Monday, January 31, 2011

Things We've Done Lately

This is the tackiest cake I've ever made, but I think it also brought the recipient more joy than any floral masterpiece I've executed.
Rachel's boyfriend Dave loves PBR, so when I decided to make him a cake for his birthday I knew I had to somehow incorporate the famous red white and blue can into the theme.
I even etched the top of a can into some tinfoil for the top. Because I like to keep things official. When I walked into the party carrying that cake, Dave's face was like a kid on Christmas morning. "For me?!?!?!"
Yes Dave. For you.
Aaron's work on the guest house for my parents continues. Aaron and Matteas are heading to the river after a long work day.
This is just a tiny piece of my parents' property. The boys were "helping" my mom clear the back field of branches to prepare it for mowing, which is pretty much my mom's favorite thing to do.
Sometimes I think I should have been a farmer's wife. I love working outside, I love dirt, and in the words of my sister Moira, I love moving heavy objects. There's something vital and satisfying about changing the landscape of a field, and I think I understand how my mom feels about their acreage. Maybe it's the Irish/Scottish blood in me, but I feel like I can hear a piece of land speaking to me, and it's saying "Subdue me." And once you've done that, you can plant things on your subdued piece of land and wrestle food from the loins of the earth, make edible things grow where there used to be bramble and weeds. I also really like the working side-by-side aspect; the house Aaron is building is a literal stone's throw(or hearty shout) from the field I was working in(read: subduing with my labor), and even though we were doing separate work it felt like we spent the day together. He was building a guest house, I was clearing branches. And when I say branches, I mean whole branches, not some lady-like game of pick-up sticks. We've had some crazy wind storms this winter, and whole limbs were ripped from some of my parents' many trees. Whole limbs are not good for John Deere mowers, so my mom and I worked to clear the field so she could mow to her heart's content. It takes a lot of mowing to content my mother's heart. The spot on her heart designated to Mowing Satisfaction takes up a large part of her cardiac landscape, and I was not about to come between her and Ultimate Mowing Satisfaction. We worked together to clear a large enough section to get her started, then she began mowing while I scrambled to clear another section before she was finished mowing the already-cleared part. Jack and Matteas took turns riding along with her while I ran and hauled like a beaver preparing for winter, and at the end of the day we were all tired, filthy, and thoroughly pleased with our efforts. I meant to take pictures of the enormous branch piles we'd made, but it was dark and cold and I was hungry from all the subduing, so we headed inside for a feast of slow-roasted pork shoulder. I will share the recipe shortly, although I should tell you in advance that it is a meal best eaten after some serious Manual labor. It's Hungry Man Food, not like those sad TV dinners meant to replace the cooking of a sturdy farm wife, but the kind of food that can satisfy the appetite of a man who is hungry in the way only a hard-working, hand-saw-wielding, there-is-a-structure-here-where-there-was-only-grass -because-of-the-work-of-my-Man-Hands type of man can be hungry. It's not the sort of meal I'd recommend after a day of light housework. Unless your idea of 'light housework' involves building an actual house or moving heavy objects.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Matteas Reads "The Mitten" The youtube video is much better quality so I included the link; the nuances in his eyebrows kill me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Eve Wedding Cake

On Monday, I got a phone call from a friend of a friend asking if I'd be willing to make a last-minute wedding cake for a New Year's Eve wedding. Since it was for a small cake, I said yes. My instructions were: top tier- pistachio cake with Nutella filling bottom tier- white cake with buttercream filling frosting- white with white dots flowers- white and peridot pom poms
I've never done tiny all-over dots before, but I'm kind of in love with them. I think they'd make a really sweet baby shower cake.
Experimenting with the flowers. I couldn't find actual pom poms, so I picked up some flowers that were in the same "tight clusters of poufy petals" family in the right colors.
I really liked the all-white simplicity of this cake and now I really want to make a super-elegant all-white cake, with white roses and freesias. Summer wedding, anyone?
The final result. This was definitely the most relaxed I've ever felt about a cake, and I finished it a full three hours before I had to deliver it. I would have finished it even earlier, but I didn't have a small enough frosting tip for the dots. My husband ventured into the craft store for me and bought me two frosting tips, which I thought was pretty heroic since I'm pretty sure the craft store is the last place he wants to be, ever. I just wish I could have seen my burly husband in the cake decorating aisle, carefully picking out frosting tips while wearing his work clothes. Totally awesome.
I think I may have succeeded in getting the Swiss Buttercream as smooth as humanly possible on this cake. I had to step up my game a bit because the couple didn't want any ribbon on the cake, which I think looks lovely but also has the added benefit of concealing the seams between the tiers. It's hard to get that seam sealed nice and smooth, and I'd never actually done it before. I think there's a tool I need for that which isn't currently in my arsenal, but I managed it anyway and was really pleased with the improvement in my sculpture skills. I thought this cake would be easier than past cakes on account of how simple it was, but on a technical level it was more challenging; with no ribbon and simple flowers, I couldn't rely on distraction and floral impact to hide any of my mistakes. This was also the very first time I've delivered a cake already assembled. I'm not sure I'd attempt the same thing with a three-tiered cake, but it was awfully nice to arrive at the reception site, plop(or, you know, professionally deposit) the cake on the cake table and walk out. There was no swearing, no shaking hands piping last-minute pearls, no stashing my bowl of frosting under a table cloth, no leaving behind of valuable cake tools. A clean drop. Highly satisfying.