Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cake Fun - Small Wedding Cake with Honeybees and Hydrangeas

An old friend from high school is a frequent reader of my blog.  She contacted me when she needed someone to make her (small) wedding cake and asked if I might be interested in making it for her.  How could I say no?

She said that she wanted blue hydrangeas and honey bees.

The bees took three tries to get right, but I have to say, they represent one of my prouder cake decorating moments!

I found this post with royal icing bees, and I knew that was the direction I wanted to go.  But - I wanted the wings to look more lifelike, so I decided to make them out of gelatin!  When we visited the Montshire museum recently, I took some inspiration pictures of honey bees, so that I would have something to work off of.
That's about the right color
For the royal icing, I used the King Arthur Flour recipe and their meringue powder.  I colored some of it an orangey-yellow to mimic the color of a honey bee's body, and I colored some of it black for the head and legs.  I used food coloring markers for the stripes on the bees.

For the wings, I made gelatin plastic.  I made a half recipe from what the tutorial used.  To one packet of unflavored gelatin, I added 3 Tbsp of water and heated, adding just a tiny bit of gold food coloring.  Once dissolved, I poured the gelatin onto a silicon sheet and allowed to harden, making sure it was spread quite thinly.  It ended up beng about the thickness of paper, which was perfect for cutting out wings.  I let it harden completely before working with it.

The first attempt was piped onto parchment directly.  I did not like the way they were flat and lifeless looking.

The second attempt was piped onto rounded plastic molds that I got for making fondant leaves once.  They looked awesome - but they were stuck on the molds and I couldn't get them off!  I was very sad.

Finally, I scraped the poor second attempt bees off the molds, lined the molds with parchment, and got to work on what would be my third and final batch of bees.  They were perfect.

To make them, I first piped ovals out of the yellow and allowed them to dry entirely.

When they were dry, I used a black food coloring marker to draw the stripes.  The bodies kind of look like Charlie Brown shirts to me.

One of these bees has no wings yet!
To the bodies, I piped little heads and legs, and then used some of the black icing to attach the wings to the bodies.  I just put a little bit of royal icing on the tips of the wings and then carefully and gently pressed them onto the bees' backs.

So now, I am really good at bees - and I want to try making butterflies and dragonflies!

For the hydrangeas, I just made a small batch of marshmallow fondant and colored it blue.  I then used a hydrangea cookie cutter to cut the flowers themselves, drew veins down the petals and poked a little hole in the center.  I used wire stamen to attach the flowers to the cake - these are not edible! (I warned the bride about that)

Now, the cake!  She wanted a layer of chocolate, a layer of vanilla, and a filling of dark chocolate ganache with crushed hazelnuts.  I also made a couple dozen cupcakes for her.

For the dark chocolate ganache, I used a Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Pound Plus bar - and found out that the necessary 2:1 ratio of mass of chocolate to mass of cream works out perfectly to use one package of the Trader Joe's shelf-stable whipping cream for one bar of chocolate!  I chopped up the chocolate in the food processor after breaking it roughly, and then heated the cream until hot but not boiling, then stirred the cream into the chocolate to melt.  It made perfectly smooth and creamy ganache.  I allowed the ganache to cool to spreading consistency before filling the cake.

I made a vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream to frost the cake.  This is the same frosting that I used for The Boy's birthday cake, and I think it is my favorite cake frosting.  It takes a while, but it is satisfying to make and both beautiful and delicious.

To assemble the cake, I cut a hole into the center of the cakes with an apple corer.  I made cake boards with cardboard and covered them with saran wrap and also cut holes in the center to match the holes in the cake.  For each layer, I sliced them in half with a sharp bread knife and used my cake spatula, then piped some buttercream around the edge of the layer before filling with ganache and sprinkling with hazelnuts.  I layed the second layer of the same size on top of the filling, then continued by adding the cake round and the next size layer.

At the end of construction, I filled the hole in the center with dowels, to keep the layers solid.
Crumb coat
Once construction was complete, I did a crumb coat on the entire cake and let it set for about half an hour.  I followed that with a thicker layer of the buttercream, smoothing as much as possible.

Finally, I placed the flowers and bees on the cake, an finished off by piping some little rosettes around the edges.

Voila!  One wedding cake  - plus cupcakes (filled with ganache and hazelnuts)!!  It was fun to do, and I hope that they have a fantastic wedding!

Disclaimer: Though I used Trader Joe's products, this blog is not sponsored by Trader Joe's.  All opinions are my own (or the kids')

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Lunches for an Outing: Montreal Science Center - Caves of Lascaux Exhibit!

When I saw that the Montreal Science Center was hosting a traveling exhibit of the famous Cave Paintings of Lascaux, I immediately knew that we had to go with my mother.  My mother has always been fascinated with history (and pre-history), and she and my father raised me to love them, too.

The Girl loves art and was thrilled when we told her we were going to see some of the earliest art ever discovered.

The Boy preferred the more active part of our visit
The Boy doesn't quite have the history background yet to really understand how outstanding this exhibit was, but he will remember it when he gets older.  He also enjoyed the other parts of the science center - a big science play room.

We were floored by the exhibit.  It was amazing to see how sophisticated the artistic techniques were from 20,000 years ago.

Though the rest of the center was a bit of a disappointment.  I would not have made the trip to Montreal just for the science center if the Cave exhibit had not been there.  The Montshire and the Boston Museum of Science are far superior, in our opinion.

