Tag Archives: vegetarian

Cakes are Trolls, Part I

I don’t do wedding cakes because the first cake I ever made was a wedding cake.

That’s enough to put you off of them for life.

When a coworker asked me to make her wedding cake, my baking experience extended to truffles that I made as office presents. Even with my grand lack of skills, her cake design was simple enough so I said sure, that I would do it as a gift.

What I didn’t know then is that nothing is simple with cakes.

They are the trolls of the baking world. They’re finicky because they’re assholes. They can and do go wrong at every step, sometimes just to watch you cry.

Making my coworker’s cake took months of practice. It was ridiculous and I cried a lot.

I think I’m happy that Pinterest didn’t exist in 2006. Photos of perfect cakes may have caused me to abandon the project. Instead, I raged at pock-marked frosting in my kitchen but carried on, oblivious to others’ perfection.

The final product was fine. When I brought it to the venue I was relieved that I was done and happy it was gone.

While writing this post, I thought to myself that I was happy I had lost the only photo I had of it, but a little digging and NOPE, FOUND IT (and its sweet, sweet photo editing job).

photographer unknown

And look, I even tinted that frosting to match the petals. I guess the result wasn’t as bad as I remembered. STILL, the process was exhausting.

Once I finished her cake, I left the whole dessert course alone for a while. I had developed pretty hostile feelings toward cakes and thought I would never touch another one again.

Yet, after a little while, the hostility I harbored birthed a desire to wrestle cakes to the fucking ground.

I started making cakes just to get better at it and began enjoying the process of showing them who’s boss.

Every time a cake turned out well I essentially did this in the kitchen.


Wedding cakes, however, I turned down. I swore them off because the pressure was too high. If anyone asked about wedding cakes, I told/screamed in horror “I DON’T DO WEDDING CAKES” and stuck to it.

I did that for six years until one of my sisters got engaged and asked me to make her wedding cake.

She sent me a photo of what she wanted. It was simple, not fussy, and used techniques I already knew.

“You won’t cry this time. You know this stuff. Plus, it’s your sister,” I told myself. I told her I would make her simple cake and felt surprisingly ok about it.

Then her wedding date changed and suddenly what she now wanted was very different and my armpits were sweating and I felt that horror scream coming on of I DON’T DO WEDDING CAKES.

Instead, I issued a battle cry and started practicing.

The cake she wanted had a lot of gum paste flowers on it, something I had never done (lolololololol of course).

I was happy Pinterest existed at this point. Now perfect cakes were something to aspire to, not something to feel defeated by. I found inspiration and tutorials on how to make exactly what I wanted.

I started with peonies. I used a tutorial from Cake Journal.

I didn’t think I’d be writing about my sister’s cake since I was more worried about abject failure. These are mostly iPhone/Instagram shots as I went along.

yes i used a baguette pan as a form what

Peonies require a lot of petals and I had a lot of peonies to make.

multipurpose meatfork

I was so proud of the start of my first ones. Then my neighbor (an actual, legitimate, professional cake baker) came over to visit. At my request she showed me what I was doing wrong with my petal edges.

someone is fabulous

You can see the difference most dramatically in the top two flowers. One is pretty uptight and the other is like I AM FLOATING FREE IN THIS WIND CAN’T YOU FEEL IT?

looking pretty tan there foot better put on some sunblock

Still working things out.

georgia okeefe

Close-up early on.

my kitchen was a mess forever

More petals, veining, rolling, ruffling.

She also wanted a lot of roses:

gum paste roses

so, I started to make roses (not sperm, as someone inquired)

gum paste roses

and more roses

gum paste roses




pretty gum paste roses

I made some roses of a different color.

I started feeling a little more confident at this point (but not too confident because that’s when things start to go wrong)

smiling at me

and I guess the confidence helped because my components started smiling at me.

gum paste roses

I think I made thirty-something blush-pink roses and the same number of coral ones.

gum paste filler

I made some balls (to go along with the sperm) for some filler. It was late and this was the photo that happened. I feel like I’m in a tupperware at the back of the refrigerator.

gum paste roses and leaves

Of everything, the leaves were the most difficult part.

gum paste roses and peonies

This was not the color I wanted for the dark pink peonies at all and I was a little panicky about it.

It is the color they got because I am still learning how to get deep, dark colors in frosting/gum paste/fondant.

