Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Sometimes, a girl needs a good challenge.  Something she really needs to do b/c it’s fun and rewarding even though she barely has time to breathe… or b/c she’s just mental.  I’d like to think this is a little of both  =)

Mardi Gras cake ball set

A while back, one of my friends referred her engaged friend to me and suggested that I do her wedding favors.  (To be consistent, R also recommended me to do the baked goods for the bridal shower.)  Her friend was planning a Mardi Gras-themed wedding and wanted party favors that could double as escort cards.  I got really excited about being hired to do this and had sooo many ideas, I kinda went overboard in making suggestions.  haha  But the lovely bride-to-be and I finalized the favors to be cake balls.  This would probably be best option for easy transport and set up since the guest list had about oh, I don’t know…like, 400 guests.  Other options would have been nice, but just for the sake of making things easier for organizing and alphabetizing purposes and having gone through last minute things on my wedding day (i.e., sorting escort cards while getting my hair done an hour before the ceremony), I wanted to make things go as smoothly as possible for her.  So we decided to have cake balls and small cube favor boxes and labels.

Continue reading “Laissez les bons temps rouler!”

“Look to me in my eyeball”

Here's lookin' at you, kid...

On off weekends, Vin and I catch up on all the shows we missed during the week and one day, we got reeled into watching “Along Came Polly” with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston.  It’s not a must-see, but there’s a memorable scene where the man-of-a-million-voices Hank Azaria shows up as this jacked up scuba instructor in a Speedo with a super thick French accent who tries to assure Ben Stiller nothing will happen to his new wife.  He’s like, “Louban [Ben Stiller’s character’s name is “Reuben”], look to me in my eyeballlluuuuhhh, I promEESE you I take care of LEEsa…”  When Vin imitates Hank Azaria and says that line, it makes me laugh and I was reminded of it when I made these cake balls.

I wanted to make these last weekend for Halloween but just didn’t have time.  There was too much going on @ work for both of us and we just weren’t that into it this year.  No parties, no dressing up… total lameness, I know.  We didn’t get that many trick-or-treaters last year, so I only bought one regular bag of candy in anticipation for the holiday. Vin and I didn’t get home till close to 8 on Monday night and all the kids were done trolling for sugar by then, and since no one showed up we’re stuck with a bowl full of Whoppers, Reese’s PB cups, Take 5s, KitKats, and Jolly Rancher lollipops.

bloodshot crazy eyes

We had some time yesterday before heading to the T house so I decided I’d try out these eyeballs.  Just b/c Halloween is over doesn’t mean I can’t still make weird cake balls, dammit!  I wanted to test  out some sizes and designs for cake balls anyway b/c I have a wedding favor order to fulfill and wanted to triple check they’d fit in the favor box with a fondant design on them, too.  I took out some homemade fondant and colored and rolled tiny chunks of it, then cut out circles for the iris and pupil pieces.  I made an assortment of brown, green, blue and yellow eye parts, and as soon as I put the brown eye pieces on the cake balls, I started giggling to myself.  I laid out the pieces to make a crazy yellow eyeball and hand painted some gel for the bloodshot eye vessels.  That made me chuckle, too.  I made a bunch of different colored eye sets looking in all different directions, and I kept cracking myself in the kitchen.

Cake eyeballs and eyeball parts

Vin hears the giggling and thinks I’m chatting with my sister online and we’re making silly jokes. It’s almost time to leave (he likes getting to his parents’ super early so he can play with the dog) and he comes into the kitchen while I’m still laughing to myself and he’s all exasperated and goes, “Baby, you’re TOTALLY not ready–oh cool!!!” when he sees what I’ve been working on.  Then he heads straight back into the office to get his camera to take pics.  I grab his 80s computer guy/pedophile glasses and put the yellow googley eyes behind them and I’m laughing hysterically @ my creation while Vin’s snapping away.  It just looks too funny AND freaky @ the same time.  I go and get my glasses and put the other eyes behind them.  They look creepy, but I think it’s so hilarious and I’m so proud of myself b/c they DO look realistic. I brought them over to the T house and Vin’s fam thought the balls were fun, too.  His mom looked @ me like I was nuts for making creepy edible eyeballs, but she smiled and it was a loving look that said “no wonder my son loves you.”  <3

