Monthly Archives: March 2011

The War of the Roses

When I was little, I remember the movie version of “The War of the Roses” with Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny deVito scaring the CRAP out of me, but also making me highly curious about all things love and life. Now, keep in mind, at this time, I also felt the same about the movie ‘Howard the Duck’ and ‘Batteries Not Included’ (AWESOME), so I’m not sure about how relevant my early 80’s thoughts are these days, but they shaped a mind, regardless.

“Is this what adult relationships are like?!?!”, wondered my little brain, as glass crashed, chandeliers were swung from, venom spewed. Terrifying. Later in life, my larger, more experienced (and tired, though I can’t say much more evolved) brain answered, “They shouldn’t be.” – and made a cake instead.

BUT – do you know what isn’t like that?

Friends.

Cake – and friendship.

After everything falls apart in life (relationships AND cake, sometimes), as cliched as it sounds, you can always count on friends to be there to help you put things back together – or when everything is great, you can be sure they’ll be there, and be happy for you. (…and maybe have an extra bucket of icing around to help you smush the cake back together should it fall over, whether from being thrown or from natural causes.)(which totally happened to my best friends amazing wedding cake a couple years back – we watched it slowly.. fall.. off.. the table… but it was put back with such expert speed you’d never know that it happened!)

At any rate, recently, one such friend had a birthday!

I told her I’d make her a cake, as she is usually the one who makes the birthday cakes (seriously, just ask her) – and she said she’d like something vanilla and pretty.

IMMEDIATELY my mind shot to an image that I’d seen a few weeks back on a blog posting on foodgawker – a Rose Cake tutorial. This tutorial was PERFECT! Step by step and with little hints. AND, it said it was easier than it looked. So, I said, I knew just what to make.

Looking back, really, for a first time doing a big piping buttercream type project – it WAS relatively simple! It was no war at all, really, until at the very end when my hands were slippery and my eyes started to bug out of my head because it was 12:30AM and why couldn’t I just be patient and wait til morning?!?!?!!! but NOOOO NO NO!!! gotta get it done NOW or else I won’t sleep. Way to go self, way to go. Deep breath.

Ahhhh... random flower image... breattthhheeee...

All I needed was a good level cake (as level as I can get it with limited tools), a delicious buttercream, a 1m tip and a piping bag. (read: a ziplock bag with the tip attached with packing tape.)(again, being limited in gear is no problem if you use a bit of elbow grease.)(and 6 + sticks of butter.)(did I say that?)(oops, the secrets out.), and to give in to the fact that no matter how many times I washed my hands or had a bath – I was just going to smell like butter now. That was my fate.

It was worth it!

The cake was a hit – especially with my friend – and that’s really all that matters.

The cake itself was a buttermilk cake from Joy of Cooking (actually the same recipe as the red velvet, but with the steps to making it red velvet omitted) with a classic buttercream frosting. Double batch. You’ll need LOTS of frosting for this. LOTS. This is not a health cake.

*One note on this cake – I never actually have buttermilk on hand (as I have no idea what else I would use it for), so I just make my own. I use about 1tbls of lemon juice per cup of milk, and let it sit for a bit before adding it to the recipe – and that seems to work great!

________________

Buttermilk Layer Cakestraight out of ‘Joy of Cooking’

(makes two 8 or 9 inch round layers)(I made double this recipe)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Have all ingredients at room temperature. Grease and flour your cake pans or line bottoms of pans with wax or parchment paper.

Whisk together until thoroughly blended:

  • 2 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Beat in a large bowl until creamy:

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter

Gradually add and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, 3 – 5 minutes:

  • 1 1/3 cups sugar

Whisk together then gradually beat in, taking about 2 mins:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Beating at a low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with:

  • 1 cup buttermilk

in two parts, beating until smooth, scraping the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. (I always use a knife) – about 25 – 30 minutes in 9 inch pans, closer to 30 – 35 minutes in 8 inch pans.

Frost with your favourite buttercream recipe. I used the one from Joy of Cooking – but if you have one you like that pipes nicely, use that!

Because of the roses, this cake is a real frosting monger – so I highly suggest doubling your recipe. Seriously. 6 sticks of butter. I could have used more – but I ran out of butter.

Now, give of this cake freely – it is not one that is safe to horde – and life is too short not to love everybody.

Cheers, and until next time (when you will likely STILL smell like butter if you get the frosting all over you, as I did),

peace, and take care of your friends.

