Browsing Tag

dessert

book review, recipe

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake + Funfetti Cake

I added Anna Quindlen’s memoir Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake to my to-read list almost four years ago. I don’t remember my reasoning for wanting to read it back then, but I know that I decided to finally rescue it from my too-long list – which currently sits at 436 books – because I wanted to make a cake.

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I knew nothing of Quindlen when I began reading, and over the course of her “memoir,” I can’t say I know that much more about her. Really it seemed more like a carryover from her columns in the New York Times as she described them – a collection of her thoughts on life and aging, coupled with bits of advice.

Perhaps I wasn’t exactly the target market for this book – I am roughly half her age, really just at the beginning of my career, not yet married and currently without children. I’m still figuring a lot of things out, and while in some ways she is too, we are figuring out very different things about life. I was able to glean a few interesting insights from her writing, but ultimately, I think this book is one I’d like to try again a couple of decades down the road.

The cake I envisioned when I chose this book was a towering cake ablaze with an unsafe amount of candles. So, I began my recipe search by buying four dozen tall, skinny, colorful candles to cover my imaginary cake. (Thank you, Amazon!) After all, candles do come first in the title – lots of them – and the plenty of cake comes second.

With the candles secured, I sought out a recipe for funfetti cake and found a great one from Sugar Spun Run. The homemade, triple-layer cake suited my needs perfectly. Now, I just had to execute…

I started the night before by setting out my frozen sticks of butter to soften overnight. Between the frosting and the cake, there was so much butter (over a pound and a half!). In the morning, I preheated my oven, separated my eggs and floured the pans to get started.

Then, I added the butter for the cake (1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon) to the stand mixer and beat until creamy. In went the sugar and oil, beaten until well-combined and creamy. I used a scraper on the sides of the bowl and added in the vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, I whisked together the flour, baking powder and salt. Then, as instructed, I alternated between adding the flour and the milk to the butter-sugar mixture in the mixer, beating on medium speed until combined.

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I whipped the egg whites into stiff peaks and measured out a half cup of sprinkles to add to the cake batter.

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I gently folded them into the batter until both the egg whites and sprinkles were well-incorporated and the funfetti batter was complete.

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I only had 2 cake pans, so I put my best estimate of one-third of the batter into each of my cake pans, saving the last third to bake after the first two layers were finished. I baked them together for about 35 minutes, using a toothpick to test each one before allowing them to cool. After 15 minutes, I removed each cake layer from the pan so they could finish cooling on a rack. Then, I baked my last layer.

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After all of the cake layers were out of the oven and cooling, I set to work on my frosting. First, allll of the butter – 6 softened sticks – went into the stand mixer. (I increased the recipe by 50%, according to the recommendation, so I wouldn’t run out. I ended up having more than enough – please read my notes in the recipe.)

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Once the butter was creamy, I added salt and beat for about 20 more seconds. I did my best to add the powdered sugar gradually without making a mess, but I wasn’t quite successful. My lovely red mixer looked like it had been in a snowball fight by the time I was done! I let it incorporate approximately 1 cup at a time and then added in the vanilla extract.

My cake layers weren’t 100% even because I had had to estimate, so I started with the thickest layer at the bottom. I frosted the top of that, placed the next layer and frosted that, before placing the last layer and frosting the top and sides of the entire cake. As suggested, I put the cake with the crumb coat into the freezer for about 15 minutes before finishing the frosting with a final thicker layer.

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The last step to decorating the cake – but certainly not the least! – was adding the sprinkles. I watched quite a few tutorials on the best way to add the sprinkles without making a mess. My frosted cake was on a cardboard cake round, so I set that on a cooling rack nested into a baking sheet with sides. I cupped my dominant hand (in my case, my left) and filled it with sprinkles, carefully tipping them onto the side of the cake. Most of the extras fell into the baking sheet as expected!

