Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Wedding Favors, 70 Miles, and BBQ!

What a hectic  weekend! With only 32 days left to the wedding and 15 days to Ironman Boise 70.3 things around here are getting pretty hairy! WHO thought that it would be a good idea to actually race an Ironman 70.3 event 2 weeks out from their own wedding?

I have to say MY mom has been my savior! She has kept me calm for the last 72 hours as we have cut, measured, glued, taped, strung, organized, tied, re-tied, and matched all kinds of party favors, wedding programs, and anything else you can imagine goes along with wedding bustle! Yep… 85+ a piece!


At this point we have figured that my mom has tied over 270 bows!

Did I forget to mention that the wedding is in 32 to days… GULP! (just kidding Boss!)

Also this weekend I finished up on a really good note with my longest, hardest, and fasted long-ride of the season! 70 miles! Yeah, anyone in the DC area reading this might recall the heat and humidity on Saturday… that was just dreamy! The ride went really well, and that combined with last weekend’s race (bike portion) I’m really getting some confidence back for the Half Iron. I definitely had some hiccups in training in the last few weeks both mentally and physically, and I’ve been a little bummed about the up coming “A” race. However, there comes a point when you realize that you’re going to do the best that you can on race day no matter what, and if anyone has the time to sit back and pick apart my race times and paces afterwards they can go right ahead… I’ll be going to get married :)

As for food this weekend, it’s was a long standing tradition that needed to be continued!  I’m sure you would be entertained to read this post from a few years back. It is a tradition around these parts to have pulled pork BBQ sandwiches that have been roasting on the Barbie for 12+ hours! Actually that post contains one of my very first cupcake d explorations whereby I actually let the Boss post my work! If you haven’t checked the link yet, dooooo it.. there are penguin cupcakes with sorbet brains coming out! (that wasn’t originally part of my cupcake design… the brains that is). Anyways, back to this weekend’s food, I am guilty of “juicing”. I got out my giant syringe an injected the 16.5lbs of Bone in Pork Butt with a secret recipe….



That’s all I have for now. This week is going to be just as busy so I’ll keep you posted on any new developments! I hope everyone had a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Championship Cherry Cupcakes!


I think you might remember that I mentioned that my sister did the job on her ankle the other night at a co-ed soccer game? That’s right, she went ahead and broke several bones and tore a few stability muscles in her ankle! Obviously that is going to suck for any adult (I wouldn’t say “anyone” because I swear some kids think it’s “Cool” to be in a cast!).  But who it really sucks for is a high school soccer coach who is supposed to be standing/teaching for long school hours and then turn around and coach in rain and thunder and lighting until 9:30pm! Yup all of that in a walking cast, and honestly she hasn’t really complained about it. She’s like the Energizer Bunny and just keeps on going!

Well, since she’s been doing a lot (and suffering a lot) for her high school soccer girls, I thought I should do something for both her and the team! Last night was the Single A District Championship to which her team pulled out a 2-1 win AND my sister was awarded District Coach of the year! Woohoo! So obviously I didn’t know any of this before making the cupcakes since I was bringing them to the game, and that is why you’ll notice there isn’t necessarily anything spectacular about the decorations on the cupcakes… I didn’t want to make “District Champs” plaques and then jinx them.

This was a last minute batch of cupcakes, so baking pictures are non-existent. Instead I thought I would showcase some mouth watering pictures of the cupcakes I never got to sample!! Here are my vanilla cupcakes with cherry flavored buttercream.


Photo credits go to The Boss

If you want the buttercream recipe you’ll have to stand by until next weekend to see how they did in the Regional Finals!!!

Till then..

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Icing Smiles

Back at the National Capital Area Cake Show in March, I made a contact with the founder of an organization called Icing Smiles. This nationwide organization organizes “smiles” for children and families who have battled a chronic illness of some sort. “What do you mean they organize Smiles?” Well, the organization pairs up families with a child (or a sibling of a child) who has an upcoming birthday with a volunteer cake designer and they communicate to create a cake theme that will put a smile on their face!