Lunches for our day
Making the pocket sandwiches with Cute-z-cute
For the lunches, I brought some tiny champagne grapes that I finally found at Trader Joe's (their season is very short, so we're gobbling them up when we can get them!), trail mix with crystallized ginger, rolls of black forest ham, apple slices, leftover Thai curry waffles, and a tiny pocket sandwich with some sun-dried tomato hummus inside, made with CuteZCute Cuddle Palz.

We can't wait for our next adventure - this one was sure one that we will remember for years to come!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Wacky Worldly Waffle Wednesday: Thailand

The Boy requested a Wacky Worldly Waffle Wednesday dinner tonight, and we decided upon Thailand for inspiration.

I had some Satay Peanut Sauce from Trader Joe's, and some chicken drumsticks, so I started there.

The kids and I adored this!  We all gobbled it up, and I can't wait to have leftovers in my lunch tomorrow.

Thai Curry Waffles with Satay Chicken Drumsticks and Coconut Milk Zucchini

Satay Chicken Drumsticks

1 jar satay peanut sauce (I used Trader Joe's brand)
5-6 chicken drumsticks

Thai Curry Waffles

2 c pancake/waffle mix
2 egg whites
1 c coconut milk
1/4 c Thai Yellow Curry Sauce (from Trader Joe's - use slightly less if using a more concentrated curry paste)
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp lemongrass paste (I have this awesome paste in a tube) - could subsitute lime juice

Coconut Milk Zucchini

1 small zucchini
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp Penzey's Bangkok Blend
1/4 c coconut milk

To make the chicken, marinate the drumsticks for 8 hours or more in the satay sauce.  I started this in the morning before going to work.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 450 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and put a baking rack on top.  Place the chicken on the rack and bake ~40 minutes, or until internal temperature is 165 F.
My lemon grass herb blend paste
Meanwhile, mix the batter for the waffles.  Preheat waffle iron and cook according to your waffle maker's instructions.
Cooking down the coconut milk
While you are making the waffles, slice the zucchini into thin slices (about 1/8" thick).  Preheat a saute pan and melt the coconut oil.  Sprinkle the zucchini with the Bangkok blend and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Deglaze the pan with coconut milk and allow the coconut milk to cook down until thickened and nearly absorbed into the zucchini.

To serve, place some of the zucchini on top of a waffle and top with a drumstick.  Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I love Trader Joe's and Penzey's, but they do not sponsor this post or this blog. All opinions are my own (or that of the kids)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Recipe: Naan Pizza with Brinjal Eggplant

I was inspired to make the Branjal eggplant dish that (originally made for my Sri Lankan inspired waffles) when I found this beautiful graffiti eggplant at the store.

I also found some black garlic and wanted to give that a try - I've never used it before, but I've seen it on Food Network.

I decided to make naan pizzas, using frozen garlic naan, and it was amazing!

This was an incredibly quick dinner, because the naan was already cooked.  All I had to do was make the eggplant, then spread some mango ginger chutney on the naan, put some of the eggplant on top, and add a little cheese.  I used a shaved cheese blend from Trader Joe's - a little cheddar or asiago would work as well.

Naan Pizza with Brinjal Eggplant

1 small eggplant, sliced into about 1/2" slices
1 Tbsp tumeric
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 c vinegar
1/3 c sugar
1/2 tsp dried ginger
3 cloves black garlic (could use regular garlic)

4 frozen naan (or use pre-cooked pizza dough)
1/4 c mango ginger chutney (I used Trader Joe's brand)
1/4 c shaved cheese mix (I used Trader Joe's blend, use your favorite mild cheese)

Toss eggplant slices with tumeric.  Heat 1 Tbsp coconut oil at a time in a saute pan and cook eggplant in batches until browned on both sides.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Pour vinegar into pan and deglaze.  Stir in the sugar and ginger.  Once the sugar is dissolved, add the eggplant back to the pan and add the garlic.  If you are using fresh garlic instead of black garlic, add the garlic with the vinegar to cook briefly.  Cook until the eggplant has soaked up the liquid.

Preheat the oven according to your naan (or crust) directions.  For my naan, I preheated the oven to 400 F.  I let the naan cook (basically to thaw) for 1 1/2 minutes, then removed from the oven and spread each naan with some chutney, topped with brinjal eggplant, and sprinkled just a little cheese on each one.  After topping, return the naan pizzas to the oven nad bake for 2-3 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

Disclaimer: I love Trader Joe's, but they do not sponsor this post or this blog. All opinions are my own (or that of the kids)

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Lunches for an Outing: Camp Drop-off and another Trip to the Montshire Museum - 7.13.14

The Girl is off to her first ever sleep-away camp!  She worked very hard to sell a ton of girl scout cookies to earn some of the camp tuition, and she carefully chose the camp she wanted to attend.  She ended up choosing a swimming and water based camp, and she couldn't have been more excited.

It turned out that the camp was only about 15 minutes away from the Montshire Museum, which we visited on Friday.  I asked a friend to join us on the trip, because I know that he adores fossils.

Basically all of the pictures I got at the museum are of him playing with the exhibits.  It was wonderful.

For lunches, I packed a caramelized onion cheddar sandwich on a sandwich thin, a couple Saturn peaches, ginger cat cookies, and cherries.  We also had some cheese puffs on the side.  It was a happy lunch.

Happily, the Montshire is also around the corner from King Arthur Flour, so my friend and I got some fuel for the drive home.

The Girl said that she was worried about going to camp for only one reason - she would miss my cooking.

... then, she saw that they were planning on serving pizza for dinner, and she didn't seem so worried anymore.
Her brother is going to miss her this week..
I hope that she has an amazing week at camp, and I think we might stop by the museum again when we pick her up on Saturday!

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