Fleur de lis cake ball

I also did a few quick prototypes for the wedding favors, and they came out just the way I wanted so I was extra psyched about this cake ball experiment.  =)

Coconut banoffee pie

Oh, and I decided to make a variation of banoffee pie, but this time I made coconut whipped cream instead of regular whipped cream. That sh*t was GOOD.  I brought 2 little pies to the T house and Vin’s brother and his wife loved it.  They ate one and took the other home.  Vin’s OK w/that just b/c he knows I have the rest of the homemade coconut cream and toffee @ home in the fridge and can make him his own deconstructed coconut banoffee pie parfait later. haha

AND, last but not least, a few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I could help out with baked goods for a play she was involved in, and I was more than happy to oblige.  The play is “The Laramie Project” and proceeds from the sale of the cupcakes are going to support a great cause.  I made a whole bunch of mini cupcakes with colorful frosting and delivered them to the director herself on Friday.  My friend told me the cupcakes were awesome.  I’m just glad I could help out and benefit The Matthew Shepard Foundation and Interweave.  The last performances of the production are next weekend (November 12-13) so check it out if you have the chance.

A rainbow assortment of cupcakes

Next weekend and week after will be cake ball mania @ my house.  And then it’s Thanksgiving and it’ll be cream puff mania.  And then it’s Christmas.  And sometime in-between now and New Year’s I hope to get some sleep.  Even better if I was sleeping AND catching some rays on a nice, warm beach, but thanks to Paul Sarbanes and Michael Oxley, the odds of that happening before year end are mathematically impossible.  And now, it’s the end of Sunday funday…

Seashells by the seashore…

Beach cupcakes and cutting cake... complete with shells, sand, and sea!

After this weekend’s baking project, I wish I were on a nice beach instead of creating mini edible vacation scenes.  A friend of a friend is getting married and the theme of her bridal shower: her honeymoon in the Caribbean.  As soon as I heard that, I had the perfect idea in mind.  I suggested doing a beach theme: half sand and half ocean with a couple seashells scattered on the cupcake.

Fondant starfish

This was one of my more organized baking endeavors. The execution went just as planned (save for one minor design kink, but that’s what test cupcakes are for) and I finished an hour ahead of schedule.  The baking went smoothly, the frosting wasn’t a complicated fiasco, and cutting and shaping the fondant was a breeze.  Why?  B/c I used my homemade fondant for this.  I really don’t know why I keep thinking that MAYBE using ready made store bought fondant would be better; it’s like I keep going back to it thinking it’ll be easier and faster than making my own, thinking that hey, maybe this overpriced factory processed fondant will work this time, maybe it’s changed for the better and won’t try to piss me off so quickly or be so difficult… but no.  Purchased fondant is just like that bad relationship you can’t get rid of until you meet this NEW wonderful home made fondant and learn to open up to it.  How’s THAT for an analogy, eh?  Life lessons AND pretty baked goods all in one website.  hahaha

Spending the day at the seashore... rather, spending a day recreating a whole bunch of tasty seashores.



Back to the cupcakes.  I rolled out homemade yellow fondant and punched out stars and then hand shaped them into little starfish.  I felt like the tiny starfish wasn’t enough, so I cut out forms to hand shape into those skinny, long, swirly-looking shells (kind of like conch shells… but not…).  I took a couple of the “reject cupcakes” (smaller or misshapen cupcakes) and used them as test subjects.  I frosted half of the cupcake and then patted brown sugar on it to resemble the “sand”.  (BTW, graham cracker crumbs will also work, but the texture of brown sugar is much closer to sand.)  Then I piped wavy rows of  blue frosting for the water, and then pressed one of each shell onto the cupcake.  It looked pretty much as I imagined in my head  =)


The beautiful arrangement at the bridal shower... it looks fantastic! (Photo credit: one of the bride's friends took this shot.)




