Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Baby Shower Coconut Cake

This past weekend, we had a little baby shower for my friend Kristy at a nice restaurant in Pittsburgh called Willow. I called the restaurant to make sure they would allow me to bring in my homemade cake and then got to work. I love the recipe from “The New Best Recipe” cookbook for coconut cake. The key, in my opinion, to any good coconut cake is toasting the coconut and using only real ingredients (real butter and no imitation anything). After making the cake and frosting it with the coconut buttercream, I pulled out the pram template I designed for another shower (Manske's, of course) and did a flat pram on top with a little decorative royal icing around the edges. Lots of fun and very tasty!

Animal Mobile

Baby mobiles tend to be either insipid pastel things or extravagant affairs with blinking lights and crooning lullabies. When my baby, Adam, was born I looked and looked for a simple bright mobile to hang above his crib. Unfortunately, the one I liked cost $100 so I decided to take matters into my own hands. Literally.

I bought some felt, colored thread, and seed beads at my local craft store. My friend Anne showed me how to take images offline that I liked, cut them out, and use them to trace my design on the felt. I cut out two of each shape, stuffed them with wool, and sewed them together with a blanket stitch. A few beads sewn on for eyes and some felt glued on for ears and legs made my felt animals just detailed enough. I tied these shapes onto the inner ring of an embroidery hoop that I had painted yellow. Some bright ribbons were glued onto the ring and tied together to complete the mobile.

Now, Adam drifts off to sleep while smiling at the sheep, giraffe, kangaroo, and porcupine that float overhead.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Train Cake

When it was time to make the cake for Sam's 4th birthday this year, I pulled out the train cake pan I conveniently received for Mother's Day. I had only attempted a cake with this much detail on the pan once before and the results had not been very good. Thankfully, I learned a lot from that terrible castle cake and with a tip from Sassy, the train cake came out wonderfully. The greasing and flouring part of the process is critical. I sprayed the pan with Pam to get every nook and cranny, but then wiped out as much as possible with a paper towel. The grease is still there, but not in big droplets which leave pock marks on the exterior of your cake. Then, I used Wondra® flour, which is a special flour usually used for sauces and gravies. It is super fine and also helps the outside of the cake remain nice and smooth. Finally, Sassy warned me not to follow the instructions on the cake pan, which said to "spread the batter so it reaches the top edges of each well". Instead, I filled the cake wells 1/2 to 2/3rds like normal and then, using a small spatula, pulled the batter up to the edges on all sides. That worked perfectly! I wanted a nice color on the cakes without losing the detail behind the frosting. So, I used a simple recipe of powdered sugar, water, vanilla, and food gels to create a thick, runny glaze that coated beautifully. I wanted to go back with white piping and add more detail and little candies, but I ran out of time. Thankfully, Sam had no idea and the cake was a hit with the kids.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Peach Season

It is peach season here in Maryland. Since my son has a penchant for picking every growing thing and eating it, we decided to take him peach picking. Eighty peaches later, with peach fuzz tickling our necks and arms, we hauled our loot home and perused recipes. So far, I've made peach jam, peach cheesecake, cold fruit soup, and a peach pie, of course. I still have a few peaches left but they are starting to get mushy. I saw a recipe for roasted peach ice cream, touted as a perfect way to use peaches beyond ripeness. Maybe you'll see a picture of that soon!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

All Aboard Invite

We’re less than two weeks away from Sam's 4th birthday and the train party plans are chugging right along. We'll be walking around the neighborhood tomorrow to visit his little friends and give them their “tickets” to the party. He is very excited about the steam engine on the ticket and can’t wait to eat cake made with the Williams-Sonoma train pan I conveniently received for mother’s day.