Lemon Blackberry Custard Layer Cake… blame the Great British Baking Show

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So in the midst of a blizzard my daughter and I started watching season 2 of the Great British Baking Show… it’s the purest form of guilty pleasure TV. It’s reality TV but with a very mannered bristish sweetness that I can’t get enough of, and it always makes me want to bake, always. The last episode I watched was “pies” and the custard pies made me hungry and wanting for custard (my daughter attempted this meringue situation after the an episode). This morning at the market I saw organic blackberries that didn’t require a second mortgage and so I figured I could get out my custard jones with some combo of blackberry and lemon… So this cake was born. It seems like a lot of steps, and it is but I rocked it out in one podcast of This American Life and half a WTF… so under 2 hours from start to all the dishes done and cake in the fridge (and lots of bowl licking).

The Lemon Cake (recipe from Flour Bakery)

  • 6 tbls butter at room temp
  • 6 tbls canola oil
  • 1 cup plus 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest of one lemon
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 tbls baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk at room temp
  • 6 egg whites (save your yolks)
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In a mixer beat together until fluffy, butter, 1 cup of sugar and canola oil.
  3. Add vanilla and zest.
  4. In a mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.
  5. Add 1/2 flour mixture until combined.
  6. Add half milk, followed by remaining flour and milk.
  7. Set aside.
  8. Beat egg whites until slightly stiff, add 1/3 cup sugar and beat until really stiff.
  9. Fold 1/2 of egg whites into batter to lighten.
  10. Fold in remaining egg whites until combined.
  11. Spread batter between 3 buttered and floured pans.
  12. Cook 25 minutes. 

    While that’s cooking get to the other stuff:

     Custard:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean deseeded into milk (I used both because I like the pastry cream to have that vanilla bean look but It’s another step and doesn’t really add a ton more vanilla flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  1. In a medium saucepan bring milk to a simmer over medium heat, add vanilla extract and/or vanilla pod deseeded.
  2. In a bowl whisk together sugar, eggs and cornstarch until smooth.
  3. When milk simmers, pour half of into the egg mixture, whisking until smooth, then add it back into the saucepan with remaining milk mixture.
  4. Keeping the pan on medium heat, continue whisking until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
  5. Take off heat, push custard through a sieve with a spatula into a bowl to get a smooth texture and cover with plastic wrap to avoid the mixture forming a skin (although I kinda like the skin and never mind peeling it off and eating when no one is looking). Cool until assembly.

It’s probably about time to take your cakes out..cool them on racks

This is where I decide to rock out some Lemon Curd, because that’s pretty good too and more lemon never hurt anyone. It’s basically the same process as the custard.

Lemon Curd:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbls butter
  • 1 tbls cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • pinch o salt
  • splash o vanilla
  1. In a saucepan on medium combine lemon juice, butter and cream. Stir until warm.
  2. In a bowl combine eggs, egg yolk, sugar and salt until smooth.
  3. Whisk the warm liquid into the egg mixture and pour back into the saucepan.
  4. Stir a couple minutes until thick add vanilla and then strain through a sieve. Set in fridge to set up.

At this point I’m thinking open side cake but realize that buttercream on the outside might make it hold up better with the custardy filling and I’ve got some eggs left so…

Quick Buttercream:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Place 1 inch of water in a saucepan on medium heat, top with a bowl (or use a double boiler if you have one).
  2. Whisk egg whites and sugar in bowl until sugar dissolves (rub mixture between your fingers, when it’s not gritty you’re good.
  3. In a mixer with the whisk attachment whisk egg whites until stiff and cool.
  4. Add vanilla and room temp butter in slices until combined.
  5. This will look like bad oatmeal for a bit but eventually whip itself into lovely silky buttercream.

See now you have a million things done, it looks like a war zone in your kitchen, you wonder why you started this process when you could be on the couch playing on your phone but you’ve come this far… soldier through.