I was also requested to make a small cake for the event in the same design as the cupcakes, so I cut out larger stars to shape into bigger starfish.  I pressed the brown sugar on the cake first, then piped the ocean waves.  And I used extra icing to “glue” the fondant shells onto the top and side of the cake.  Pretty cute, right?  I was happy about how these came out.  The bride texted and said they were amazing and perfect and my friend (one of the maids of honor) said they looked awesome and tasted delicious.  I think I can say from the sound of things, this was a job well done.  haha



Putting extra frosting, cupcakes and fondant stars to good use




I punched out extra stars and made some extra cupcakes to donate for this West Islip Family day event.  They’re going to give my cupcakes out as one of the prizes and my cards will be passed out.  I’m not really looking for more business or press around here since I’d like to be out of this house soon, but I have a ton of cards so I might as well distribute them.  Couldn’t hurt, right?  And I don’t feel too shabby about helping a good cause, either.

Taking a hiatus from baking for a couple weeks.  This has been too exhausting with work.  I need to recharge…

Baking dump

Things have been quite hectic these past few weeks so I’m just posting a quick blurb.  I’ve actually been doing a lot of baking, but a massive workload has been dumped upon my desk so I haven’t been able to take pics or write anything witty or creative about the goods.  Here’s a rundown of the past 3 weeks:

bright red batter --> dark red fluffy baked goodness

1) My lovely friend C asked for angel food cupcakes again for her 29th birthday (she looks 24, people  ;o) and of course, I couldn’t refuse.  She requested almost double the amount from last year, and this time requested half with vanilla frosting and half with chocolate frosting.  Done deal, woman!  C was kind enough to meet up with me @ my office for the pick up, and I felt like a d*ck for not being able to celebrate with her b/c of my workload.  =(  But I think this time around the angel food cakes came out better than last year’s batch.  I can tell b/c Vin ate all my extras… even the test “rejects”.  He said they were like eating fluffy marshmellows.  haha  I was in such a rush that day that I didn’t even remember to snap a cell phone shot of the goodies.  *sigh*  So stupid of me.

2) Our friends J and D just got engaged a few months ago and I baked red velvet cupcakes for their engagement party.  I made cream cheese frosting for this event and tried to make half of it appear to be fall colors, but homemade cream cheese frosting is fickle; I wanted a nice bold, orange color and ended up getting a peachy orange.  Meh.  The lovebirds and their guests liked them and said they were great so I could care about the color.  It was a last minute request so as long as they tasted fine and looked half decent… it’s all good.

engagement cupcakes for J & D


3) My little brother and sister’s birthdays were the end of September, but since my bro was coming to town this past weekend for Geekfest 2011, we had decided to wait to celebrate their birthdays later.  (And by “little” I’m making a reference to the age order.  I’m the oldest but I’m also the runt of the group and I have a mild Napoleon complex so I pull rank and still call them “little”  =)  I don’t quite remember the exact details that led up to this situation, but a few months back, I asked my sister what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday and somehow we were talking about being old and if she was cake decorating, then her cake would look like a My Little Pony taking a poo.  Really.  Don’t ask.  We discuss really random things and I think the two of us take the cake (pun!) when I say we can really talk about anything.  haha  So… since I didn’t have the time to sculpt a My Little Pony out of fondant or molding chocolate, I just bought this little cake topper thing from Amazon.  I had left over cake batter from the previous week’s red velvet engagement cupcakes, so I made a little 4″ filled cake with cream cheese frosting.  The top of the cake box caved in and smushed the top of the cake so I did a quick fix and covered the edge with shaved chocolate.  It didn’t look half bad for a speedy on-the-spot repair.  In went the plastic figurine, and I brought a little sandwich bag of chocolate frosting for the poo and made a little blob by the tail.  It looked weird as hell and you wouldn’t get it had I not mentioned the odd backstory, but eh, it was funny and everyone liked it.  haha

Left: chocolate frosting in a Ziploc bag... looking like a sandwich bag (which, by the way, is a perfect MacGyver substitute for a piping bag) of poo; Right: a plastic My Little Pony taking a dump on a mini red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and messily strewn chocolate shavings