Allison :)

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Lunch with my Demons

Herewith, a bit of a short story. Enjoy :)

Lunch with my demons

by Allison Crowe – (her being me.)

I sat down for lunch with my demons the other day, just to see them all in the same room at the same time. One set the table, cleaned it, and reset it again. She would do this repeatedly throughout the evening. All seated together for the first time (except for the one, she wouldn’t sit down)(and well, for the other one, who refused to get up – she stayed in bed) conversation was, you might say, interesting.

The first one to arrive was sorry that she was late. She was dressed to the nines.

The last one wasn’t sorry she was late at all, and clearly hadn’t showered.

After the initial introductions had taken place (amid much tension) one of the girls just started screaming, wailing, as if in pain, and then when the anxious one asked what was wrong, she just snapped “NOTHING” and continued wailing, making the anxious one all the more anxious, until she burst in to tears and had to leave the room, causing one of them to just keep laughing and laughing – not that anything was funny – she just didn’t know what else to do.

One of them apologized for all this unreasonable behaviour.

One of them laughed.

In the midst of it all, one tried to make an ill-humored joke and when that fell flat she retreated, rejected, back in to her coat of apathy. What was the point of all this anyways?

One made a brief recant of the others statement. She hadn’t meant it.

One of them laughed.

One had a problem, and told the entire table about it even thought it was completely inappropriate. Another one felt that her problem was worse than hers, so she spoke up and over the other one, and then she felt jilted and unappreciated, but held it in.

One wondered why we had to talk at all.

One laughed.

When one reset the table for the last time, the timer went off and she was distracted for long enough to bring out the meal, intricately prepared, everything made from scratch. She didn’t stick around long enough to hear the compliments as there were dishes to be done, so another one lapped up the glory – after having done nothing at all but her hair.

Before the meal was even finished, she snatched the plates from all the demons, causing one creature, still devouring, to lash out and insult everyone at the table – all the while smashing everything in sight. Then they ALL joined in. Well, most of them.

For my part, I just sat there in awe as the mayhem unfolded in front of me. One of them was in the corner rocking back and forth pretending that none of this was happening – and one of them was in the middle of the room jumping up and down, celebrating this fireball of anarchy.

One was sorry, so so sorry, for this destruction.

One giggled.

Somehow, minutes later, they all took a deep breath and got back to being as normal as possible, even though by now everyone was crying. (except for two – one was still in bed, and the other just stared straight ahead, burning holes in to the wall with her eyes)

Why had I set this up? The meal was delicious and it was all very interesting, if not enlightening, but really, what was I accomplishing by seating my flaws in the great hall for all to see?

I sat in wonder for so long, that I didn’t realize they had gone.

The lights came up and I realized that I was alone. There were broken dishes all around me, my face streaked in tears, and I was bleeding someone’s blood – the beautiful meticulously prepared meal now spoiled and wasted. I just wanted to go back to bed, but was struck with a need to clean this mess up before I even considered it. This was my fault, after all, and I would deal with the consequences.

The next day I couldn’t get out of bed, and I was sorry. So, so sorry.

So sorry in fact that I invited them all back for dinner the next evening to make up for it.

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Let them eat Super Meat Boy cake.

There’s something beautiful about people coming together, eating, laughing, and generally enjoying each others company. Besides the obvious (read: food is delicious) I think there are more subtle things that happen during these gatherings of friends.

You feed your face, yes, and lord knows I love to feed my face, but, what’s more is that you are feeding your soul and mind, and sort of can recharge through the right kind of group energy. So in a more positive connotation than the original speaker of these words I say, indeed, let them eat cake.

Yes, I am a hippie.

I also love video games.

I also love people that love video games, and one of those people that I love the most just had his birthday – and thus I made him a cake of one of his favourite video game character – Super Meat Boy.

A little bit of back story on myself and my experience with such cakes here:

I am obviously not an expert – I learned how to make marshmallow fondant from teh internetz,(O HAI!) and followed examples and patterns and paths that people had already, much to my delight, forged. I googled XBox 360 cake and found this AMAZING tutorial to get me going.

My first carved fondanty cake was an XBox 360 for my boyfriends brothers b-day (HOORAY ALLITERATION)  as seen here: (it took about 9 hours)

I had such a blast making this cake (which is, admittedly, a box mix – it was my first and I wanted to focus on the construction) that I couldn’t wait to get to my second.

Enter: SUPER MEAT BOY!