This past Saturday I visited the Children’s National Medical Center for a little boy named Aaric!


As you can see, I was heading to the Heart and Kidney Unit where Aaric was recovering after his open heart surgery earlier the week. Aaric, 19 months old, has now undergone 3 open heart surgeries to help repair a string of heart problems that the doctors diagnosed before he was born; hopefully this was the last of them until he is in his teens and may need a “tune-up” after growing and all!

Here’s a picture of Aaric. He’s doing great after the surgery, but I think that he’d appreciate if his pain medicine was working better :(


I received an e-mail from my Icing Smiles regional coordinator who asked if I would be available to create a cake for Aaric and his family. Even though this wasn’t his Birthday, I think we were all pretty willing and understanding that this was definitely a cake worthy occasion for this little trooper! I said “Yes, of course” and then I was connected with Aaric’s Mom who gave me the details on the cake request. The Icing Smiles coordinator sends the first email with the specific questions (Red), and the family responds with the details:

1.    Theme (specific design determined by the volunteer) – Cars and Trucks
2.    Color scheme – Doesn’t Matter
3.    Number of servings – 6-7
4.    Flavor preference – Chocolate and/or vanilla
5.   Inscription – Get Well Aaric!
6.    Dietary Restrictions – No Trans fats or Food coloring/ dye

Of course, Aaric’s mom could have written in the cake request for that she wanted a real life Tonka truck to show up for her son and I would have done everything in my power to make that happen!  But request #6 initially caught me off guard, calling for “No food coloring/Food dye”, as in no artificial colors…uh oh. So I quickly got in touch with the mom to confirm that coloring of any artificial means would be a no-go. She apologized and noted that it probably didn’t allow for a very fancy cake without color. Hmmmm, I was feeling terrible that I accepted this cake project and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to pull off a great cake for this much deserving little boy and mom!

I thought about a lot of options that I read online about natural food coloring. Beet juice, powdered spinach…that probably wouldn’t be too appealing for a kid (or anyone)! And for the most part the authors of the posts or forums admitted that it was a terrible taste in the end. Hmmm what am I going to do???

Well here is what I did!:


Vanilla cake…


Vanilla Buttercream…


With milk chocolate ganache fillingIMG_8753

Stacked it 7 layers high, and created a mountain side…

IMG_8755Who needs food coloring when you can add your own Tonka Trucks! Thanks “Chuck and Friends” for providing 12 Months+ friendly fun and color!!!

I wanted to make sure that the trucks fit and that I had carved the cake well enough that you could see there was a road or ramp that the cars were navigating to get to the top!


Then I had to get the buttercream on the cake to seal in all of those layers of ganache!

But what was I going to do about coloring this cake? Surely Chuck and his buddies were not out driving around in the snow…

IMG_8739 IMG_8741

DID YOU KNOW that Oreo cookies have zero trans fats and no artificial food coloring?? Yup, here comes muddy mountain!


I let the cake harden up a little in the fridge after the Oreos were packed on. I figured it would be best to attach the cars and get well flags after the Oreos had made themselves comfortable!

Until these guys would have to wait…IMG_8765

Finally it was time to go see Aaric, and the cake was assembled!

Chuck and Friends CakeCar and Truck Cake 2Car and Truck Cake 3

Even though the flags were made of colored fondant I didn’t think it would be a problem since the color wasn’t actually touching the cake and I just mentioned to the mom not to eat them. The mom seemed really happy with the cake, and little Aaric has been reported as “loving playing with his new cars!” It looks like color free was all for the best after all!

I had a great experience with my first “Icing Smiles” cake and really look forward to my next “call to action”.

Additionally, if you’d like to help out Aaric – the family said the best way to do so is to donate directly to Children’s Hospital.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Busy Weekend Wrap-Up!