My little bro (he’s almost 6 feet tall and if he didn’t have such a baby face, he’d make a good linebacker) has a thing for pies.  I don’t know why he’s obsessed with pies, but since I’m a caring and thoughtful big sis, I made little banoffee pies for him instead of cake.  Last month, a girl friend and I checked out this place in the Village that was apparently known for this British dessert made of banana + toffee.  I got a slice to go and it was really tasty!  And I realized it was super easy to make for those times you’re in a time crunch (I was working on my sister’s cake the same time I was prepping the pie)!  I was in a bind so I bought ready made graham cracker crusts, but I still made the toffee, sliced the bananas, whipped the cream and hand shaved the chocolate.  You pretty much dump those ingredients into the pie crust, refrigerate, and eat.  As long as my brother and sister liked their speedy birthday baked goods, I was happy.  It was a nice way to end our family dinner  =)

Mini banoffee pies... I should've taken a pic of a half-eaten one to show the layers =/

4) We had our open house the day after my sibs’ birthday dinner.  I figured it wouldn’t hurt to sweeten the pot (another pun! I’m on a freaking roll!) for potential buyers checking out the house, so I made about 4 dozen mini red velvet cupcakes when I made my sister’s mini cake.  I used the last of my cream cheese frosting batch and made quick ghetto swirls on all those minis.  A few of them looked sloppy, but eh, I was being speedy since I needed to set them out quickly (what else is new these days?) and plopped them onto my glass cake stands.  Vin made a nice little sign and laid out my baking cards and napkins, and we rushed out the door so the realtor could work her magic.  She told us later that the cupcakes were a hit and that quite a few people were really interested in the house… but we haven’t heard anything since  =(   We’re just waiting for those offers to come rolling in.  Any day now.  C’mon, people… my house is realllly nice…

I’m pretty much spent.  I have a bridal shower order for this weekend and wedding favors for the same beautiful bride-to be, then making mini cupcakes in support of a rising actress friend’s play, but other than that I can’t really take anything else on with the borderline suicidal workload and all the extra effort needed in keeping the house neat and clean.  Such a Catch-22 getting all this business now and I have to turn people down b/c of my real job.  Meh.  I was thinking of making something pumpkin-y for Halloween, but who knows.  Aside from these projects, I’ll probably just be baking for Thanksgiving and Christmas family holiday dinners… and catching up on sleep.  And I’m kiiiiinda sick of red velvet now.  =P


Cupcake rose garden

The rose cupcakes actually weren’t what I originally had in mind.  I’m somewhat annoyed so just look @ the pictures while I quietly sulk about it.  All I’m gonna say is if the day ever comes that I can no longer make buttercream roses in my sleep, that’ll be the end of the world.

"Earth day" birthday cupcakes

Note to self: requests for blue + green swirl frosting = cupcakes that look like “Earth”.

Rose cupcakes


Abstract art: Hello Kitty

Hello Kitty cupcake

It’s been a year since I started this so-called biz.  How do remember the date?  It’s been one year since I made custom Pinkalicious cupcakes for a coworker’s daughter’s birthday.  This year, Hello Kitty cupcakes were requested.  Due to time and budget constraints, I had to think about how to make some basic cupcakes that still clearly screamed cutesy Japanese white cat without going overboard.  (BTW, did you know that Hello Kitty is 37 years old???)

The abstract art idea popped into my head after browsing the ThinkGeek catalog (I love the stuff from that store!) and seeing a tee shirt that was a play on Hello Kitty.  It was just a white cube with the trademark bow with the headline “Hello Schröddy” and that was perfect for a cost-effective cupcake design.  I got a kick out of the physics joke about Schrödinger’s cat, too (yes, I wholeheartedly embrace my nerdiness).