(photo courtesy of IGN)

Now for those of you who have never heard of this game – I warn you – it’s really really addicting. And really frustrating. I can only try a few times before I cower back to my Sims 3 family and just make an earthquake or firestorm happen to vent all previous Super Meat Boy frustrations. (he is not, btw, an actual wad of meat – he is merely a square boy with no skin)(mmm CAKE!)

SO here’s how the cake came together.

First I google super meatboy cake and found this link. (not sure if that will work)

I started by making a red velvet cake recipe from the Joy of Cooking (I swear to you, this cookbook has NEVER let me down – especially when it comes to baking- you should own it. I have an old one passed down from family members and a new updated one, too!) and iced it with Cream Cheese Frosting from same. (the Red Velvet Cake recipe is actually a buttermilk white cake with cocoa and red food coloring added at different points in the process)

I froze that overnight, all wrapped up in cling wrap – and the next day, got to carving Meat Boy in his shape-to-be. In truth all I did was carve out a little leg hole, and then used what I had just carved out as a fist.

Then it was time to make the fondant.

For this particular cake you will need:

  • – Wilton Food Gel (black and red)(I used a whole tub of red – and be warned – this gets messy)
  • – 6 cups Marshmallows
  • – 6 cups powdered sugar (or as much as it takes to come to the right consistancy – i find it works best when it’s like a stretchy bread dough)
  • – roughly 3 tbls of water
  • – a lot of grease. (i used vegetable oil)
  • 1 – 2 Layer Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting(from Joy of Cooking)
  • Freaking sharp big knife (that was for the carving step back a couple of paragraphs there)

Instructions (based on my limited knowledge)

Start by microwaving the marshmallows and water for about 1 minute in a microwave safe greased bowl – and keep heating in subsequent 30 second periods until they get all nice and puffy and gooey. Mix all that goo til it’s nice and smooth with a greased spatula, and move in to grease mixing bowl. At this point, I greased the dough-hook (do you sense a pattern here??) and turned the mixer on to the lowest setting, slowly adding the powdered sugar and letting the dough-hook knead the “dough” until it was the right consistancy. This can take several minutes.

At this point, then, either separate the fondant in to pieces to be coloured, or colour the dough all together. I did this batch in two steps, the biggest amount dyeing red while it was still in the mixer, the other part I left white and dyed a small amount black for the face details. (THIS IS REALLY REALLY MESSY – I still have some dye in my fingernails a few days later so – be forewarned if you care about that sort of thing.)(I don’t.)

Once the fondant is mixed, prepare your surface. I used a wooden table, first greased and then covered in powdered sugar. I am still wiping the sticky surface off days later. Again, be forewarned. (if you are wondering why your dog is licking the floor, that is why)

With a fondant roller (and really, it’s important to have this – it’s silicone or plastic or something like that – you can get them at most stores that have any cake supplies) roll out your dough until it’s thin enough to work with, but not so thin it rips. (that’s what I found works anyways – again – not an expert – also – you are supposed to chill this for a while if you know what you’re doing but I don’t so I used it this way as it made my life easier. Que sera.)

Next, drape the red fondant over the entire cake and smooth with a fondant smoother (also important to get – its like a flat plastic paddle – really cheap), cutting off the excess bits and tucking it in ’til it looks right to you.

I then rolled out the black fondant and carved out the mouth and eye details, and then did the same with the white. If you’re like me – stare at a picture on your boyfriends iPad of supermeatboy and then call him in to the kitchen to hit the button again when the damn thing goes to sleep and you can’t touch it with your sugary sugary hands, and carve freehand until you get something that looks kinda like it’s s’posed to.

Attach the detail pieces with a little bit of water – and then i sort of dusted the icing sugar off with a bit of vegetable oil. Again, that’s probably totally messed up and wrong of me to do – BUT I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M DOING.

And there you have him – SUPER MEAT BOY! :)

Now, make a couple of lasagnas with a sweet potato layer, cheap out and buy salad dressing cause you ran out of time and buy a frozen garlic bread, take out your homemade ice creams (thank you David Lebovitz you ice cream guru you) earlier than I did so people can actually eat it when the time comes, and wait for your friends to show up.

Have a great time.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve updated with any new recipes, but I’ve definitely been doing a lot of cooking and have much to catch up on!

This winter I’ve also been doing a lot of writing – and here’s a short story that kind of fits this post – about a dinner party in my head that went horribly horribly wrong.

Enjoy!

I hope this makes up for lost time. :)

If it doesn’t, here’s my wiener dog in a sweater. If this doesn’t do it for you, then I don’t know what will.

Peace!

Allison :)

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