Monday, June 25, 2012

Pokemon Cakes

A former co worker who I consider to be a timeless friend has twin boys who celebrated their birthdays this weekend. All of seven years under these boys' belts. I first met the boys years ago when they were shy and clung to mom's ankles, now these boys are as confident and friendly as their mom, eager to tell stories and expend limitless energy. It has been a pleasure to see these kids develop and grow through the years.

She asked me to do the boys' birthday cakes and of course I eagerly said that I would love two. They wanted Pokemon themed cakes and both drew me detailed pictures and descriptions of what they wanted. One wanted a round cake and the other wanted a square cake, they may be twins but they are very independent. It was my first time making and using modeling chocolate, I love the idea of using it rather than fondant for taste reasons and once I dial down the proper technique for making modeling chocolate I know that it cuts much nicer lines than fondant it capable of producing. I made a Swiss buttercream, which I can not get over how much I enjoy the texture and the taste is a bit lighter than a powdered sugar based icing. Note that weird things happen to Swiss buttercream when you try and use gel coloring to tint it after the butter has been incorporated. I am going to try and avoid tinting this frosting again until I figure out why this happens. Learning. Technocolor.

What really made my day was reading this email this morning...

"The cakes were a huge hit! We just enjoyed them again this evening. Absolutely stunning, delicious, and beautiful - the kids could not keep their eyes off them...loads of comments and 'wows'! And this is the first kid party I've been to that had totally empty plates after eating cake! Thank you so much for making them. As Tom said to the boys when we were looking at them at home before the party - "This is probably the nicest birthday cake you'll ever have in your life!" And Bryce responded, "Yeah, I guess you couldn't have had anything like this before or when you were a kid because there was no Michelle around then!". One of a kind."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Revisiting Roasted Rhubarb and Strawberries

Last year, I toted home grocery bags of rhubarb from my Dad's garden. Pounds and pounds. This year I harvested stalks in late Spring from my own little patch. Last year I decided to roast some rhubarb with strawberries in a unique little sauce, it was a hit.

Over at my favorite community cooking site, Food52, the recipe was unearthed from the abyss of archives, tested and won a wildcard contest. Humbled. Published!

 Visit the original post or see what Food52 thinks of the recipe.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
– Michael Jordan

My house may smell sweetly of freshly baked cakes and pies but that as far as the sweetness goes sometimes. A few bad days of mine turned into weeks and now months have passed. I just scrapped cake batter off the oven floor and my head pounds from sugar. It happens. I am not sure where my mood started to go haywire or when it will end but that is the truth and the truth hurts. Deep daggers.

When life isn't as easy as we imagine, it is easy to let the burdens pile up. The negativity feeds upon its self, creating a need for more and more. A simple task can be tedious and bothersome without a positive attitude. My new job has been a healthy step in challenging my inner creativity, resolve and accountability. I enjoy most aspects of the bakery and the idea that I am helping preserve a craft. Like with anything I question what I am doing, thoughts career paths, monetary burdens and perception cloud the fact that I enjoy what I am doing. At the end of the day, I am the one that has to fall asleep with the choices I have made. It is my battle.

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." Winston Churchill

But is piles up. It is just not as easy as it seems it should be. Insecurity. It just piles up. This notion of doubt is poisonous. I doubt one thing and then I start to question my ability to love and be loved, to maintain loyal friendships and my ability in general. This has to stop.

Letting go, freeing my mind of the heavy clouds that linger in the dark corners is the light at the end of the tunnel. I am striving to do good work, in my career, in my marriage, in my friendships. I want to hold up my end, as hard as it is sometimes and however bad at it I sometimes am guilty of.

