Shamrock Cake

May your blessings outnumber
The shamrocks that grow,
And may trouble avoid you
Wherever you go.
–Irish Blessing

Finally.  It’s cake time.  I found the inspiration for this cake on Pinterest, and the original link is here.  She doesn’t give a tutorial, and I think it’s pretty self-explanatory, but I’ll give some pictures and tips.  You can do this with any color scheme – rainbow is very popular these days, too!

I thought this would be a great thing to do with Ellie and Adam when they came up to DC for the circus.  When they got here, I mixed up the cake batter (I used one box of white cake mix, but homemade is certainly great, too) and separated it into  6 small bowls and mugs, 1/2 cup of batter per container.  I had some batter left; probably enough to make at least two more layers, but that would have made for a disastrously tall cake!  Then I dropped varying amounts of green food coloring into each of them to get deeper and darker greens and let Ellie and Adam mix them up.  (I took the original blogger’s suggestion to leave one layer white, but I don’t think I will next time.  It’s just a matter of preference.)

I can’t tell you the precise number of drops of food coloring per bowl, except for the lightest green, which has only one drop.  I do wish I could have gotten darker greens at the end for more contrast, but this turned out just fine.  I suspect food gel would give you a more customizable array.

Next, I poured each bowl into a greased 5-inch cake pan.  The original blogger used 6-inch pans, and I can’t say really why I bought 5-inch, but either would be ok.  I only had two, so I started with the darkest two batters, since they would be the bottom layers.  I baked them at whatever temperature the box said, but for much less time.  I started with 10 minutes, and when they weren’t done, I kept checking every two minutes or so.  I think I found 14 minutes to be the perfect amount of time.  However hot your oven runs, they’re done when a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean.

Once they’re done, they have to cool in the pans for about 10 minutes.  This is where the patience comes in (the kids were long in bed by this time).  After 10 minutes, turn them out on a wire rack to cool completely, and then regrease and refill the cake pans with the next lightest batters.

The cake on the right had a slight dome to it, and since it was the base layer and I wanted it to be flat, I just took a serrated knife and cut the dome off.

Repeat until all your layers are done.

Next is frosting.  I used canned vanilla frosting, and it took about a can and a half.  I cannot emphasize enough the cardinal rule of frosting cakes: make sure the layers are completely cool before frosting.  Otherwise, you’ll have crumby frosting, and no one likes crumby frosting.

Start with the darkest layer and cover the flat top with a thin coating of frosting.  Build up, from darkest to lightest.

When you frost the top layer, you can let the frosting fall over the sides and smooth it out.  I found that it was easiest to sort of do a thin “base coat” of frosting on the sides and then go back over it with more frosting to make it look pretty.  For decoration, I used the aerosol frosting from Wilton; I found it at Target in the baking aisle, but I’ve seen it in the grocery store, too.  It’s like EZ Cheese, but frosting.  Awesome.  It comes with four different frosting tips.  For the base, I used the star tip, and for the shamrock, I used the thin piping tip.  It was hard to get used to the pressure it took to make the frosting come out, so I ended up with more green on top than I would have liked.  But it worked out perfectly, because I just took a toothpick and swirled the edges of the shamrock into the white of the frosting underneath and got this neat textured look on top!

After the circus and the museum and the butterflies on Saturday, we had dinner at Red Robin and then came home for dessert.  The kids were super excited and, I’m not going to lie, so was I.  I couldn’t wait to cut into it, and I wasn’t disappointed:

I was so in love.  The kids were thrilled, and they gobbled it up, along with a little vanilla ice cream!  It was delicious!

You guys, this is so easy, you can do it for any holiday or color scheme you can think of.  I’d love to see pics if you attempt this!

Reverb10: Day 6 – Make

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Today’s prompt:

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin)

The last thing I made?  This cake for the curling bon spiel (tournament)* we participated in at our club this past weekend:

Because I didn’t have much time, I used a boxed mix and store-bought icing.  That’s not my usual MO, but it had to be done.    I love baking – the smell of something yummy in the oven just makes me really happy.

I need to make more journals, to complete an item on the 101 in 1001 list – I haven’t made a single one since I put it on the list.  I’ve got the materials, I just need to make time.  In 2011, I hope to complete them all – want one?  :)

* I’m working on a post about curling – stay tuned!

Cookies! Everywhere!

I figured if I was going to make the world a better place, I’d do it with cookies.
– Ana Pascal

I’ve got a post in the works about the story behind last Monday’s picture, but I wanted to share with you the madness that was the Great Cookie Weekend of Aught-Nine.