A crackly and "eh"-looking experimental first bow... which is why it's called a "test bow"

I made a super light vanilla cake batter and whipped up some white vanilla frosting for basic swirl designs.  That part was easy.  Making the bows turned out to be a bigger undertaking than I expected, even when I used *gasp* ready-made fondant.  Yeah, I know… I said I’d never use it again, but I was in a pinch.  And in hindsight, MAYBE I should have just made my own.  The bright red fondant-from-a-tub was the perfect color, but it dried up soooo quickly.  After rolling out the fondant, I was barely able to cut out shapes for three bows @ max without the fondant starting to crack.  WTF?  I had to toss a chunk of it out b/c the fondant was rock hard and useless, so I just rolled out a small ball of it and cut a few shapes @ a time.  I don’t have bow-shaped cutters and had to improvise so I used circle cutters that were two different sizes: a tiny one for the middle of the bow and the sides are actually pinched-in larger circles.   After making about ten of these, I realized I left out a little nub on each side of the bow but decided eh, I was over it.  They look pretty close though, right?  The fondant dried within minutes, so I immediately placed each bow on the corner of each cupcake.

There you have it: abstract Hello Kitty cupcakes with signature red bows.  So simple and yet so kawaii!  And I saw a pic of  a really happy birthday girl loving her cupcakes =)

An army of totally cute cupcakes

When pigs fly…

Pig sprinkles atop a hot pink cloud of frosting

Labor Day weekend signifies the last weekend of summer, and most normal people spend it chilling out, maxing, relaxing all cool being all lazy, but we were the anti-thesis of beach bum, BBQ-ing, beer guzzling couch potatoes.  We had just signed the papers to sell our house on Thursday, and we had people coming to view the house Friday.  I was let out of work a few hours early on Friday for the holiday and had originally planned on baking cupcakes and making frosting for Vin’s little niece’s 2nd birthday party, but I rushed home to re-organize some clutter @ home before the potential buyers came. (Cross your fingers!  They really liked the house!)  I was too pooped to even think about baking by the end of the night, so I woke up early on Saturday to do everything before the party @ 2.

Chocolate cupcakes with hot pink vanilla-raspberry icing and pig sprinkles

The theme for Penny’s birthday was pink pigs in honor of the petting zoo animals that were coming to her party.  I knew I wouldn’t have time to plan for and decorate an entire pig cake, so I promised cupcakes instead.  The birthday girl had asked for chocolate and hot pink, so chocolate cake and hot pink frosting she got.  Vin’s sister had requested about two dozen cupcakes, and the batch of cake batter I made was enough for 37 (perfect for exactly 3 dozen cupcakes for the party and 1 test one to cut up into tiny bites to analyze and eat).  I decided to turn the extras into “adult” cupcakes… not anything with genitalia shapes (if I did, I wouldn’t be posting pics!), but added some booze and caffeine  =)  I was like, “hmmm….” and whipped up some Kahlua-coffee-mocha frosting for the extra dozen; the icing was a little melty b/c of the liquor, but it tasted really good!  AND, to top it off,  I just so happened to have pig-shaped candy sprinkles for the cupcakes.  Tiny white pigs were carefully placed on the hot pink frosting and one little pink pig was put on the grown-up cupcakes.

Chocolate cupcakes with Kahlua-mocha frosting

Both versions of cupcakes were well-received; both kids and adults loved the pink frosted cupcakes, and I clearly didn’t make enough of the coffee-Kahlua ones.  Oh well.  Next time y’all should get in on that limited edition stuff faster.  Baked goods + booze = fun time for grown-ups @ children’s parties.  haha

Now it’s back to cleaning and sorting our junk… I’d love to be able to get rid of half of my things, but that’ll happen when pigs fly.  Sorry, I had to say it  =P

Happy birthday, Penny!

Pâte à Choux aka Cream Puffs

Little Miss Irene came and went this past weekend without leaving her mark on our property.  There were some of us that said the storm would be overhyped in our area so we just stayed in and didn’t buy into the apocalyptic frenzy at the supermarkets, especially b/c we were fully stocked with liquids and snacks and batteries and candles and food anyway.  (I went grocery shopping on Monday afternoon and it was kind of funny to see bare shelves where cases and cases of water used to be and one lone dented jar of peanut butter next to tons of jelly and jam.)  We got lucky.  Some parts of the East Coast were hit hard: crazy flooding that covered cars, huge trees that crushed houses, and power outages that are STILL ongoing =(  Thankfully, no one I know got hurt…

