Friday, April 29, 2011

Cake Decorating 101 and Other Disasters…

A co-worker recently loaned me her non-stick (allegedly) cupcake cake pan which, for those who aren’t familiar with such culinary things, is divided into two halves. Anxious to try it out and having the perfect occasion (a birthday party at work), I eagerly accepted the challenge because, “How hard could it be?”

Famous last words.

I should know better by now, but somehow, history always repeats itself.

I think my first mistake was mixing two different cake styles – one regular and one mousse. For one thing, the mousse, which very much resembled a lava cake once in the oven, took twice as long to bake as the regular cake mix in the adjoining pan.

My second mistake was not allowing myself enough time to calmly and expertly cool and then frost the two halves of my cake. I initially started baking at 7pm, but quickly halted when I realized I didn’t have enough eggs. By the time I got back from the store, about an hour had lapsed.

Although behind schedule, I preheated the oven and then mixed the two different batches of cake mix taking turns pouring them into their respect halves. So far so good.

About a half hour later or so I checked the rapidly rising cakes. Although the vanilla cake seemed done, the chocolate (mousse) half still clung to the toothpick. I had a bit of a dilemma. How to let one cake cool while allowing the other to continue to bake? I scratched my head trying to figure out how to remove one cake without also tipping out the other. I ended up using a piece of wax paper and a plate. After much poking and prodding with a knife to loosen the vanilla cake, I was finally able to (mostly) pry it loose leaving only a small chunk behind.

Fast forward to about a half hour later when the chocolate mousse was finally solid enough and had been removed from the pan (with almost no trouble). I decided the time was right to finally join the two halves [I had previously frosted the middle]. Although there was a bit of space between the top and bottom, it looked okay – at least from the front.

Next order of business was to frost the top half and then decorate it. It started out smooth and easy enough, but the icing soon began dripping over the bottom half and onto the surrounding pan. After a few feeble attempts at triage, I finally gave up and surveyed the damage. It was bad. Real bad. My cupcake cake definitely showed my lack of expertise and was, quite frankly, laughable.

In my attempt to perhaps salvage the disaster, I had the idea to cut a piece off the back so the cake could lay flat displaying only its good side. However, once I did that, gravity had other plans and the situation went from bad to worse. In an effort to cut my losses, I decided to save the bottom (chocolate mousse) half for my husband and I and tossed out the rest. The bottom half, with white frosting half melted all over it, kind of resembled one of those cake candles you find at craft fairs. My husband said it actually tasted alright, but would be better with the mousse packet included in the cake mix box. That’s another project for another night…

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Do Something Different…

I don’t know about the rest of you, but every now and then I get bored with the old routine and try to deviate it, ever so slightly, to shake things up a bit.

Here are some examples of what I’ve done over the last week or so.

Thursday – Having never attended the Maundy Thursday mass at my church, I decided to go and check it out. At an hour and a half long, it was certainly shorter than I recall the Good Friday mass being. It was also a lot more crowded than I anticipated, but then it is a holy day of obligation and not as many people have to work in the evening.

Friday – It was more an accident than anything else that I ended up differing my routine. I usually try to abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent preferring instead to have fish or pasta or something. I accidentally had a piece of pepperoni pizza (momentarily forgetting that pepperoni is meat). Later I was trying to drive to a local gadget store and got hopelessly lost, so I guess you could say I went ‘exploring,’ even if it wasn’t on purpose.

Saturday – I shopped our local grocery store in the reverse order (starting out at the pharmacy side and finishing by the produce). I’ve done that before, but certainly not often.

Sunday – I attended a different church for the annual Easter Sunday service. I enjoyed it so much, I think I will go there on all the major holidays (especially as it’s less crowded and a lot more comfortable than my church). Also, I watched a pre-recorded program in the middle of the afternoon, which is something I almost never do (preferring to do chores all afternoon and enjoy TV in the evening).

Monday – I read a book while working out on my stationery bike. I’ve only ever done that once before.

Tuesday – I went to the gym, which is something I haven’t done since November. Also, when I got home I just sat down and watched TV for like an hour, instead of making dinner.

Wednesday – I went to the grocery store and had one of their employees make me a tray of pinwheels using some wraps they had in the back. I’ve never done that before.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Shopaholic (by Judy Waite, also by Sophie Kinsella)

I Love Old Things (by Harold Darling)

Books Do Furnish a Room (by Leslie Geddes Brown)

Charity Shopping: the Thrift Lifestyle (by Lettice Wilkinson)

The Anglophile (by Laurie Gwen Shapiro)

Life Would be Great if I Lived in that House (by Meghan Daum)

Hector and the Search for Happiness (by Francois Lelord)

Good to a Fault (by Marina Endicott)

I Know I’m Not Supposed to Say This…But I’ll Say It Anyway (by Dick Feagler)

The Lazy Environmentalist (by Josh Dorfman)