Since this weekend was so action packed I’m going to have to split some of it up so I don’t have you reading my post ALL day! You might recall from my random “Friday Tidbits” that I was working on a cake for a little boy who has had a long running date with the cardiac unit. Well the little boy, Aaric, had his 3rd and (hopefully) final open heart surgery earlier the week and I was called upon to create a customized cake for him and his family as a get well gesture. The cake was a lot of fun to make, and there is a lot of information to tell you about this new organization that I have started working with, so to do it all justice I’m going to write it all up for tomorrow’s post. On Sunday we raced an Olympic distance triathlon with a start time of 11:50am which means a late finish, a late drive home, late dinner, etc. etc. and now I’m exhausted! So I’ll just leave you with this little preview of the cake…

IMG_1773 hospital

As for the rest of the weekend, we headed up to Newark, Delaware to stay Saturday night. Even with the race start time at 11:50 the next morning, there were so many logistical items built into the race that we still had to be there early for transition area setup. 

Race transition opened at 8:30-9:30 and when it closed “IT CLOSED”, as in now I’m booted from transition only to wait until 10:40 for my ferry shuttle to where The Boss has been since his shuttle left at 10:00. Personally I liked the later start time, and it was a great run through for Boise 70.3 that we have coming up in three weeks, which also has a late morning/early afternoon start time.

So I’ll cut to the chase since I know that’s what you really want! For the more in depth race report about the course, etc, here is where you should go as the Boss always does a good job on that stuff.

Overall I was very happy with my time and performance, and persistency to finish the swim that was pulling us triathletes down stream in the crosscurrent. My swim ranged somewhere in the 30 minute range, and my bike was a pretty fast split at 1:12 crunching out a max wattage of 380 on the bridge climb! Oops, that wasn’t in the race plan! From here, with a great bike under my belt I was in for a bit of a harder time on the run. My goal for the day was to finally go sub-7 on the run since I was exactly 7 minute miles on my last Olympic race, but with so much energy going into the bike today, that run just wasn’t possible. Still 7:12 minute mile isn’t too bad. Plus it still allowed me to end up there:


4th place overall Female and 1st in my age group! Woot!

Well, since I’m falling a sleep with the computer on my lap, I’m going to call it quits for now. I’m sure I’ll add a few more pics later, but for right now, sleepy!

See you tomorrow!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

What’s Happenin' Friday!

Nothing too exciting, just a few tidbits.

1) I’m working on a customized cake for a young boy who underwent his 3rd open heart surgery earlier the week. I’ll deliver the cake to the family at the Washington, D.C. Children’s hospital on Saturday morning. Will have full report on Monday.

2) Traveling to Delaware Saturday afternoon in preparation for our race on Sunday. Escape from Fr. Delaware.

3) Taking a boat trip on Sunday. A ferry really. Yup, a one way swim on Sunday morning across a brutal “cross-current” to which wetsuits are “MANDATORY”! Well, it was nice knowing ya :)  Just kidding I’m looking forward to the swim and the entire race weekend!

4) Pancakes for breakfast this morning!! Nice!

5) Good luck to all of those East Coasters taking part in The Columbia Triathlon this weekend.


Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Buttercream

Seriously, what three words could sound better? “You won the lottery…” nope, that’s four and therefor doesn’t count! Peanut Butter Buttercream wins! IMG_8715

This past weekend a good friend of mine hosted a “Bloggers Unite” party where by a group of 10-15 girlies in the area who are all great athletes and bloggers (and appreciators of dessert) got together to meet up! I found this wildly entertaining because nobody actually knew each other… just knew each others blog and “tweets”. I have to say that everyone who showed up were pretty cool ladies and it was very cool to meet the people you’ve been reading about for a while.

So, knowing that this grand event was upon us, I thought cupcakes were in order! And what athlete doesn’t like peanut butter? Try putting scoops of peanut butter on your banana and eat that for a recovery snack (let me know how that goes)! Since I didn’t want to overkill the cupcakes with peanut butter AND bananas, I went with the good ol’ rich chocolate cupcake instead of a banana bread style cupcake; no one seemed to mind.