I continued to rotate and sprinkle until the entire bottom third of the cake was covered in sprinkles. Lastly, I carefully covered the outside of the top of the cake with a thick line of sprinkles to match the bottom. It was easier than I expected it to be! And, as someone who is usually terrified of cake-decorating, I found that sprinkles not only do sprinkles look super festive, they cover a lot of errors. 🙂

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Last but not least, it was time for the candles. I didn’t end up using all of the four dozen candles I bought, but I covered the cake pretty well. The candles looked impressive. I have honestly never been more proud of a cake I’ve made – especially from scratch. Hope you enjoy it as much as Scott, my sister and brother-in-law, and my co-workers did! (I know I didn’t have to twist any arms, but thanks to all for taste-testing.)

Triple-Layer Funfetti Cake

  • Servings: 14
  • Print

Cake Ingredients

  • 9 TBS butter, softened
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canola oil (vegetable oil would also work)
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups + 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 4½ tsp baking powder
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1½ cup milk
  • 9 egg whites (room temperature preferred)
  • ½ cup sprinkles

Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 lb unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 6 TBS heavy cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Cake Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F and prepare 3 8-inch round cake pans by generously greasing and flouring. Be sure to shake out excess flour.
  2. In stand mixer, beat butter on medium-low speed until creamy.
  3. Add sugar and oil and beat until all ingredients are well-combined and creamy.
  4. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and then stir in your vanilla.
  5. In separate bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt.
  6. Measure out your milk. Then, with mixer on medium speed, gradually alternate between adding the flour mixture and the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until each one is almost completely combined before adding the next. Pause occasionally to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl.
  7. In separate bowl, combine your egg whites and, with a hand-mixer on high-speed, beat until stiff peaks form.
  8. Using a spatula, gently fold your egg whites and sprinkles into your batter. Take care to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl so that ingredients are well-combined, and take care not to over-mix.
  9. Evenly divide cake batter into prepared pans.
  10. Bake on 350F for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake layer comes out clean or with few crumbs (should not be wet). For best results, rotate your cake pans halfway through baking to ensure even baking. Cakes will be a light golden brown when done.
  11. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool in pans for 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around the inside rim of each pan and invert each onto a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions

  1. In stand mixer, beat butter on medium-speed until creamy.
  2. Add salt and beat again for about 20 seconds.
  3. Gradually, about 1 cup at a time, add powdered sugar, waiting until each cup is completely mixed before adding the next cup.
  4. Then, 2 tablespoons at a time, add the heavy cream on medium-high speed, waiting until each addition is well-combined before adding the next 2 tablespoons.
  5. Add vanilla extract and stir on medium-high for 30 seconds.
  6. Transfer one layer of your cooled cake to serving platter. Use frosting to ice the top. Add the next layer, ice the top of that. Add your third layer on top and ice the top, and then do a thin “crumb coating” around the entire cake.
  7. Transfer to freezer for 10-15 minutes, then remove and apply a clean, thick coat of frosting around the entire cake.

From: Sugar Spun Run

Original recipe based on this technique from I Am Baker to frost cakes. She recommended increasing the above frosting recipe by 50% to ensure full coverage, but I had a TON leftover. I don’t like overly frosted cakes, but mine was still well-frosted according to taste testers (a good amount), so it’s up to you and your preferences.

This cake may also be made in 3 9″ pans, just decrease the baking time. Start checking the cakes for doneness at 25 minutes.


P.S. It will apparently take me only 8 years (a shockingly short amount of time!) to finish my TBR list…assuming I don’t add any more books. If you’d like to calculate your own TBR time, check out Read It Forward’s calculator. Let me know in the comments how many years of reading you have ahead of you!

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Foodie Book Tag: Books + Cookies

I wasn’t tagged in this, but I came across a post from The Sassy Book Geek and loved the idea of this, so I wanted to get in on this book tag as kickstart to using them myself. Plus, it combines two of my favorite things – books and food!