My Cake Baker Neighbor even came over to try to help me get the color I wanted but it was still a no-go.

To understand the problem, imagine you’re trying to get fondant a deep, bright, red for a fire-engine cake. Think about adding drops of red food dye to a POUND of white dough. You’re going to get pink. In fact, you’re going to get pink for a long, long, long, time. You may use up your entire bottle of red food dye in your handful of white dough. You now have a beautiful shade of deep pink. Look at that Pepto-Bismol fire-engine go!

I made progress with colors when I switched to Americolor dye but I still have a lot to learn about color mixing and doing it for cakes.

gum paste flowers

Even without getting the dark pink I wanted, when I strangled everything together the colors worked nicely. I wanted them arranged similarly on the cake as they were here.

(We’re not going to talk about the coloring on the balls because it was a nightmare.)

I finished the last gum paste object the day before we were supposed to leave for my sister’s wedding.

To fly across the country.

With innumerable, delicate, wired gum paste decorations.

And two children in tow.

And I hadn’t even started the actual cake.

Part II, with the hard part, is here.

Buttermilk and Date Ice Cream with Orange Blossom Water and a Goode Company Giveaway

The contest is now closed. Scroll down for the winner!

This ice cream has always been about pecans.

I came up with the recipe as an accompaniment for pecans
specifically for a pecan pie.

Usually, pecans make me feel mushy and happy because I associate them with home:
my parents have pecan trees growing on their property in Texas
my grandmothers both say PEE-can, tickling me no to end
and while I don’t care for plain pecans, when holiday baking begins I end up eating a treeload’s worth in pecan pralines.

The gooey and sentimental feelings on pecans persisted until a few days ago
right up until the fifth attempt at making a pecan pie simply to photograph under the ice cream.

Five times on top of a burned Thanksgiving pie is past my threshold of Pie Failures in Ten Days.

Just the ice cream photographs, then.

Pitting dates is easy enough.

If you spray your knife blade with non-stick spray
(or wipe it with neutral-flavored oil)
the dates will spend much less time clinging desperately to your blade.

I pitted the dates
sliced them into quarters
then piled the quarters up neatly and chopped into even pieces.

After all of the dates were chopped
I put everything into a small bowl

and poured over enough Grand Marnier to soak everything.

Soaking the date pieces in alcohol helps prevent them from turning into violent, tooth-cracking bits of shrapnel.

I covered the bowl in plastic wrap and then microwaved everything for a few minutes.

I would’ve done this step in a small pot
but every single pot in my kitchen was waiting to be washed at that moment.

I set the hot fruit and alcohol aside to soak for a while
and began on the custard.

I had not used orange blossom water with heat before
so I didn’t know if heat would diminish the water’s flavor
(the same way heat can dull vanilla’s flavor)
and decided to wait until I cooled the custard to add it.

Putting the orange blossom water aside
I warmed buttermilk, sugar, and cream in a pot.

While that was heating, I separated the eggs

(freezing the whites for later use)
whisked the warm milk mixture into the yolks to temper them

then added the yolks and milk back into the pot

that was clean, despite its appearance.

It had an unfortunate experience of being empty, forgotten, and over heat for a while.

I’m not sure its finish is going to ever recover.

After a few minutes the custard was ready:

I strained it
and poured in some reserved cream to help it cool down.

I added the orange blossom water and mixed everything to a uniform color.

Then I kept licking the spatula
and I knew things were good.

The custard went into the freezer for about an hour to chill.

Once the custard was very-cold-not-frozen
I poured it into the machine and let it churn for about 25 minutes.

I added the dates
which had soaked up all of the liquor

and continued to run the ice cream maker for another five minutes.

I like firm ice cream
so I packed the ice cream into a container and popped it into the freezer overnight.

The next morning I had buttermilk date ice cream with orange blossom water
and one of my failed pie crusts for breakfast
(failure is good for something, at least)
with chopped pecans on top.

It’s pecans that really make this ice cream.

The pecans and buttermilk remind me of buttermilk pralines
the orange blossom water of oranges, flowers, and pecans at Christmas
and dates soaked in Grand Marnier… well, that’s just a good idea at any time.

While good on its own
I made this ice cream with pecans in mind
and pecans it demands.

In light of demanding ice cream and (five) pie disasters
I’m happy to be able to give away a Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie from the fine people at Goode Company.