The morning started off with mixing up the butter and sugars, and then adding in the eggs.


In a separate bowl I organized the dry ingredients including my coco powders.


Mix it all together and you get… IMG_8675

VoilĂ !

IMG_8683Seriously it took a lot, I will repeat that one more time A LOT of restraint to not completely devour the entire batch of chocolate batter, and thus the batter did make it into the cupcake pans!

While they were baking it was time to start the experimentation with my new project… “Project Master Peanut Butter Buttercream”. This project started out much the same as many other buttercreams start out, egg whites & white sugar meet double boiler! Once the egg mixture has been whisked until the candy thermometer says 160°F pour into standing mixer equipped with the whisk attachment and whip on high! You are done when the meringue can hold stiff peaks.

IMG_8685 IMG_8689

From here I contemplated the amount of butter to put into the buttercream recipe because I would also be adding peanut butter and I didn’t want to add too much of either such that I would loose the lightness of the buttercream. So I added only half the butter I usually would for this ratio and substituted the other half of the butter with the peanut butter! Seriously folks, this stuff was the sheeze! I added a concerning amount of peanut butter but it didn’t end up effecting the consistency and the flavor was de-lish! As well I used crunchy peanut butter; the jury is still out on if I would use crunchy again.  It certainly wasn’t a bad move, but I’m pondering how the velvety texture would compare to the buttercream with a little peanut crunch! Too bad I couldn’t offer you a free sample right through your computer screen!

Somehow I didn’t manage to get a picture of the buttercream piped out onto the cupcake before I dunked them into their ganache topping. That’s right, I said “their ganache topping”. So I’ll skip right ahead to the goodness of ganache!


It was like one giant warm Reese's peanut butter cup on top of the chocolate cupcake!

Now you have to remember back to the beginning of this post and that the whole point of making these cupcakes was for our girls night, and I felt the cupcakes just looked a little sad without any bling to jazz them up…so I added what every girl loves. Stilettos! That’s right SHOES! Don’t roll your eyes gentlemen, you know your lady’s legs just look that much hotter with a pair of high heels on her tootsies!

           Sad & Shoeless cupcakes


Happy Feet Cupcakes!


I assume the ladies liked the cupcakes since I didn’t have to take any home with me!

And that’s all for this post because I’m currently busy in the kitchen working on my next cake project. I’m paired up with an organization called Icing Smiles, and I’ll be baking a cake customized for a family who has a young child undergoing continuous medical care. I won’t give away all of the details now, you’ll have to come back on Monday to see the cake and hear this young boys story!


‘Till then, enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Strawberry Layer Cake

Oh yes, strawberry season is upon us again! Well back that up a minute… I don’t necessarily know if it is legit “strawberry season” but the grocery stores are now starting to offer their “Buy one Get one free” deals on the pints of strawberries! If you recall my strawberry extravaganza from last year then you’ll know that I love baking with strawberries, and this year is no different.



I went a head and picked up 2 containers of my favorite berries and immediately went to washing, slicing and dicing! With all of my prepped strawberries I made a puree that would be the flavor base for the rest of my cake!

IMG_8571 IMG_8572

I decided to try something a little different this time when it came to baking my cake layers. I decided that I didn’t want to bake in circular pans and deal with leveling off a fair amount of the cake due to uneven rising in a deep pan. So instead I was going to try my luck and bake the cake in cookie sheets/ sheet pans. I figure with only a limited amount of batter depth in the cookie sheets, the cake must have a rising threshold and in turn I’m hoping the rising will be more level than the cakes I have previously baked in deep 9” round pans.


And it worked! So I left the cakes to cool and went off to the buttercream station!

