Tag Archives: baking

Texas Wildflowers: A Cake

7 May

This weekend I made a cake, because my parents’ church was honoring a retiring missionary couple. I was just going to make some generic flowers, and then I thought ‘no! they’re coming from overseas to Texas! it should be a Texas cake!’ And then I spent an hour or so looking at pictures of flowers and cakes with flowers on them. I couldn’t find another cake with bluebonnets that seems satisfactory, and the more I looked at pictures of real bluebonnets the more baffled I was by the shape of their petals, so finally I winged them, because nothing is more Texan than a Texas Bluebonnet:

I made these decorations out of fondant, using just my hands and toothpicks and a knife. If you ever feel like you can’t use fondant because you don’t have special fancy tools, that’s nonsense! Flashback to your childhood Play-Doh experience and just jump in.

I also made a couple of Indian Blanket flowers, which are everywhere in Texas during the spring:

And just to drive the point home, I added Texas itself, with a heart. And this cake is also for all of you guys, because guess what?

Someone in Texas loves you!

(P.S. It is me. I love you)

Recipe: Pavlova Love

22 Apr

Pavlova is a meringue-based dessert named after the Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. It is a meringue dessert with a crisp crust and soft, light inside.

The dessert is believed to have been created in honour of the dancer either during or after one of her tours to Australia and New Zealand in the 1920s. The nationality of its creator has been a source of argument between the two nations for many years, but formal research indicates New Zealand as the source.

–Wikipedia

Pavlova is naturally gluten free, and in fact if you left off the whipped cream it would be practically fat free as well (but, thanks to the sugar, definitely not calorie free!). It makes a great alternative to cake or pie if you (or someone you want to bake for) is allergic to gluten, or if you just want to feel like you’re eating a sweet, fluffy, marshmallowy cloud of goodness.

My friend Angela made one pavlova, and it quickly became her default dessert, and then I started making pavlova and it’s become one of my go-to desserts, and there’s just a lot of pavlova love going on here and I think you should definitely join in!

Pavlova is great for a variety of occasions!

New Year's Eve Pavlova!

PRO-TIP: Did you know that you can freeze egg whites? You can! Next time you make a pudding or a custard or anything that calls for egg yolks, save your egg whites and freeze them (in a plastic bag or, for 1 egg portions, in an ice cube tray) and just take them out and let them thaw overnight before using them. It’s awesome! You can also purchase egg whites in a carton, of course, which I have found to work just fine for pavlova (although not as well for white cake).

Birthday/Good Luck in Thailand Pavlova!

PRO-TIP #2: Did you know that you can make your own castor sugar? Just put regular ol’ granulated sugar in a food processor, cover it with a towel (to prevent sugar dust from coating your entire kitchen), and let ‘er rip. You want something finer than regular sugar, but not as fine as powdered sugar, so just keeping checking until it looks about right to you.

Just as there are many ways to skin a cat (…I hear, anyway. I’ve never tried it) there are many ways to make pavlova. I read a dozen or so recipes, and then made up my own amalgam with a little trial and error. Here’s my Frankenstein pavlova recipe:

Pavlova

  • 4-6 egg whites (room temperature)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cornstarch

Separate your eggs–this is easiest while they’re still cold–then let the egg whites come to room temperature (leave them covered for about half an hour). Beat egg whites and salt until peaks form. Continue beating, gradually adding vinegar, vanilla, and sugar until glossy, thick and stiff. Fold in cornstarch.

Pile the mixture on parchment paper, using a spatula shape it into a circle. To give your pavlova extra stability, use a small offset spatula, a knife, or a spoon to make vertical ridges around the sides of the pavlova. You can also make a depression into the center, to hold the topping. But don’t stress out about this too much–every pavlova I make looks different.

Heat oven to 300F, then turn down to 190F before putting in the pavlova. Bake for 1-2 hours, or until the pavlova is dry to the touch and a very, very pale beige. Turn off the heat, but leave the pavlova in the oven until it has cooled completely, to minimize cracks (some cracks are inevitable, though–don’t worry about them!)

Make the whipped cream just before serving:

Whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbs sugar (or substitute 4 Tbs honey)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Top the pavlova with the whipped cream and the fruit of your choice–anything goes! I like kiwi fruit and strawberries, personally, but any fruit will do, as will fruit curd or fruit jam or fruit compote–you get the idea. You can even do a drizzle of chocolate if you’re feeling really decadent.

Blue Roses & Flamingos: A Wedding Cake!

15 Apr

So, I took the next step in my career as an enthusiastic baker.

I made a wedding cake.

I KNOW, RIGHT?

Wedding cake. Me. Made it.

It was a really simple cake, really, in terms of decoration–deliberately ‘rustic’ icing, simple fondant flowers–but let me tell you, just the logistics of baking all of the layers and stacking them up and crumb coating them was hard, time consuming work! I was honestly surprised at how long it took me to do the cake part, never mind the decorations. Making each layer, trying to get them perfectly even, stacking each tier, putting in dowel rods to support the other tiers…on paper none of it seemed hard, and it isn’t hard, but it does take time, especially when you want to be careful and get everything right.

Also, cake is heavy. I knew this already, but that didn’t stop me from picking up two tiers (that’s four layers) of cake and thinking ‘Holy cow I’ve carried small children that weighed less than this‘.

I also didn’t anticipate the fact that I would be a nervous wreck the entire time between setting the cake up and the reception starting, but I was. I was a bundle of nerves. I kept going to check on the cake, wandering away, then going back to look at it again. I think I was afraid that if I wasn’t watching it the whole thing would collapse, or implode, or something.

The cake was for the wedding of one of my coworkers, and I guess you might want to see a picture of it (although none of the pictures that I have are really fantastic–I didn’t have my camera, just my phone, and the room was a little dark. Sorry!)…

Ta-da! French Vanilla cake with whipped vanilla icing. The roses and leaves are fondant that I shaped and let dry.

Here’s a slightly different angle. Ooooh.

And the couple cutting the cake!

See, it didn’t implode after all. Probably because I hardly took my eyes off of it.