The fact that it is a pecan pie
and that the box is emblazoned with “You might give some serious thought to thanking your lucky stars you’re in Texas”
makes me a little homesick all the way in Pennsylvania
but the sweet-sad coverts quickly to excitement when I realize I get to facilitate pie appearing on someone’s doorstep.

Here are the rules to winning a pecan pie that you don’t have to make (or try to make five times and fail):

  • The Prize: A Brazos Bottom Pecan Pie from Goode Company
  • Number of winners: 1
  • Prize Ships: Within the continental U.S..
  • To Enter to Win: Leave a comment on this post. You could tell me if you like to eat your pie à la mode or if you like it stark naked (the pie), how your day was, or if you’re going to make this ice cream I’m proud of.
  • Bonus Entry Opportunities: Pin a photo from this post to Pinterest, Tweet a link to this post, or share through Facebook. Come back here and tell me how you did it (if you share this post multiple ways, make sure to leave a separate comment for each way you shared) and you’ve got yourself another entry.
  • Giveaway Ends: Friday, December 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm Eastern time.
  • The Fine Print: The winner will be selected at random. Up to four entries per person (one comment about anything, one pin on Pinterest, one tweet, one Facebook share). Entrants must have a valid e-mail address.

Notice: I am only a pie facilitator. I was not compensated in any manner by Goode Company or anyone else to host this giveaway. Goode Company will be shipping the pie directly to the winner.

If you don’t win the pecan pie
you can console yourself by making ice cream that needs only some toasted and chopped pecans to make it sing.

Buttermilk and Date Ice Cream with Orange Blossom Water

Use a light hand with the orange blossom water. It is easy to add too much and quickly find yourself in a bouquet of flowers that you now have to eat. Don’t buy pre-chopped dates. Buy whole ones and practice your knife skills. This yields about a quart of ice cream.


  • 5 oz pitted dates, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons (100 ml) Grand Marnier or other orange-flavored liquor
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 heaping cup of sugar
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1-2 teaspoons orange blossom water
  • Pecan pie or toasted and chopped pecans to serve


  1. Combine dates and Grand Marnier in a small bowl. Cover and microwave over high heat for two minutes. Set aside.
  2. Have ready a shallow casserole dish with a fine mesh strainer set over it.
  3. Mix together buttermilk, one cup of cream, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat through until the mixture is steaming (but not boiling) and the sugar has dissolved.
  4. Place the egg yolks in a medium bowl, and while whisking constantly, slowly add one cup of the hot milk mixture to the yolks.
  5. While stirring the milks and sugar, gradually add the yolk and milk mixture back to the saucepan.
  6. With a cook spoon or spatula, stir the custard slowly and constantly over medium heat until it has thickened enough to coat the back of the stirring implement. Do not let the mixture boil.
  7. Strain the custard into the casserole dish and add the remaining cup of cream.
  8. Add 1-2 teaspoons of orange blossom water to the custard and stir until the custard is uniform in color.
  9. Chill the custard in a refrigerator or freezer until very cold (overnight in a refrigerator or about an hour in a freezer).
  10. Once cold, pour into an ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for freezing, adding chopped dates in the last few minutes of churning.
  11. Pack ice cream into freezer safe containers and freeze overnight.
  12. Serve ice cream with chopped pecans or better yet, a pecan pie.

Quick notes

You can warm the dates and Grand Marnier together in a small sauce pan on the stove, if you’d like. Make sure your pot is small enough so that the dates are nearly covered by the alcohol.

Drumroll please…
Using the And The Winner Is… plugin, the lucky pecan pie recipient is:


Keep an eye on your email lizlizliz and thanks to everyone for participating!

If you didn’t win, give the ice cream recipe a shot.
I promise it’s delicious.

Baked Eggs with Toast Soldiers, Many Ways

I’m a sucker for breakfast.

I love stealing down the stairs before anyone is up and starting breakfast
sometimes bringing it back to bed when I’m done
sometimes hearing the steady sound of descending footsteps before I’m finished with everything.

My husband’s favorite breakfasts are pancakes, waffles or dougnuts.
I make these for him at that magical intersection of him asking and me being willing.

A sweet breakfast is something I do out of love
and that’s pretty much it.
Any other time of the day
something with that much sugar would be classified as dessert.

I can’t start my day off with dessert.
I think I’d keel over from my blood sugar dropping by my toes.

give me breakfast tacos
filled with potatoes and tomatoes with cheese, bacon, and a lake of salsa fresca
an onion bagel with butter
polenta with green onions and parmesan!