Assembly:IMG_0431

Cut rind off cakes (I also cut off the bottom crusties too but whatever you have the patience for at this point)

  1. Place first cake layer.
  2. Top with custard.
  3. Place second layer.
  4. Spread lemon curd.
  5. Add halved blackberries.
  6. Place third layer (realize you meant to do another custard layer back there at the second layer and instead you used lemon curd, set aside custard and eat the rest of it through out the day and pretend you didn’t)
  7. Frost the sides with buttercream and pipe around the top to make a damn for the lemon curd.
  8. Spread lemon curd on top and add blackberries.

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Now eat, rejoice, Spring is almost here.

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Custard Strawberry Cake… because it’s my Birthday and I made a cake

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Birthday Schmirthday but what better way to avoid all the stuff you’re not doing with your life (and the fury over that freaking school drill… see previous non cooking/rant post) than to bake a cake… and then read People while you treat yourself to a birthday pedicure? If you have a better/productive/world peace solving/inner peace way to spend your birthday I don’t want to hear about it. I had intended to brûlée the top of the cake and if you make it feel free but my torch is out of butane apparently and I’m not going to skip that pedi for a butane trip so onward and upward!

The Sour Cream Sponge cake:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tbls. sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbls. sour cream
  • 5 egg whites
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cup cake flour
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Combine egg yolks, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbls. sour cream with paddle attachment in the mixer for 8 minutes until fluffy.
  3. Add the 1/4 cup sour cream and mix until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites and tartar with whisk attachment until peaks form, add the 2 tbls. sugar and whip to stiff peaks.
  5. Fold in 1/3 of egg whites to egg mixture. Fold carefully, add the rest of whites in 2 batches, fold.
  6. Fold in flour 1/4 cup at a time until smooth.
  7. Parchment paper 2 cookie sheets, draw 3 circles on the parchment (2 on one sheet 1 on the other).
  8. Spread batter or pipe into circles, bake for 15 minutes turning at the half point.
  9. Cool

Make your Custard:

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and/or vanilla bean deseeded into milk (I used both because I like the pastry cream to have that vanilla bean look but It’s another step and doesn’t really add a ton more vanilla flavor)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  1. In a medium saucepan bring milk to a simmer over medium heat, add vanilla extract and/or vanilla pod deseeded.
  2. In a bowl whisk together sugar, eggs and cornstarch until smooth.
  3. When milk simmers, pour half of into the egg mixture, whisking until smooth, then add it back into the saucepan with remaining milk mixture.
  4. Keeping the pan on medium heat, continue whisking until mixture comes to a boil and thickens.
  5. Take off heat, push custard through a sieve with a spatula into a bowl to get a smooth texture and cover with plastic wrap to avoid the mixture forming a skin (although I kinda like the skin and never mind peeling it off and eating when no one is looking). Cool until assembly.

Cut the rounds of your cake back to plate size… like this

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then stack:

cake… spread 1/3 custard… layer berries… cake… 1/3 custard… berries… cake… 1/3 custard and either brûlée or top with berries.

Done, now go do something with yourself, you’re 46 for the love of God.

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Lock down drills… or why the hell do we terrorize our children for little benefit?

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This is definitely a rave. I don’t have facts and stats to back me up, I haven’t spent years studying the effects of drills on a students’ psyche and I’m not a trained therapist or psychiatrist… but I am a parent. So when my child returns home and divulges that she spent a portion of her school day thinking she was going to die and how sad it was that she didn’t get a chance to do more with her life, I get pissed. I get really, really pissed.

The reason she thought she was going to die is that her school had a “realistic” lock down drill, meaning, I assume, that they wanted it to feel more “realistic” than the average announced lock down drill (which in my mind are already bad enough for our kids). So they had this lock down unannounced and teachers ran through the halls shouting about a lock down (so naturally the kids thought it WAS FOR REAL). So they all huddle in a corner (this in itself baffles me… let’s all cluster so the school shooter doesn’t need to think about where we are… they can just kill us all at once, let’s make it easy!) and they huddle and they wait, thinking that they are going to die. The person who eventually opens the door is a policeman (at this point the kids think that it’s the shooter opening the door as the police officer did not identify himself) who is checking to see that everyone is OK.