The Rules:

  • In addition to linking back to the person who tagged you, it would be awesome if you link back to Nicole’s original post!
  • Pick a book that corresponds to the cookie’s ‘theme’.
  • Tag 1-3 people.
  • Have fun!

The Cookies:

  • Chocolate Chip: A Classic Book That You Love or Really Enjoyed (interpret classic how you want, it can be a classic written 100 years ago or 20 years ago)
  • Thin Mints: A Fandom That You Really Want to ‘Join’ AND/OR a Hyped-Up Book You Want To Read (your source(s) of a book being hyped can be from anywhere)
  • Shortbread: An Author You Can’t Get Enough Of
  • Samoas/Caramel DeLites: An Emotional Rollercoaster (this cookie was hard … so any book that made you feel more than one emotion, strongly. The choice of emotions is up to you)
  • Oreos: A Book Whose Cover Was Better Than The Story OR Vice Versa, Where The Story Was Better Than Its Cover
  • Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: A Book That Wasn’t What You Expected (good, bad, or just different, interpret how you wish)
  • Snickerdoodles: A Book You May Never Stop Rereading/ Loving
  • Bonus: Choose a cookie I didn’t list and make up a question!

My Books:

Chocolate Chip: Jane Eyre is amazing, and when I first read it I wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did.

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Thin Mints: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee has been getting a lot of hype since it came out. I even got a free copy through a company book club, so I have no excuse not to dig in soon. Looking forward to it!

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Shortbread: Fredrik Backman. I’ve only read 2 of his books, but I loved them both! Looking forward to reading more, especially Beartown (which was almost my Thin Mints choice.)

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Samoas/Caramel DeLites: A Walk to Remember. This was before I realized how formulaic Mr. Sparks can be, but I literally laughed out loud reading this book and of course it made me cry too. Still one of my favorites.  bookcover-680x1020.jpg

Oreos: I thought Welcome to Braggsville had an awesome cover, and though we had a great book club discussion around it, the narrative style didn’t do it for me. I wasn’t a fan.

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Tagalongs/Peanut Butter Patties: Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this one (another book club selection), but I ended up really enjoying it! Really immersive story-telling, interesting world creation.

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Snickerdoodles: This is easy – I could read Harry Potter over and over again! In a world, where I rarely re-read books, I have re-read the HP series several times. (I don’t own this set below, but it’s my dream set!

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My Bonus Cookie (courtesy of the Girl Scouts) – Lemonades: A book that’s refreshing, whether it be a new outlook, a fun idea/concept, or just a breezy read to cleanse the palate

For me, Where’d You Go Bernadette fits this bill. Semple writes in a unique style, and I found it to be a humorous, quick read.

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My Tags:

Cinnamon Tangles

Book Hippie

Sophie at Blame Chocolate

Enjoy!

 

book review, recipe

The Unbearable Lightness of Being + Raspberry Mousse

They say bad things come in threes, and maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but I’m really hoping this latest read is the end of my little streak of three books in a row I didn’t like. One of my book clubs recently met to discuss Milan Kundera’s best-known work The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which I’m sorry to say I suggested. At least I only had myself to blame.

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To simplify it, Kundera’s novel is about two couples (in a loose sense of the word) in Prague in the sixties and seventies. Tomas is a surgeon who leaves his wife for a young woman named Tereza, even though he continues to sleep around. He literally cannot help himself. One of the women he sleeps with is Sabina, whom the story also follows, documenting her bohemian life and her sort-of relationship with a professor named Franz. My favorite character in the whole book was Tomas and Tereza’s dog Karenin, who was named after the male character in Anna Karenina, even though she’s a girl.

I suppose the simple description of the book makes it sound more juicy and interesting than it is. Don’t be fooled. To keep you away from the main plot points, Kundera tosses in several chapters on kitsch, his thoughts on politics, and his philosophies on life. He makes for an interesting narrator, repeatedly pointing out that his characters aren’t real, which as a reader really pulls you out of the story (if the random bits of philosophy and politics didn’t do that already).

