Archive for October, 2011

Favorite Shots: Quintessentially British

When I went to college, I was fairly surprised that fraternities and sororities were actually like those portrayed in the movies. Usually Hollywood over-exaggerates everything, but in this case, it was true.

Another thing that Hollywood does not over-exaggerate is the British-ness of Britain. Look at this picture! That is real life! And doesn’t it just confirm everything you’ve ever thought about British clotheslines?

Chronically yours,


Pipe Dream #65: To Be A Better Setter

I’ve told you about Lem before. Fabulous photographer, excellent cousin, stunning beauty. The list goes on.

I was privileged to take a few photos of her before I left for Jolly Old England. What a doll she is.

Unfortunately, we had a limited time in which to shoot, and the lights were getting dim. Well, I guess that is not the unfortunate part—her settings were awesome. The more disappointing part is that I don’t know enough about my settings to take really excellently lit photographs.

We made the best of the situation, though, and had a great time experimenting with lighting and settings. Lots of experimenting. Hers were better. I have no idea how she got and ISO of 400 at this stage of dusk. What a gal.

Look at that face.

My day is vastly improved,


P.S. It is my lifelong dream to be good at volleyball. The title of this blog just reminded me.

Wedding Testers: Gluten Free Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

So you may have noticed that I posted this blog once before. Well, the pictures anyway. It was basically blogging mistake #1040. Heaven knows the pictures are probably enough, but in case you wanted the recipe for these gluten free chocolate cakes that don’t taste gluten free, here are some words for you.

I made these cupcakes for couple back in July. This is the last installment of the cupcake recipes I did for them. They had decided that honey poached pear cupcakes were not enough, that strawberry cupcakes alone would not cut it, and that key lime cupcakes would not satisfy by themselves. They were missing something. What were they missing, you ask? The answer, my friends, is chocolate. And, of course, a gluten free option for those friends who are intolerant of wheat gluten. Very considerate of others, they are.

I struggle with gluten free food. It’s hard to find, very expensive and finnicky to prepare. And besides that, many gluten-free cakes are hard as rocks. No one wants a cake that is as hard as a rock. So I tried to find a recipe that was interesting and cake-like. The following pictures demonstrate my fails.

My first idea was to stir the cherry jam directly into the batter before the cupcakes were baked. This turned out to be bad news. I actually have no idea why the cupcakes bubbled up like acid and remained flat without any trace of cherry flavor.

My second thought was to drop the cherries on top of the batter before the cupcakes were baked. This way, each cupcake would have a bit of cherry in it for sure.

While these were a bit better, they still lacked zing. Henceforth, I will only use the word ‘zing’ to describe cherries and goat cheese. Goat cheese has so much zing. For real.

I was a little discouraged that night. Instead of trying a new method, I used the extras on this tester to make several regular-size cupcakes…and to practice piping shells. I’m trying to get better at piping shells. It’s a struggle. Struggles, struggles, everywhere, but not a drop to drink…yet. (Name that movie. False. I’m just going to say it. My family may have watched Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory too much when I was little. It comes up in my blog all the time. That is so weird.)

The day before the event, I gave it a final shot. It turned a far more effective way to fill the cupcakes. First, I cut a little cone into the top of the cupcake, then spooned a cherry piece into the hole. Once covered with frosting, the cherries are perfectly invisible and meld nicely with the chocolate cake.

It worked out in the end! Like the way most couples work out in romantic comedies and the way most stomachs work out after Pizza Ranch excursions.

For yay,


One Bowl Gluten Free Chocolate Cherry Cake

Adapted from

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (see recipe below)
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon guar gum or 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
5 tablespoons cooking oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 eggs
1 cup water
cherry preserves
Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl. Add all liquid ingredients besides the preserves, and mix well. Bake in greased and floured 9″ square pan or lined cupcake tin at 350 F, for 30 – 35, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. If you are making cupcakes or mini cupcakes, check your time at about 10 minutes just to see how things are getting on. It’ll probably take them less time to bake.
Once the cupcakes are finished and cool, cut a small cone out of the top of the cupcake. Fill each hole with cherry preserves. Frost as desired.
Gluten Free Flour Blend
6 cups oriental rice flour (Thai)
2 cups potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
Blend well and store in an airtight container. I had to order the rice flour and tapioca starch online. I bit that bullet and was rewarded with awesome cupcakes. You can do the same. Also, check Festival Foods or Lund’s or something. They’ll have it.

Favorite Shots: My Apron

This is my favorite apron. I don’t even want to show you all of it because I love it so much. Hopefully seeing a hemline is as much of a treat for you as it is for me.

I’m selfish,


P.S. Also pictured, my feet.

How To Illuminate Your Mind And Bakes

Back when my family got Netflix, we went through a period where we watched all three seasons of Cake Boss in about 3 weeks. (I’ve talked about this before, and made some of the prettiest cupcakes ever.) It was pretty legit. One of the coolest things on that show is how they make everything look so real. They use all kinds of things to achieve different special effects: edible ink, fondant, gum paste. But one of the prettiest things they use is luster dust. My mind was illuminated. I had never seen anything of the kind. It is kind of like loose glitter eyeshadow, really sparkly and brushable. I’ve never tried putting it on my face, but that’s only because it is kind of spendy.

Because this stuff actually costs money, I was a tad miffed when I knocked a significant amount on the floor. I was concerned enough that I spend a good five minutes sweeping it up and putting it back in its minute jar. When it was done, my body was showing the strain; I looked like I had just gotten off a shift at Pier One during the Christmas rush (slightly  pop-eyed, jumping at small movements and full of glitter), but I was soothed. Most of the powder was back in its place.

