Archive for September, 2011

Favorite Shots: A Cryogenic Inch

This summer, there were some raspberries in the fridge. They were a little “imperfect” and needed to be sorted through. I found mould (English spelling), I found mysterious juices. But my most favorite finding was Little Inch. He had frozen in an upright position on the box of raspberries. I may have freaked out a little bit because of his cuteness. The best part was that as I sorted through the raspberries, Inch thawed out and continued on his merry way like nothing had happened. Little did he know it was, like, a week later. In human terms, that is 17 years! It’s like the 3rd season of Alias. Legit.

Living life in the present moment,


I Got It Right: Secret Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

My friend Tara came to visit me once. We had lots of fun, mostly eating burgers and chatting. She happened to visit during a bit of a busy time, so I spent a lot of time dragging her around to different events at which I was obligated to be. I don’t think she minded. She is very personable and happy.

And besides, we made the best chocolate frosting ever. And then no one was complaining. No one did complain. The complaints were non-existent.

Let me just say something about this frosting. It is crazy good. I have had–count ’em–four independent confirmations of its awesomeness. It is unlikely I will ever feel the need to improve upon it. It has some secwet ingwedients.

And we baked an excuse to eat frosting, vanilla cupcakes. I didn’t know it until later, but I actually made these cupcakes before. Here I was, thinking, “Oh, I’ll just try out a new vanilla cupcake recipe. It’ll probably be better than the last ones I made.”

They were better than the last ones I made, probably owing to Tara’s cheerful presence and butter-hwhipping skills. Do you know anyone that puts the h sound in front of their wh words? So weird for real. You can find the recipe for Ultimate Vanilla Cupcakes here.

This is a picture of  Tara complaining about how I dragged her along all weekend. :] Isn’t she pa-retty?

To finish up, i sprinkled them with some leftover Heath bits. Although, these babies needed nothing, it was clear that they needed something.

Christ is life. Everything else is this chocolate buttercream,


The Best Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

makes enough to frost 24 cupcakes or one 8-inch layer cake

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup Ovaltine (or hot chocolate mix, like I used)

Cream together butter, cocoa powder and salt. Butter mixture will be very thick. Turn off the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl and add powdered sugar. Turn mixer on low and mix in powdered sugar while adding milk and vanilla extract. As the sugar incorporates, raise the speed of the mixer to beat the frosting. Beat until smooth. In a 1-cup measuring glass, stir together heavy cream and Ovaltine. Turn mixer speed to medium and pour cream mixture into frosting in a slow, steady stream, until you’ve reached your desired consistency.  You may not need the full amount of Ovaltine and cream.  Spread or pipe onto cupcakes.

Pipe Dream #63: To Not Have To Try Try Again – Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

So I made this cake once. I’m sure I told you about it. When I bake, I usually bake new things. This means that approximately 80 percent of the time I’m not sure if what I’m baking will actually turn out. Despite my enviably calm demeanor and seemingly careless measuring of ingredients, you can be sure that I am crossing my fingers on the inside. Figuratively, that is. Haha, I edit my own writing, and I am definitely not editing out that last idea. Anyway, this cake was especially nerve-wracking because not only had I never made it before, but it was for a wedding. So it was like, plan plan plan to make the cake, drive four hours, make the cake that night, stay up til midnight finishing it, be a bridesmaid the next day. If it hadn’t turned out on the first try, I would’ve been sunk.

Luckily, I didn’t fail and the cake turned out great. It is actually the vanilla version of this chocolate cake, which was a total and massive success. The vanilla version was also a success. It was better than the cupcakes I made for the same wedding. And who can say, maybe it would have been better if I had failed this cake. They say you learn lessons from your mistakes. ‘If at first you don’t succeed’ and all that. But whatever, I prefer to do it right the first time.

P.S. I only have one process shot for this cake. I hope you can figure it out. I was a wickle bit busy.

I’ll say it again, poor photo, wonderful flavor. Have fun!

No regrets,


Vanilla Buttermilk Cake
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes

Makes one three-layer 9-inch round cake

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.

Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.

Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.

Favorite Shots: Neon Is So Last Season

I heard neon brights were in for last summer. I don’t even like neon. Trends are dumb. But I like this picture.

I don’t like the NLT too much either. But I do like how it says this verse:

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:3-4

Hoping your day is especially bright today,


I Got It Right: Wild Grape Jelly

After the main part of my summer job was over, I had a bit more time to pursue other interests. It was kind of weird working 9 to 5 and then getting real free time; I pretty much did not know what to do with myself.

I did make wild grape jelly, though. After discovering a jackpot of wild grapes growing near the creek, I had spent weeks picking them off and spitting the seeds out as I walked. Wild grapes are one part juice, three parts seed. It was fun, but I wanted something more out of the experience. After floating around a few ideas, grape jelly seemed like the most prudent. So I made it.

I picked a heaping ice cream pail full of grapes at first, which gave me about three cups of juice. If you pick your own, you might want to go with a couple pails full. Acutally, you will want to go with a couple of pails full. Late August through the late September is the best time to pick wild grapes. Perfect timing.

To get the juice out of the grapes and into a jelly, I put on some gloves and squished them into a pulp. Despite the gloves, my hands were still stained and burning after about ten minutes. Good thing I didn’t smash the grapes with my feet like I wanted to, yes? That would have been so romantic for about thirty seconds.