I arrived at Karen’s Friday night, and we set all of the ingredients out on her kitchen table.  Here’s the before picture:

Then we went dancing.  And got home at three.  And then there was a mouse, which gets its own post.  And then we got up at 9 Saturday morning and tore through 9 cookie recipes and 2 kinds of fudge.  Here’s the after picture:

We ended up making two batches of three of the cookies because we loved them so much.  Here’s closer look:

Clockwise from the top, we have:

1. Caramel Pecan cookies, without the pecans (these are made with Rolos and are very chewy)

2. Cinnamon Spiced Hot Chocolate cookies, drizzled with dulce de leche (which I discovered is super simple to make, so now I can get on with #38 on my 101 in 1001 list) (these are very crispy; the texture is more like a gingersnap than anything else, but I really loved the flavor of these)

3. Rosenmunnar, or thumbprint cookies (we used half strawberry jam – Cheesie’s homemade, actually – and half orange marmalade; next year, we’re thinking of using strawberry and mint, to make it more Christmasy)

4. Kissy cookies!

5.  Polvorones de Canele (Polovorones are traditional Spanish Christmas cookies, but these did not turn out the way they were supposed to, though they aren’t bad.  I think we didn’t use enough flour, because they are supposed to stay in balls, not spread out.  I might try these again before Christmas to see if I can get them right)

6. Cream Cheese Sugar cookies

7. Scottish Shortbread (we added peppermint extract to the dough, then dipped them in candy chocolate coating when they were cooled and sprinkled them with crushed peppermint candy – hands down, these are the best cookies we made)

8.  Chocolate Chocolate Chip cookies (made with white chocolate chips; nice and chewy – yum)

9. Candy Cane cookies (the recipe called for almond extract, which we thought was dumb, so we added peppermint instead; these are fairly labor-intensive, but they look great)

In the middle we have chocolate fudge and peppermint fudge.

If you’re interested, I can provide you recipes for any or all of these delicious treats!  Just leave a comment or email me.  The three we made extras of were the Kissy cookies, the thumbprints, and the shortbread.  SO good.

ETA:  I almost forgot – we had a special helper:

That’s baby Ben, Aimee’s little boy, who is almost 2, if you can believe that!  Aimee had to work Sunday, so we agreed to watch him for the day.  He’s the best!

Heavenly

If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
– Robert Browning

Today, I pulled all of these ripe tomatoes from our tomato plants:

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(There’s a sixth one hiding under there somewhere.)  What to do with my bounty?  David, despite being the primary caretaker of the tomatoes, does not like them (except in ketchup and tomato sauce), so the tomato-eating duties fall to me.  What a shame.

I decided to make what is probably my all-time favorite food, one that takes me back to my time in Spain in high school and college, and one that could almost not be any easier: pa amb tomàquet (in Catalan) or pan con tomate (in Spanish) or tomato bread (in English – duh).

Here’s all you need: a baguette or peasant bread, some tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper.  That’s it.

Here’s how you do it:

Slice the baguette in half lengthwise (or slice the peasant bread in thick slices). (P.S. This baguette was still warm from Panera’s oven when I cut into it this afternoon.  Don’t be jealous.)

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Slice a tomato in half (not lengthwise – you want the top to be one half and the bottom to be the other half) like this:

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Then take one half of the tomato and rub it – firmly – over one side of the cut baguette.  Repeat with other tomato half and other baguette half.  Don’t be afraid to really squeeze the tomato – you want all of its insides on your bread.  Depending on how juicy your tomatoes are, you may need more than one for this step.

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Then, if you want (and I did, since this tomato was so fresh), slice up the mutilated tomato and eat it!

Next, drizzle some olive oil over each side of the bread – for this size slices, I used about a teaspoon per slice.

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Finally, sprinkle some salt (and pepper if you like – fresh ground is best, but powdered will do) on each slice.

If you try this, an optional step is to toast the bread (or put it under the broiler for a few minutes until it’s crusty) and then rub raw garlic over it before the tomato step.  I like it that way as well, but I’m really more of a purist when it comes to this.  Also, be careful – a little bit of raw garlic on the toasted bread goes a loooong way.

Then eat.  I will not be responsible for any swooning, drooling, fainting, etc, that may occur upon your first taste of this little bit of heaven.  I added some thick slices of Swiss cheese on the side (not really what we would have in Spain, but still a great addition), and a little bit of Sangria because, why not?

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Cheater

The values of the world we inhabit and the people we surround ourselves with have a profound effect on who we are.
– from Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell

I’m cheating a little again, because it’s 9:30, and I’m in the middle of making dinner, and I’m still exhausted from yesterday.

I’m making chicken and dumplings for the first time ever, which is taking longer than I expected, and I’m nervous David won’t like it.  He’s a good sport and tries anything I make, but I can always tell when he doesn’t like something (and he always answers truthfully if I ask him).  And although I know it’s not personal, it makes me feel bad when he doesn’t like it, because I only want to take care of him, and food is one way I do that.  I’m working on this – I know he won’t starve if he doesn’t eat what I make, and we don’t always have to like the same things, and it’s not a reflection on my skills as a cook.  I’m a work in progress.

Anyway, back to the cheating.  Please enjoy the following pictures of me and some of my favorite people:

IMG_0516Me and Karen last summer – she’s thinner now and I’m heavier!

Sister Hazel concertMe and Aimee somewhere in the neighborhood of 9 years ago at a Sister Hazel show.  This is still one of my favorite pictures of us.

IMG_1620Me and Nate in Atlantic City, before our dad’s band played at House of Blues (he’s wearing orange because it’s my dad’s favorite color).

My Pictures0036This was the Princess’s third birthday.  Now that I look at it again, they both looking like they might be squirming to get away from me, but I promise, they are actually laughing!

IMG_1032Me and David in September at my friend’s wedding on Long Island (I was a bridesmaid).

I saved this in the middle while we ate dinner – success!  David liked it quite a bit, and though I thought the seasoning needs some work, it’s definitely a keeper (but probably more for fall and winter)!