoo! I can’t wait to buy some dish towels with this handsome guy 🙂

The last resolution for this post is print this (resolution) list and bring it with me everywhere. I have like 4 copies of this list floating around. In my bedroom, in my car, in 2 of my bags and and in my living room. It’s everywhere and I look at it almost daily so I totally got this nailed!!!