People seem to love this book – it has over 4 stars on Goodreads and is considered by many to be a classic – but for me, and most of my book club, it was truly unbearable. On the “lighter” side of things, however, it led to some delicious raspberry mousse.

The novel didn’t have many mentions of food, so I decided to play off the theme of lightness and create what is traditionally a light, airy dessert. I found a recipe from Fearless Dining for Easy Fresh Raspberry Mousse that seemed to easy to make and looked delicious. (If you look at her page, she has many, many mousse varieties to try out.)

First, I began boiling my half cup of water in tiny saucepan. Meanwhile, in a slightly larger saucepan, I added 2 teaspoons of gelatin (about 1 envelope, but measure just in case) to the quarter cup of cold water and allowed that to sit.

I washed my raspberries, extracted my vanilla seeds and combined the rest of the ingredients while the gelatin/water combination was becoming more jelly-like and the water boiled. Once that was all ready, I combined everything into my larger saucepan (with the gelatin mixture) and brought it all to a boil for 5 minutes.

I transferred the mixture to my food processor and blended everything together, though I would recommend a blender if you have one. It will likely breakdown the raspberry seeds better than my food processor did.

Allow that mixture to cool for 10 minutes (or longer). I let mine sit for about 15 minutes while I made the whipped cream. To do so, add the 2 cups of heavy / whipping cream to a large bowl and use a hand mixer, mixing until stiff peaks form.

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Once the raspberry mixture is cooled enough, gently fold that into the whipped cream a little bit at a time. (Despite what the original recipe said, I tried folding the cream into the raspberry mixture, since typically technique says you should add the whipped cream into the denser/wetter mixture to avoid losing air. However, because the raspberry mixture was so soup-y, it mostly remained at the bottom and proved hard to combine.)

Once the cream and the raspberry mixture were well-combined – the entire mixture was a light pink – I placed the bowl in the fridge to set/cool. After almost 2 hours, it was mostly set, but I think could’ve stood to hang out in there a little longer. The consistency was perfect they next day when we finished it up. Two hours was perfectly fine, but if you have the time, I would recommend allowing it to remain in the fridge a bit longer.

We served it in my grandmother’s crystal cut dessert dishes, which I hadn’t used before, and garnished with the remainder of the fresh raspberries.

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Unbelievably Light Raspberry Mousse

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Print

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup cold water
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons gelatin
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries (a 6oz package should be plenty, including garnish)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • seeds of 1 vanilla bean (or 3 teaspoons vanilla extract)

Directions

  1. In a small saucepan, add cold water.
  2. Mix in gelatin and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in boiling water, vanilla bean, sugar, lemon juice, and raspberries.
  4. Bring to boil on medium heat then turn down to low and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. (This reduces the raspberry seeds.)
  6. Allow this mixture to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, add whipping cream and beat with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
  8. Gently fold the raspberry mixture into the cream until well-combined.
  9. Allow the finished mousse to cool in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour.
  10. Serve garnished with fresh strawberries, if desired.

From: Fearless Dining

A blender may provide better results than a food processor as far as reducing seeds. I would recommend allowing to cool for 2-4 hours if you have the time – ours was also delicious when we finished it the next day.

Number of servings will depend on size. This recipe yields 4 generous helpings.


book review, of interest, recipe

The Handmaid’s Tale + Strawberry Pie

Is everyone else looking forward to Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale as much as I am? The trailer gives me chills. I had read the Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel about three years ago, but anticipating the upcoming series, I was excited for the chance to re-read it with one of my book clubs.

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The first time I read The Handmaid’s Tale, I thought it was interesting, but I don’t think I fully appreciated it. This time around, I was able to read it through different eyes; it felt more relevant to me than it did a few years ago, and frankly, it was a little scary.