My favorite buttercream comes with a little bit of work, and lot of eggs! I took 9 egg whites and about 2 1/3cups of white sugar (yes recipes are at the bottom) and whisked them over boiling water until the sugars hit 160 degrees on the candy thermometer.



As soon as the mixture hits the 160 mark, pour it into your standing mixer and whip on high speed for 7-10 minutes until “stiff peaks” form.


Once you get to the stiff peaks stage start incorporating the next ingredient. IMG_8599

Well what did you think went in “Butter-cream”? Yes, that is 2 and a half cups of butter to go in one tablespoon at a time.


After the butter I also started to add my strawberry puree (from earlier).

IMG_8609 VoilĂ ! Strawberry Buttercream! Mmmmm Now back to the cake layers.

After I let the cakes cool, I took the desired circular pans that I would have usually baked with and used them as my measuring guide. I was actually able to get 5 layers (9” rounds) out of the recipe rather than just 4 or sometimes 3 layers I get when I have to take a lot of cake off to even out the “dome” that was created by rising in the oven. PLUS, I still had enough useable cake left to make a cake mini as well!

So with the cake layers measured and cut, buttercream in waiting, and puree still left over I went to stacking my cake. Since I had so much fun doing so, I put together a little cake stacking animation for you!

Cake layering

I know, I took that a little far.

Then I went ahead and popped the two cakes in the fridge to let the buttercream set up.


I went ahead and started slicing up some fresh strawberries for the top of the cake and for my lunch! I left the cakes alone for a couple of hours and came back to them later in the evening.


Who wants cake??

This is actually the most nerve racking part because once you cut into the cake you get to see just how “even” my layers are! There’s a real “pride” thing here about how uniform you can get your cake layers and buttercream layers. I have to say I was pretty pleased!


Once the cake was cut and the suspense was over, I swiftly made deliveries to my neighbors! My neighbors are pretty supportive of my cake habits, and are pretty welcoming when the doorbell rings! Thanks guys!

Of course the neighbors aren’t the only one getting to taste.


Dessert for two.


Strawberry Layer Cake

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tps baking powder

3 cups sugar

1 cup unsalted butter @ room temperature (2 sticks) 

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

8 egg whites

1/2 cup whole milk

1 cup fresh strawberry puree

Cream your butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. While the mixer is going combine your dry ingredients in a separate bowl as well your milk, puree, and vanilla in bowl with spout. Once butter and sugars are light and fluffy (about 5-7 minutes) gradually add your egg whites, and remember to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl after every other addition. Now add dry mixture in 3 parts alternating with your liquid ingredients, also scraping bowl between additions. Once all ingredients are incorporated set your oven for 350, and line your desired pans with cooking spray and parchment paper. Cooking time for the cookie sheets was approx. 17min. My estimate for a regular 9” pan would be 35-40 minutes. Check with toothpick.

Strawberry Buttercream

2 1/3 cups sugar

9 egg whites

2  1/2 cups unsalted butter @ room temp (5 sticks)

1/2 cup fresh strawberry puree

1/4 cup good quality strawberry jam (I used Welch’s Reduced Sugar Spread from a squeeze bottle) ROOM TEMP!

1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (yes, Tablespoon. That is not a typo)

Whisk egg whites and sugar in a heat safe bowl over boiling water (double boiler works too) until mixture reaches 160 Fahrenheit; be sure the water is not touching the bowl… we don’t want scrabbled eggs. Transfer to standing mixer with whisk attachment, and whip on high until stiff peaks form (about 7-10 minutes). Turn the mixer to low speed and gradually add the butter on tablespoon at a time ( cut each stick into 8 blocks and flop one block in at a time). If the icing starts to look a little liquid then pop it back on high speed until it has re-firmed. Turn the mixer back to low and add your jam and puree slowly.


Strawberry Puree

160z Carton of fresh strawberries cleaned

2 tbsp of strawberry jam

Food processor or mixer on pulse until liquid!

Design by Free WordPress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Themes | Premium Wordpress Themes