I bought the color SUPER GOLD with which to test my abilities. I thought it was a bit more yellowy than I would have liked. Perfect for, like, fake pirate gold, not apples, but it was still neat.

You can either brush the dust on dry or mix it with a little vinegar or vodka. Whatever you have on hand is cool. You just need some edible liquid that is going to evaporate pretty quickly leaving the dust behind. Brushing luster dust on dry results in a sheer shimmer, while brushing on wet dust gives you a thicker coat.

A little bit of the vodka went a long way. I didn’t exactly look up how much I was supposed to put in, so it was kind of a guessing game. The paste was tricky because as soon as I thought I had the right consistency for brushing, the vodka would evaporate and I would be left with gummy chunks. Remind me never to say ‘gummy chunks’ again. Anyway, it is pretty much trial and error; I’ll be better next time. To brush it on, I actually did use an eyeshadow brush. Ahem. It’s not like anyone was going to eat this, yeah?

See how funky it looks? I had to put on a couple coats without brushing off the stuff I had already put on. It took forever.

But! It does end up looking like this. I sprinkled some dry dust on the berries and flourless chocolate torte for effect. I think it would be super neat to paint luster dust on frosted sugar cookies or fondant. Let me know if you try it! I would love to see what you can do.

Sometimes I don’t tell people they have unintentional glitter on their faces because I like it so much,


Pipe Dream #64: Um…Chocolate – Flourless Chocolate Torte

I really didn’t know what to call this post except “Chocolate.” This whole recipe is saturated with chocolate. And ok, let’s be real, my whole life is saturated with chocolate. Or at least, I feel that it should be. Can I get an amen?

Also, I make a lot of ‘I feel’ statements. Like, “I’m feeling like you are in a bad mood,” or “I feel that I think that I possibly want to go on a bike ride.” Just thought I would tell you that. Anyway.

Actually, it was my dad’s birthday, so I felt like I should make something that he would like. It wasn’t a hard decision. In my dad’s eyes, chocolate is always a winner. I mean, he can pretend like he’s all healthy eating green shakes in the morning, but we all know where his true heart lies. And can I just say, there is a lot of chocolate in this recipe. You have to go all in and buy 23 whole ounces of the good stuff. But it is worth it, I promise. :]

There is real dark chocolate in the glaze. Also pictured, butter.

There is chocolate in the batter.

There is chocolate lining the very pan in which the cake is baked.

This recipe also includes fewlding in egg whites, which I don’t actually get. Usually, you fold in egg whites because you want your cake or what-have-you to be especially light. This torte is the opposite of especially light; it is like a fudge cake. So I don’t get why you fold in the egg whites, but whatevs. I did it. It turned out fine.

Bonus, this cake has the easiest frosting in the world. Just heat up the chocolate, and pour it over the cake. Ba-am. The golden apples were a little more time-consuming, but I’ll tell you about that some other time, like maybe later this week if I get the time. Hold your breath.

Suffice it to say that this torte was a cinch and my dad totally loved it. Print it, bake it, love it.

I feel,


Flourless Chocolate Torte

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Dessert, by Abigail Johnson Dodge (Simon & Schuster, 2002)

Serves 12-14…depending on how you slice it.

For the torte:

Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting
15 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
18 Tbs. (2 1⁄4 sticks) unsalted butter,
cut into small pieces
7 egg yolks
9 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 Tbs. dark rum or brewed espresso (optional)
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
5 egg whites, at room temperature
3 cups raspberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

For the glaze:

1/2 cup butter
8 oz chopped bittersweet chocolate
2 tablespoons light corn syrup


Preheat an oven to 300ºF. Grease a cake pan and dust with cocoa powder.In the top pan of a double boiler or a janky makeshift version of a double boiler. Sometimes I use a regular pan and a glass bowl…gets the job done. Combine the chocolate and butter. Set the top pan over simmering water and melt, then whisk until well blended. Set aside to cool a bit.In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together the egg yolks, 6 tablespoons of the granulated sugar, the rum, vanilla and salt on medium-high speed until pale and very thick, 3 to 5 minutes. Graduallypour in the chocolate mixture and continue beating until well blended.In a deep bowl, using a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Make sure your bowl and beaters are very clean. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and continue to beat until medium-firm peaks form, about 2 minutes. Scoop half of the egg whites onto the chocolate mixture and fold them in gently. Fold in the remaining whites just until no streaks remain, so your cake doesn’t deflate. I find this hard to do without feeling like I’m overdoing it–you’ll probably be fine, though.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread it evenly. Bake until the torte puffs slightly and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out very moist but not liquid, about 40 minutes. This is tricky too, as Abigail warns us not to over-bake. Whatever. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 30 minutes.

Remove the torte from the pan and let it cool completely, then cover and refrigerate until very cold, at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
To glaze the torte, combine butter, cut into 4 pieces, and chocolate in the top of a double boiler. Set over simmering water and melt, then whisk until blended. Remove from the heat and whisk in the corn syrup until smooth and glossy. Set the cold cake on a wire rack over a large plate or baking sheet. Slowly pour the warm glaze over the center of the cake. The glaze should cover the surface evenly, but feel free to help it along to be even. I spent a devil of a time wiping off my cake plate after I glazed it so the excess would look even. No, I’ve never been a perfectionist.

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