In Atwood’s imagined Republic of Gilead, Offred is one of the Handmaids placed with a Commander and his barren wife for the sole purpose of having his child and giving them a family. In her red dress, she is limited in who she’s allowed to communicate with, and even more so by the restrictions forbidding her to read or write. When Offred is not alone in her room, she runs errands with her partner Handmaid and occasionally attends birthings and special ceremonies designed to remind her and every woman of their place in this new totalitarian society.

Offred’s diet, and presumably that of all Handmaids in Gilead, is controlled in its amount and restricted to that which is nourishing. Though Offred is the one to pick up the household’s groceries, it seems she has no say in what she eats. When shopping one day, she muses on the smell of fresh strawberries and the memories of summers past they recall.

Living in a society so much like the one Offred used to live in – where women work outside of the home, have freedom of movement and choice, and can make their own decisions to have children or not – it was hard to see how easily it was all taken away. Many American women believe we have come a long way. And we have. But until we are truly equal and are equally represented in society, women are not in control of their own destinies. For me, the fact that these rollbacks are not inconceivable was the most eye-opening part of reading this book.

In the end, Offred’s story left me with more questions than answers, but it was one that sparked a lively conversation with my fellow book club members and one that I heartily recommend.

Capitalizing on their bright red color, strawberries seemed like an excellent choice to represent The Handmaid’s Tale. I found a recipe for Fresh Strawberry Pie that looked too good to resist.

Using a storebought crust proved to be a lifesaver for me as I had some issues and had to bake it three times before I got it right (don’t forget your pie weights!). While that was a bit frustrating, I was happy I didn’t have to re-make crust from scratch just as many times. Before it went into the oven each time, I made sure to scallop the edges to create a pretty design.

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While it baked, I washed, hulled and quartered the fresh strawberries – I used 4 cups in the end, though I had prepared 6 cups. It will ultimately depend on how deep and wide your pie dish is, but I don’t think it hurts to have some extra prepared strawberries around.

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When my successful crust was finally cooling, I got to work on the glaze. I combined 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and some cornstarch in a small saucepan and brought it all to a boil. Then, I whisked until the glaze began to thicken, about 3 minutes. Last, I added the box of strawberry Jell-O and whisked that for another minute or so. The finished glaze also had to cool about 15 minutes before filling the pie.

When assembling the pie, I first added the prepared fresh strawberries to the cooled crust. I did my best to keep the top relatively even, but you could certainly create a thicker middle if you wanted to. (That option might require additional glaze to get good coverage.) Then it was time to pour on the delicious glaze, again doing my best to get even coverage over the strawberries.

The finished product was absolutely beautiful – and SO red. I couldn’t wait to dig in. This pie will definitely be making future appearances over the summer.

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Fresh Strawberry Pie

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 9 inch pie crust (homemade or storebought)
  • 4 to 6 cups fresh strawberries, quartered and hulled
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 3oz. box of strawberry Jell-O
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions

  1. Bake pie crust in 9-inch deep pie dish and set aside to cool.
  2. Put the water, sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Whisk constantly until it becomes thick, about 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the Jell-O and cook for a minute longer. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 15 minutes.
  4. As the glaze cools, place strawberries straight into the pie crust.
  5. Pour the glaze over the strawberries.
  6. Refrigerate until set. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

From: Sugar Apron

When baking the pie crust, be sure to use pie weights or dry beans to ensure that the sides of your crust doesn’t fall. Poke holes in the bottom of the crust with a fork, add weights or beans and bake according to directions. After half the baking time, remove weights and allow to bake for the remaining time without them.

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List: Ice Cream + Books

Lots of things go well with books – everything from coffee and tea to blankets and arm chairs to beaches and lazy afternoons in the park. Ice cream and books is probably not a common pairing, but it’s a genius one. This list from Book Riot suggests a book for every flavor of Ben & Jerry’s and I, for one, can’t wait to dig in!