In the mean time, I will be busy baking cakes, making pies and carrying on doing the things I enjoy and finding satisfaction in the things that I must do.  These are a few photos of some pies I made for a friend, eight total, something I am very proud of executing with confidence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hello Kitty Cake

My aunt, my dad's sister, spoiled me as a little girl, I was even the flower girl in her wedding. I am the oldest grand child on my dad's side of the family, my aunt had kids (twins) when I was nine or so, I remember that blondie twosome fondly. Before she had kids she would have me sleep over when her husband was gone. We would watch movies, eat dessert and just hang out. I thought she was pretty cool. When she had kids I spent even more time with them, I was the perfect age to keep the kids occupied while my aunt did what she needed to do and my mom worked. Family, it is nice to have around.

My aunt knew how to decorate cakes, I think she even did her own wedding cake, maybe even my parents. She made me a birthday cake, I am sure I can dig up a photo, one of those infamous 1980's dolls cakes. A doll cake complete with Barbie from the torso up coming out of a cake that resembles  her dress. I still remember the cake. Now that I think of it, I remember a few more cakes of hers. She was good to me.

A friend ordered this cake from me for a seven year old's birthday party. I was so excited to make this cake knowing that it is going to be part of a very special day for a very special little girl, a day that she might remember when she is nearly 30. She might remember one very pink Hello Kitty cake that someone who adored her picked out just for her. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Graduation Cake

I made it through the first few weeks at the bakery without too many mistakes and humbled by the learning curve. For the first two weeks I came home barely able to keep my eyes open and my legs under me. I was exhausted to say the least. Mistakes and blunders scattered the week as did a burnt cake reminding me to always remember to set the timers. The first cake I had to decorate was for the owner's daughter. No pressure ;) I was only able to work with butter cream and a piping bag. As with most of the cakes that I have shown you here on the site, I lean to using fondant, modeling chocolate and gum paste for most of my projects. My strong suit is not buttercream.... yet.

I dig the location, there is a great view of the San Juan Islands with day light flooding the open work area. The bakery is a recycled pizza shop and nestled in the tourist town of Fairhaven. The standards are high, the owner has created a lasting business in a rough small town economy and the community has come to expect greatness from the scratch bakery.

In the free time that I once had an excess of a few weeks ago I have been busy making cakes for some friends and family. Here is a graduation cake that I made from scratch last weekend.

Monday, June 04, 2012

More cookies in the future

I am on the eve of something new, something exciting, something challenging. I talked the talk, now I must walk the walk. I got the interview then the job. It is a challenge I know I will succeed, for life is all about setting ourselves up for success. Setting up for successes takes preparation, work and a good dose of faith then follow through. Follow through. For the love of all things beautiful, make a habit of following through. People notice. Follow through is sexier than a mini skirt or that half buttoned blouse, people notice if you are late and lazy disguised in tight clothing. I digress. Back to the job that I just might have.

A wise friend turned my husband once told me never to settle. I strive never to settle, I can always push harder, further and higher. I have been hunting hunting and hunting for a job for months upon months with rarely a spark to follow. Recently, what seemed to be the golden ticket, the saving grace fell into my lap and just as fast past through my grip. Disappointment. I reeled, waxed, waned and like a good girl shed my fair share of tears. I wondered and questioned. Within the same week of hearing the humbling, I am offering my condolences speech and the glaring fact that there are always more qualified, I was offered an interview in very different career path. A job in which my heart lies firmly in the path. I smiled with confidence as I entered the restaurant, as I gazed at the walls and peered at the employees. I can do this, I will do this, I want to do this. As of now, this is it.

As I take a dream, passion, energy and turn it into reality, I know that I am headed in the right direction. This direction may not be the paycheck of my dreams or provide income to support a family but there are other benefits (no not the health ones) and they just might be of an equal importance. I am ever grateful for my supportive husband and the encouragement that he offers me almost every step of the way.

Here is to following a passion, new challenges, new people, lots more sugar and flour and a new beginning. And cookies, always more cookies.

Orange Ricotta Cookies
Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

2-½ cups ap flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons orange Juice
Large orange, zested
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixer bowl, combine the butter and the sugar, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until each one is incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, juice, and zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients. Do not over mix.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Once pulled from the oven, let the cool for a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack.
These are best the day they are made.