No they are not OK, they thought about dying, being shot, in school… and they had to feel these feelings because we can’t take the chance that they won’t know what to do in the case of an actual school shooting. Our children need to feel this fear on the very tiny chance this actually happens to them… like really, here’s a brilliant idea, let’s terrorize them on the tiniest chance that they’ll ever be involved in a school shooting. While we’re at it maybe we can give them food poisoning so they know how to handle that if comes their way… maybe we can mock rape a girl so she might know how to react if that happens (which of course is WAY more likely than a school shooting).

I wonder why my kid has to think about dying from a shooter EVER at the age of 16. I do understand that there are children all over the world who do have to think about these things… but why a girl from Vermont needs to have those feelings and that those feelings were planned and thought out by the school district, teachers, government officials so that our children “feel safer”. I call bullshit, these kids don’t feel safer they feel more FEARFUL. We are filling our kids up with a good dose of fear under the guise of their well being and it’s absolutely crazy. Fear is kinda running the show these days, it’s what’s playing out in politics and close to home. I’d like to say I have an answer on how to change this.. I don’t. So for now I’ll hug my kid, tell her to watch out for the real shit that might come her way and let the other stuff go… as best she can.

 

Red Velvet cupcakes… because Valentines Day, which is stupid but it’s going to be 20 below zero so why not bake?

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I avoid Hallmark holidays as a rule. I went along with the whole Elementary school bullshit of buying my kids cheap cards at the drug store to hand out to their class, once or twice I might have been bored enough to even sit down and make homemade valentines with them… but I’m not really sad that they’ve outgrown it. That being said, it’s February and I want cake, even if it uses copious amounts of food coloring.

So this weekend while we find projects inside to entertain us so we don’t think about the fact that we have several more weeks of this weather, why not make cupcakes so when you give in to the Netflix binge on the couch with a blanket at least you’ve got something yummy to eat!

Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 24)… because who would take the time to make 12 when you can make 24?

  • 1 stick butter at room temp
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 container red food dye
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups and 4 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

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  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a mixer with the paddle attachment cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. Scrape down bowl.
  4. Stop mixer and add cocoa, salt, food coloring and vanilla extract. Beat on medium until combined.
  5. With mixer on low add 1/2 cup buttermilk, mix until incorporated, add 1/2 flour, mix, add last 1/2 cup buttermilk, mix, and follow with remaining  1/2 flour until smooth.
  6. Add vinegar and baking soda, mix until incorporated.
  7. Fill lined cupcake tins 1/2 full and bake for 20 minutes.
  8. Remove to rack and allow to cool while making the frosting.

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Cream Cheese Frosting

  • one package cream cheese at room temp (8 ounces)
  • one stick butter at room temp
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (you can probably even get away with 3)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  1. In a mixer with the whisk attachment cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sugar and vanilla and beat on medium high until light and fluffy.
  3. Pipe or spread on cupcakes
  4. Sprinkle with red sanding sugar or whatever topping you’d like.

Done. Wasn’t that easy? Now reward yourself for time well spent, leave the kitchen a mess and go sit down with your family to watch Harry Potter… it’s cold outside and you deserve it.

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Holy hell… a long summer and I’m forced to face my bullshit

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So this is how it always starts, so full of hope and beauty. Summer is finally here. I started this summer with a trip “home” to the Rhode Island shore, just me and my husband in a little cottage on the ocean for a week… all the seafood I could eat, outdoor showers, basking in the sun reading crappy books, no whining or complaining for a week. It was beautiful and I needed it.