The only thing that affected us was that the LIRR was suspended on Monday.  Man, what a pity =P  Vin and I worked from home and I was excited to use the extra time NOT COMMUTING to bake.  That didn’t happen.  A realtor was coming to check out our house the next day and I rushed to tidy up the place to appear semi-presentable.  I left work early to make sure I got home in time for the appointment with the real estate agent.  The train ride was surprisingly on time, so I had a couple hours to spare and decided to start making the dough for cream puffs, or pâte à choux en français.   I triple-checked to make sure I didn’t leave anything off the super simple ingredient list and cut the measurements in half (uhh, I have no reason to be making 80 puffs). 

Filled pâte à choux

As with many things that come out of my oven, this was a first time experiment and I made some amendments.  The first adjustment was… I mixed everything by hand.  I didn’t want to make a huge mess with the mixer so I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon and whisked the filling by hand.  And you wonder why I have Michelle Obama arms.  (Just kidding!)  I also added a whole extra egg to the dough just b/c I just felt like it.  In overused reality TV show speak, “this could totally make or break me,” and it turned out to be a great idea.  No risk, no reward, right?  (Though, I shouldn’t really be thinking such things considering my job.  haha)   The other change was that the recipe said to bake the choux for 25 min @ 380 degrees.  Uh… not in this kitchen.  I tested my first tray of puffs @ 350 for 10 minutes and they didn’t puff up enough (still tasty even though they look more like macarons than puffed pastries), so I tried the next tray @ 370 for 10 minutes.  MUCH better.  The final tray was the best @ 370 degrees for 12 minutes.  They were a buttery golden brown on top and puffed up to look like pastry roses b/c I piped them in swirl shapes.  I was worried about burning them or over-drying them, but I think if I left them in for just 30 seconds longer they would have been absolutely perfect.  Maybe.  I don’t know.  It needs to be tested.  =)

The realtor came in as I was placing the choux on the cooling rack and the house conveniently smelled awesome.  Seriously dude, I need to bottle that sh*t in a spray and have this odor wafting through the house whenever potential buyers come so maybe we won’t have our house stay on the market for long… I’d offer a year’s supply of baked goods to whoever buys our house but unfortunately I don’t think that’ll seal the deal.  haha  I whipped up a basic filling that tasted like a mix between whipped cream and Boston creme pie filling and squirted it in the puffs until they overflowed.  Vin tried one of the unfilled f*ck-ups.  He said it was still light, airy and fluffy. I couldn’t fill the flatter choux so I just dipped them in chocolate and dropped rainbow sprinkles on them.  Haphazard?  Yes!  Gross tasting? No!

I packed a bunch for my coworker since it was her birthday, hid a couple in Vin’s lunch, brought some to my sister and her boyfriend, and added some as part of a housewarming gift to a friend.  So far, the feedback has been outstanding (yay!): my coworkers loved them and said, “You always make people happy with your baking!”, my friend said “They’re so light and awesome I feel like I could keep popping them in” [A, that’s a totally TWSS  =P], and my sister said they were “Delightful!”  Vin said this is his favorite thing I’ve baked so far (crème brûlée, you just got served!) and almost ate all the extras last night.  haha  I can’t believe how incredibly easy this was, and I think for Thanksgiving I’m going to make a tower of them with caramel and spun sugar.  And hopefully, making a croquembouche won’t keep me up all night baking the day before the party.  haha

Citrus and cinnamon on Sunday

One cinnamon-lemon roll with lemon-cream cheese glaze and lemon zest

We had friends visiting this weekend and I had planned on making a nice breakfast and baking lemon rolls for them to wake up to on Sunday morning.  They ended up just staying for the day on Saturday b/c of a high-maintenance pet back @ the apartment… boo.  But I still wanted to make the lemon rolls anyway.  So I did.