Onions seem to be a reoccuring thing.

Always kiss me goodnight

In addition to onions
I also sing glory to eggs.

I don’t like an egg sunny-side up
or hard boiled
or soft boiled
or by itself.

I like them mixed in with other things
or scrambled with a lot of butter or bacon fat
or in a cheese omelet
or baked.

Baked eggs are wonderful things.

I had never made them before
but I ate them in one form at Bouchon in Las Vegas
and then came across this post about them.

Like Jennifer, I wondered why I hadn’t made baked eggs yet.

One morning I stood at my kitchen window
and realized the kale plants were starting to look like palm trees.

It was time to use some kale
it was time for breakfast
and it was time for baked eggs.

Kale from a garden is not for the squeamish.
An impressive variety of spiders claim its curly edges for home
and I now know those ruffles make a perfect spot for cocoons.

After picking, cleaning, chopping
I put all of the kale into a pot.

After it had cooked down a little
I added some onions

and cooked those until they were softened and brown around the edges

A little salt and sherry vinegar
and the kale was done.

I had tomatoes in the garden
(we’ve only been done with them for a few weeks now and I miss them already)
so I chopped up a Cherokee Purple
and set it aside to add to the eggs.

I greased ramekins and then filled them up

and baked them until the whites were just set.

The yolks were still a little runny
and screamed for toast soldiers.

I scream for ice cream
yolks scream for toast soldiers.

Recipe: Basic Baked Eggs

When prepping the kale, the very tip of the stem does not need to be removed as it is tender, but the tough stalk does.To easily core kale leaves, fold them in half longways and run your knife along the edge of the core. This way you only have to make one cut to get the core out. With the leaf still folded, chop crosswise into manageable pieces. When making this recipe, you’ll have a little kale and onion mixture left over. I found no problem eating it straight out of the pot. You need to serve these immediately because they continue to cook in the VERY hot ramekins.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing ramekins
  • 1/2 pound of kale, chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 11 ounces tomato (1 extra-large tomato)
  • 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan-Reggiano
  • Toast, cut in strips for ‘soldiers’ (gluten-free toast for a gluten-free breakfast)


  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the kale.
  3. Cook until kale is bright green and softened slightly, 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add chopped onion and cook mixture until the onions are soft and brown around the edges. The kale will have cooked down substantially.
  5. Remove from heat and add salt, pepper, and sherry vinegar.
  6. Grease ramekins with olive oil and fill the ramekins with tomatoes, eggs, and kale and onion mixture, adding the egg last.
  7. Top with grated parmesan.
  8. Arrange ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the whites have clouded and the yolks are barely set.
  9. Broil for one minute or until cheese browns.
  10. Serve immediately with toast soldiers on the side.

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 6


I’ve made baked eggs several times since my first go around and what I love most (and actually get excited about) is how you can change the recipe. Starting off with your egg, you can play around until EGGSaustion sets in (Oh, please. You’d make an egg pun, too):

Spanish Eggs – manchego cheese/jamon or chorizo/pimenton garnish
Tex-Mex Eggs – salsa fresca/queso fresco or monterey jack/fresh jalapenos or chopped chipotles
THE ‘MERICAN – : bacon/fried potato shreds/maple syrup
Fancy Pants Eggs – sauteed chopped mushrooms/baby swiss cheese/spinach/chive garnish

We Cook: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home – Honeydew, Cucumber, and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt

We have been overrun with cucumbers.

I mean that in quite a literal sense
as the cucumber vines are breaking out of the garden
through our chain link fence
and onto the sidewalk
where everyone in the neighborhood takes their nightly walks.

I hope they take some of the cucumbers as they go by.

In a concentrated effort to use up the cucumbers
I’ve been trying every recipe I find that uses them.

We’ve been pickling
having a lot of cucumber salads
and I have a cucumber risotto coming up on the menu plan.

I’m thankful for the risotto because it uses ten cucumbers
which should put a dent in our supply…
for a few days.

While the frozen yogurt recipe in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home doesn’t call for ten cucumbers
it does call for at least part of one
so I felt it would be appropriate to make Honeydew, Cucumber, and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt
on the heels of The Darkest Chocolate Ice Cream in the World.

Continue reading We Cook: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home – Honeydew, Cucumber, and Cayenne Frozen Yogurt