I found a neat website all about wild grapes to help with making the jelly. WildFoods suggests putting the pulp in a cheesecloth to get the rest of the juice out, but I hate dealing with cheesecloth to the point of avoiding recipes that include it. However, in this case, I was pretty committed by the time I read about the cheesecloth, so I decided to MacGyver a cheesecloth out of a really fine strainer. It worked pretty well; I just had to keep squishing the pulp into the strainer. WildFoods also cautions not to break the seeds in the grapes or boil the skins to get the juice. Keeps away the bitterness, so they say.

I’ve never canned anything in my life. It sounds intimidating and involves a lot of boiling water and hot glass. I can be kind of a sissy about getting burned. If you’re a-feared in a small way, here is the link to the USDA’s definitive jelly-canning guide. Who even knew the government published things like this?Additionally, Ball Jars has a pretty, simple website that is all about making it easy to can. They’re probably just trying to sell product by  making canning less intimidating, but I did enjoy the site. And! I didn’t fail! The jelly jelled! Up from the ashes of disaster grew the roses of success! (The ashes of disaster being, in this case, severe boredom.)

The flavor is so excellent; every other jelly I have tried seems watered down in comparison. P.S. I should have skimmed that foam off the top, I found out later. Ah well, it makes for a cool picture.

I am thinking that these will make lovely gifts, don’t you?

Go crazy,


Wild Grape Jelly

Adapted from

Take four cups of undiluted wild grape juice and mix in one package of Sure-Jell and bring it to a boil. Add five and a half cups of sugar all at once and stir constantly until it returns to a vigorous rolling boil. Let it boil briefly for a minute or two (still stirring) until it seems to want to foam up over the top. Then remove it from the heat, pour into sterilized jars, and seal in a boiling water bath for about five minutes.

Pipe Dream #62: To Make Real Breakfasts – PW’s Cinnamon Rolls

Ok, just stop for a minute. Take a look. Imagine that smell.

I hope you are salivating, because I am. And heaven knows I love blending into the crowd. Question: have you ever gleeked on someone accidentally? That has to be one of the most embarrassing things in the world. Besides the expulsion of internal “vapors” after eating stuffed chicken breast. Yikes.

Question: Have you ever gleeked on someone on purpose? I’ll pray for you. Don’t ever do that to me. Seck.

Anyway, this recipe takes time. It takes patience. It takes yeast.

Some people are scared of yeast. They think it’s kind of fussy and easy to mess up. I’ve never had much trouble if I follow recipes carefully. The key is to get it the right temperature. Soothing warmth. Soothing warmth.

But I promise, these cinnamon rolls are something else. It’s late, and I can’t think of the proper descriptive words to come up with the blissful euphoria that accompanies the baking, eating and glorious aftermath that accompanies these rolls. But they are worth braving your yeast fears. No regrets now.

In this recipe, the yeast is enveloped in an oil and milk blanket. There are no horses in the original recipe, but I am going to use the word ‘adapted’ liberally.

I used my mummy’s rolling pin. It reminds me of my childhood. Plus, it is gourmet.

I’m not going to post a whole bunch of tips and tricks about this recipe because it is a PW recipe, and she explains everything so well that I would be adding nothing to the experience. If you need a great explanation for every step, follow the link below.

Oh please do make these for everyone you know (and me). The recipe makes a bunch, and they are the best cinnamon rolls I have efer eaten.

Morning, noon and night,


PW’s  Cinnamon Rolls, straight up

1 quart whole milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 packages active dry yeast, 0.25 ounce packets
8 cups (plus 1 cup extra, separated) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
1 teaspoon (scant) baking soda
1 tablespoon (heaping) salt
plenty of melted butter
2 cups sugar
generous sprinkling of cinnamon

1 bag (2 pounds) powdered sugar
2 teaspoons maple flavoring
½ cups milk
¼ cups melted butter
¼ cups brewed coffee
⅛ teaspoons salt

Mix the milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point). Turn off heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to 1 hour. When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in both packages of Active Dry Yeast. Let this sit for a minute. Then add 8 cups of all-purpose flour. Stir mixture together. Cover and let rise for at least an hour.

After rising for at least an hour, add 1 more cup of flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir mixture together. (At this point, you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or two, if necessary. Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down).

When ready to prepare rolls: Sprinkle rolling surface generously with flour. Take half the dough and form a rough rectangle. Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape. Drizzle 1/2 to 1 cup melted butter over the dough. Now sprinkle 1 cup of sugar over the butter followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon.

Now, starting at the opposite end, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you. Keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Next, pinch the seam of the roll to seal it.

Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in a seven inch round foil cake or pie pan. Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾ to 1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.

Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. Let the rolls rise for 20 to 30 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees until light golden brown, about 15 to 18 minutes.

For the frosting, mix together all ingredients listed and stir well until smooth. It should be thick but pourable. Taste and adjust as needed. Generously drizzle over the warm rolls. Go crazy and don’t skimp on the frosting.

Favorite Shots: Me + Emmy

This shot is neither recent nor taken by me. My beautiful cousin, Emmy, shot it last summer for fun. She’s always had a ton of creative talent, and her photography is no exception. Check out her blog here. You won’t regret it.


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