I returned home to face the fact that I was now camp director for 2 teenage daughters for the next 11 weeks… 11 weeks of hell sprinkled with intermittent beauty, a family camping trip, the occasional minute of a cease fire between my daughters, a trip to the beach here and there (usually by myself as I ran from the house before I said something to one of the kids I would regret later). I realized many things by the end of the summer but the most important one was: the 13 year old is going to camp next summer and the 16 year old gets a job. We didn’t plan camps because we had no money to pay for them so I was trapped with 2 children who wanted to play on their phones all day and watch YouTube clips. Having 2 teenage daughters in the house together for 11 weeks was a foolish foolish plan. If they weren’t going after me they were going after each other… of course they were, duh, they are 13 and 16.

this is what it felt like:

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I just had to include this photo… my neighbor was taking a photo of our kids playing and just happened to catch this, the look on my daughters face (which is a hysterical coincidence) kind of sums up how I felt this summer.

So to add to the craziness I had been applying for jobs since the Spring, sending out resumes and going on interviews for the few places that called me in. It was a hit to my ego for sure, I mean I consider myself a competent intelligent person with a fair amount of skills to offer and it was hard to even get an interview! The Interior Design jobs I had were drying up (mostly because I am absolutely horrible at Marketing myself) and I needed to bring in some money so throughout my hellish summer I was also in constant panic about paying the bills and as all the back to school crap started I realized I had to shove my ego even further down, suck it up and apply (once again) for serving positions. I applied to 3 places and had 2 interviews scheduled about a half an hour later… So back to the Serving life I go.

I have no idea why it took me so long, well actually I do… because it’s not a “career”, because it’s not something people are proud of, because when I wait on people my own age I can sometimes feel their judgement. But you know what, I’m changing it up in my own mind because Serving for the past 15 years has allowed me to stay home and raise my kids, it’s allowed me to be the Primary Parent, it’s allowed me the flexibility to take on side projects that make my heart sing, work in my studio and make some damn art, bake cakes when the world is getting me down and take long walks through the woods with the four legged creatures whom I adore.IMG_2776

The best part is I walk away with cash in my pocket, and I’m done, no stress to take home, you work when you’re at work and then you are done and I can come home to my family. That’s not to say that waiting tables is stress free, it’s totally stressful, you never know what will happen when you walk through the door, what your customers will be like, if the kitchen gets backed up, you get seated 5 tables at once. There are a myriad of challenges and not everyone can handle the multitasking while continuing to smile and be friendly.

So I’m going to try and hold my head high, the career path 9-5 benefits kinda life will never be mine, and that’s OK, I understand that now because this life is pretty OK and I did what I had to to make it work for me and still work for my family. Because even though my summer was hellish I believe that me working a 9-5 would have made it even more so… and I’m pretty sure that my 13 year old would have burned the house down.

And now that I’ve made the decision, I’m happy… and when I’m happy I make things and when I don’t have to worry about making things to sell I can make things that make me even happier… like a sculpture of a squirrel wearing a hat and pearls.

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coconut cake… because it’s March and cold and I needed to make a cake or I would cry

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The downside of living in Vermont is the never ending winter. The older I get the less tolerant I am of winters grip on what should be Spring. I packed away my boots and huge parka the first week of March, because I’m an idiot and because I delude myself in thinking that if I pack my parka away it will no longer be cold enough for a parka and so I go through around a month of freezing my ass off whenever I leave my house. On the solstice this year it was 17 with a wind chill of 0. I walked the dogs in my Spring raincoat… I wanted to die. I came home and thought about going to bed and never getting out but then I thought that the solution to such bullshit was to bake a cake… a white light summery breezy airy sunny springy kinda cake as a way of pretty much telling winter to shove off. It didn’t work, it’s still in the 20’s but at least every mouthful of light moist cake, creamy frosting and toasty crunchy coconut made me feel better… kinda.

adapted from Americas Test Kitchen

Coconut Cake:

  • 1 large whole egg plus 5 egg whites
  • 3/4 cup cream of coconut
  • 1/4 water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  1.  preheat oven to 325
  2. grease and lightly flour 2 9″ pans
  3. Combine egg, egg whites, cream of coconut, water, and vanilla in a bowl and whip until combined
  4. In a mixer bowl with the paddle attachment combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt, mix to combine
  5. add room temp butter, a slice at time into the bowl with the mixer on low, beat until mixture looks like corn meal
  6. add half the liquid and mix until combined and fluffed, add other half until combined, the batter will be thick
  7. pour into greased pans and cook for 30 minutes
  8. take cakes out, leaving the oven on, rest cakes for 15 minutes and then take out of pans and rest to cool on racks

while cakes are cooling spread shredded coconut in a thin layer and toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes stirring every 5 minutes, when brown and toasty cool coconut on counter

Coconut buttercream frosting:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 sticks butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup cream of coconut
  • teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. combine the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl and place over a saucepan with 2 inches of simmering water, stir egg white mixture until you can no longer feel any grit when you rub the mixture between your fingers
  2. put egg mixture in a mixer bowl and whip on medium speed with the whisk attachment until mixture cools and stiffens (around 8-10 minutes)
  3. add butter one slice at a time until incorporated, when mixture begins to look like curdled milk don’t worry it will smooth out as it beats
  4. when mixture looks smooth and glossy add cream of coconut and vanilla, whip until combined
  5. frost cooled cake and then take the toasted coconut in your hand and press it into the sides and then the top of the cake.

coconut cake whole

it really is a beautiful project …a light and airy cake with a lusciously smooth and coconut infused frosting, it almost makes March acceptable, almost.

Draw on your wall… because why not?

I’ve been needing to deal with my bathroom for about a year. Last year we had to rip out our beloved soaking tub because it was leaking into the ceiling and rotting out the floor and of course we had to rip out a chunk of wall and trim to get the tub out. So for almost a year it’s been a mess of raw patched drywall and mud. The bathroom also hadn’t been painted in 10 years… but it has a two story ceiling on one wall and I just didn’t want to tackle it but now I really needed to. At the same time I’ve been itching to do a really dark purple and grey room and I could never talk any of my design clients into it so it was on me to rock it out. The other factor: I’ve been working on converting a retail space into a coffee shop and thinking about signage and chalk walls and in talking with that client I sent him to check out tanamachi studios for ideas. I’ve always loved her work but watching her video of writing on the walls with paint markers was like getting the best bitch slap in the face EVER! Holy shit why hadn’t I ever thought of that! It’s like the best custom wallpaper without spending serious bucks or serious time hanging and cutting… just buy yourself some paint markers and go to town.. If you don’t like it just paint that shit again and start over, no harm no foul…. so what the hell are you waiting for?

Paint colors were Ralph Lauren Embassy Purple RL2051 & Hue & Cry RL1132, the swatches look off to me the purple is almost black but…

I started by painting 3 of the walls in the grey and the wall behind the toilet and sink in the purple (I let my daughter stay home from a half day at school if she helped me as I didn’t want to fall off the 6 foot ladder without anyone home and you know, child labor and you gotta train them these skills). I let the paint dry for two days before I started. I went to Michaels and picked up 2 paint markers in a dark grey for doing the drawing, I was thinking silver too so I picked up a couple silver Sharpies but in the end I thought it might be too flashy and went with the grey. I googled for patterns for a bit, black and white nature, paisley, tattoo designs, fabric designs. I decided to go with something that was not regimented or math based, because I know myself and I’m not going to spend any time measuring anything but you totally could grid something out with chalk and do a repeat pattern…. but I went for down and dirty free hand nature pattern, I started on the floor behind the toilet so if I hated it and had to repaint it wouldn’t be in the middle of the wall!

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The project took around 4 hours total and 4 pens to complete. So that was a $25 cost but still so much cheaper than wallpaper and if I hate it next year I can just paint over it, no peeling old paper off… plus I got to draw on the walls!

wall side closeup

wall burst

wow checkout that flash burst!