Archive for the ‘Cakes and Baking’ Category

Like everyone else, I clamor for advice and aid from Google, and am an enthusiastic viewer of Youtube tutorials.
For instance, today I bought a new sprinkler for the garden area I am pleased to call my Lawn (which while it may not have the emerald lushness that characterizes my neighbors’ lawns is at least mostly covered with vegetation, much of which is grass).
So I brought the device home and attached it to the hose!
Nothing happened!
I went wailing to Google and discovered that my device did NOT look like the others of its kind. EVENTUALLY I found that the manufacturers had separated it into two bits, and clamped the one to the other with cunning black plastic joinery that looked EXACTLY like it was part of the machine. But it wasn’t, and once I acquired the courage to do so, I removed it and BINGO! Water spraying about in a wild and jubilant fashion!
The internet does not ALWAYS answer so well, however.
See, last night I presented my dinner guests with a lovely Pavlova–what is a Pavlova, you ask? An elegant dessert composed of meringue layers, whipped cream, and berries.

Making a meringue is not difficult, but the baking must be done just so. My recipe said to use parchment to line the baking sheet. But upon seeking further advice online I found that other recipes said NEVER use parchment, the meringue will stick to it! One of them even offered advice on sticking the shattered meringues together with whipped cream (“no one will NOTICE”)–reminding me of a recipe for quenelles (poached dumplings of pureed pike) in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, which was immediately followed by a recipe called “In Case of Disaster: Fish Mousse.”

One wishes CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS when baking.
I decided to use the parchment– if the meringue was ruined, we could have M&Ms for dessert instead.
However, it wasn’t so we didn’t.

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My adorable grandson turning three–how to adequately observe this important event? Well, the youthful celebrant modestly indicated that SPIDERMAN CUPCAKES might fill the bill, and his fond mama indicated that a party of possibly 30 revelers would be taking part in the festivities.

Let us say, 4 dozen confections.

Making them: not a problem.

Transporting them to Brooklyn: MAJOR PROBLEM.

But this stout-hearted granny relishes such challenges! Two weeks in advance of the day, I borrowed a 2-dozen cupcake holder to stand beside the similar device I owned. Then, I inquired of Amazon if it might have a set of wheels to move these mighty double carriers about on the earth and particularly in the train station. YES! Such an item was obtainable, and not very costly either. I ordered it, together with 4 dozen Spiderman candy decorations.

Then, my oven blew up.

Which is to say, I had put in a sheet of cookies (pecan sandies, if you must know) and the oven decided to thermoblast them so that they melted into a sort of cookie lava, coating the oven floor and running onto the kitchen floor.


Here is a bit of hard won wisdom for those of you encountering the same disaster: do NOT press the Oven Clean button. Doing so will produce an eye-watering cloud of smoke which will fill the house with a bitter long lasting stench. Sigh.

So, once the smoke had dissipated:

  • I scrubbed away the repellent muck;
  • I REBOOOTED the stove computer;
  • I bought an oven thermometer and tested the stove. Seemed fine!
  • I cautiously tested it with a pan of Magic Cookie Bars;
  • Completely fine!

So then I baked 4 dozen cupcakes, iced them, laid the little Spiderman decorations on each and prepared for my demanding journey!

All went well, though the carriers did NOT hold all the cupcakes upright and allowed some of them to tip sideways, breaking my heart. The trip was long, and the train (as usual) was FREEZING COLD; I bought a sandwich made of pressed sawdust filled with orange laminate: lunch! With a bag of Pnut M&Ms for dessert. Once in NY I took a taxi to Brooklyn–thus actually seeing the marvels of the city under which I usually pass within the roaring subway–and enjoyed the time with my charming family. The party was the next day, in a park, with hordes of exhilarated children bouncing about.

Afterwards we all went home and had a nap, and then I took the train back to Washington. With an agreeable feeling of a job well done.

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Sigh. Despite hours of care, my attempt at  trying to surpass the last flower pot cake did not quite accomplish the Vision. It was too big, and the lip at the top totally out of proportion.  I had a splendid inspiration, though, which was to print out an image of a seed packet of Forget-Me-Nots, and glue it to a stick and insert it into the “dirt”. Which latter, a mixture of ground chocolate and nuts was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.  Anyway. If I do it again, it should be smaller.  And the lip not as fat. Cake pretty tasty though (used leftover material for another cake, which furnished forth dessert for us).

Julie's Flower Pot Cake

Julie's Flower Pot Cake

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From javascript to..cake baking.  An elegant segue. Both are expressions of the creative spirit, no? So, my friend’s garden club is bidding adieu to one of their members, who has been with them for years, and is now being taken home by her daughters  to, well, die.  She is 90. My friend wished to honor her fellow member, and asked me if I would again make that spring cake (see http://www.hopeandlawrence.com/Hers/HopesCakes/image025.htm ) and of course I said yes. But this time it will be better. Not so bulgy, not so ill-featured. It will look EXACTLY LIKE A CERAMIC POT! Of course, this is what I said last time too…

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Hitting an idle patch, it seems an excellent moment to launch a blog. The gray and drear days of early June (which should be brilliant and sunny, but there, man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards) can not dim the intense human desire to CHAT. To NATTER. To tell other people just what I am thinking about now. Which is: what kind of cake should I make to best express the sorrow at parting from old friends, to embellish the table at a good bye party next month. I am thinking, the cake could be decorated to look like a map of the country, with a ribbon path connecting the east and west coasts, indicating the Affection that Can Endure the Parting. Only, my experience is that pictures in frosting so seldom comes up to my vision of how it should be. The sphinx cake was good, but hardly convincing (http://www.hopeandlawrence.com/Hers/HopesCakes/image035.htm) and the people on the Bon Voyage  cake (http://www.hopeandlawrence.com/Hers/HopesCakes/image024.htm) lacked detail. Suitcases cute, though…

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