Freshly baked cinnamon-lemon rolls

Making rolls isn’t so much complicated as it is time-consuming.  It mostly consists of waiting for the dough to rise.  I grated and juiced three lemons by hand (LOVE the scent… so fresh and so clean, clean!) and then made dough.  The recipe I used didn’t call for cinnamon, but I couldn’t help it.  I couldn’t have a cinnamon-less cinnamon roll.  So I snuck in a tablespoon to go along with the nutmeg.  While the dough rose, I started prepping for dinner… which isn’t baking related @ all but I was really, really excited about it so I had to share.  Plus, it ties in with the cinnamon and citrus theme anyway.  =)

Being that it was a rainy, dreary, completely blah Sunday, it was perfect weather for soup.  Not just any soup, but Vietnamese pho ♥  We had some oxtail in the freezer and I was craving this and waiting for the right time to make it, and I had the perfect opportunity being stuck inside with the crappy waterworks outside and 8 hours @ home on my hands.  This is the equivalent of an Italian grandmother spending all day making the perfect sauce; I needed all day to get the meat super tender and the broth flavor JUST right.  I started braising the oxtail around noon and worked on prepping the soup and getting the lemon rolls together @ the same time.  As the dough was rising the first time, I got my seasonings together for pho: seasoning packet, paste, fish sauce, roasted onion and ginger, star anise, peppercorns, cardamom seeds, cloves, sugar, chiles, and cinnamon sticks to go w/the theme of the day (the citrus will come later).  I just let all this simmer in the biggest pot in the house so I’d be able to save the extra broth for when I’d have my next hankering for Viet food… which will probably be for dinner tonight  haha

I went back to the dough and patted it out to fill it with the lemon-sugar mixture, roll it up, and laid them out in a Pyrex dish.  I was tempted to add more cinnamon and anise flavoring to the rolls, but I was worried it might be too much.  Maybe the smell of the soup was permeating my brain and I wanted everything to have the same taste.  haha  I had to let the cut up dough sit and rise AGAIN, so after sealing plastic wrap over the Pyrex, I sampled the broth in the metal tub on the stove.  *sigh*  The flavor definitely reminded me of home.  I added some beef balls (Asian meatballs, not the Rocky Mountain oysters variety) and prepped the rest of the fixin’s for the soup: lime, onion slices, scallions, and jalapenos for more heat and greenery and took out some hoisin sauce and Sri racha.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have fresh cilantro, Thai basil, or bean sprouts.  Enough said about the limited selection here in my ‘hood; I made do with what was available (and the special ingredients smuggled over by my mom and my sister) and it was pretty damn good.  My mom bought me a pack of broad pho noodles and I boiled them al dente so it wouldn’t get too mushy in the soup.  The oxtail fell off the bone; it was just so flavorful and tender.  And after Vin and I had two bowls each, I had enough leftover broth and meat to fill five plastic quart containers.  This means I’ll be happy with awesome dinners for the rest of this week!

Oxtail and beef ball pho... yum!

While the rolls were baking in the oven, I made a glaze topping out of cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice. I really like it; it’s not too sweet, the citrus provides a nice amount of tartness, and it’s really creamy.  The baking was the only minor glitch in my day, and even then the unexpected surprise didn’t turn out to be so bad.  Knowing how hot the oven (or what Vin referred to as “the mutant”) gets, I cut down the suggested baking time by a substantial amount and reduced the oven temp by 25 degrees after about 10-15 minutes.  Good thing I made adjustments b/c I pretty much had to take them out of the oven when I checked on them because I didn’t want them to be overdone.  After the rolls cooled a bit, I spread the glaze on and sprinkled the remaining lemon zest.  The edges were a teeny bit drier than I’d prefer and I wish it was a little gooey-er in the center of the roll, but it still tasted really good.  I just had one for lunch today and it was perfect after zapping it in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Vin had one for breakfast @ work.  I gave one to a co-worker b/c it was his birthday.  And there is STILL a huge tray leftover.  Into the fridge it went…

Fully glazed and zested lemon rolls

There are times when my fridge and I go head to head and see who will come out on top b/c only so much can fit in there.  Between all the soup components and broth containers, the lemon rolls, tons of beer I’m not able to drink, other leftovers, and the rest of the food, it was pretty packed.  But I think I inherited my dad’s packrat skills and was able to fit everything comfortably in there.  I win again, fridge… you have no chance.  =)

Somewhere over the rainbow…

(I had technical issues with my hard drive so this post is a week late.  As they say on Spartacus, “Apologies!”)

Vin’s brother hit a milestone birthday and I knew I HAD to make something better than last year’s cakeAt the same time, I was crrrraaaazyyy busy with work and other events so I needed to make something with impact, but nothing TOO complicated.  Vin emailed me this really cool shot of a clean white and vibrant rainbow cake and I knew I had to make it.  I know it’s totally ripping off someone else’s idea, but it just looks awesome.  I had to save this for a special occasion, and FT’s birthday was perfect for it.

Rainbow Pac man... I should have cleaned off the cake crumbs and wiped up the frosting smears before this was taken =/

I made a crapload of basic white cake batter then divided it into 6 containers.  (I think I’ve come up with the perfect white vanilla cake recipe.  Extra steps make it time consuming as hell, but it’s so worth it!)  Then I added food coloring to each plastic container (ROY G.  BV–no indigo in this cake) and mixed in the color by hand.  I only have two 8″ round cake pans so I couldn’t prep all the pans at once.  I wanted Red to be the base layer of the rainbow cake, so I made this layer a little thicker so it could support the rest of the cake.  Assembly was easy: cake layer, white frosting layer, cake layer, white frosting layer… wash, rinse, repeat till out of cake layers.  Then I dirty iced it, let it sit in the fridge overnight, and then put the final crisp white frosting layer on the next morning.

My pails of "paint"

From the outside, this looks like a clean, simple, plain @ss white cake.  I mean, I feel like I did a REALLY nice job making the edges perfect and smooth.  BUT, that can’t be an all boring white vanilla cake b/c 1) it’s a milestone birthday; 2) FT’s a really creative and artsy guy and would probably consider this cake “blah”; and 3) everyone expects more from me @ this point in the game.  I can’t blame them; I would be pissed @ myself too if I presented a mediocre, bland-looking cake right now.  AND, I’d also be pissed if I gave boring birthday presents.  I LOVE picking out the right gifts for people, and knowing his love for Alice in Wonderland, I got FT a set of tumblers with John Tenniel illustrations… in January.  haha  When FT was about to blow out the candles, everyone asked what kind of cake it was, and I said, “You’ll just have to wait till it’s cut,” and someone even asked if the cake was going to ooze blood or explode.  haha  Maybe next time.  But still, everyone was pretty surprised.  I was looming over FT while he cut the cake to make sure the layers looked OK; I’m so technical about this that’s all I care about.  Everyone else was like, “Ooohh it’s so colorful!  It’s so summery!” and in my head I was thinking, “yeah that’s nice… I need to check to make sure everything is clean and even or I’ll be mad @ myself.”  haha  I didn’t eat any (I had a bite of one of the extra cupcakes to make sure it was ok) and was told that this was “the most amazing tasting and looking cake we’ve ever had.”  Awww, shucks.  =)

After the candles have been blown out, it's just a plain white cake... OR IS IT???

My co-worker (expert mochi reviewer) also asked me to make a small birthday cake for her husband, so I used some of the extra batter to make a psychedelic little cake with yellow filling.  (Side note: her birthday is coming up later this month and I will make her something for that, too.)  AND, it was also my friend J’s birthday (SO many August birthdays!) and she had requested, “All I want is one cupcake from you!” and so I made some trippy rainbow cupcakes with the last of the batter.  In return, she showed me off to her office mates and booked me for birthday cakes for her family.  What a good friend.  haha

Left: A mini filled birthday cake; Right: Half a dozen birthday cupcakes

I have to say, this rainbow layer cake is perfect for recent NYS news (gay marriage!), kids’ parties, anyone who loves color, or any all around fun person that deserves a cool surprise in cake form.  Actually, this would be pretty cool for weddings, too.  It’s got the clean white look on the outside and the beautiful splashes of color inside, and it would be AMAZING in multiple tier form!  Any takers on a rainbow wedding cake?  I just want to have a reason to make it and see how awesome it would look as a massive multi-tiered cake!

Rainbow cupcakes before icing

Happy birthday, FT!