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I Made Another Cake

It was TWELVE LAYERS. I’ll spare you knowledge of exactly how many pounds of butter, cups of sugar, and dozens (yes) of eggs I went through to make this sucker. (Hint: more than any other cake I can recall making, except maybe my wedding cake. Which was for many more people.)

Yellow Sponge Cake Chocolate Soufflé

Yellow Sponge Cake.
Mocha Buttercream.
Hazelnut Meringue.
Coffee Buttercream.
Chocolate Soufflé Cake.
Mocha Buttercream.
Repeat.
Shave Good Dark Chocolate on top.
Serve.

What can I say? It was my birthday. I went overboard.*

Close up.
Finished Cake

I made a whole bunch of other food too. I know you’re interested, because you love food as much as I do (don’t you? Isn’t that why you’re here?) so here’s a round up of the party menu. I decided to keep it classy with fancy, bite-sized apps and none of the usual chip-and-dip business. Also, I attempted to maintain a balance of hot and cold things and to make sure my vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free/kosher friends all had options. Here’s what I made, in no particular order:

  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates (hot) – a time-tested standby, it is hard to go wrong with these. Plus, Julia and I had them on our first date, and so they are special. Plus, you know, really freakin’ tasty.
  • Caprese Skewers (cold, vegetarian) – my play on the classic Italian salad. I put a cherry tomato, a small basil leaf, and one of those tiny (3/4″ diameter or so) mozzarella balls from the deli onto each stick, arranged them on a plate, and then drizzled with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Brie with Apricot Preserves & Almonds (hot, vegetarian) –  I make this a lot at parties because it is quick and easy but also fancy and delicious. All you do is top a wedge of brie with a few spoonfuls of preserves, warm it for about a minute in the microwave, sprinkle it with nuts, and serve with crackers. The amount of effort involved is nearly zero, and compared to the usual grabbing of chips & dip on the way to the potluck… WIN. Seriously, do this instead.
  • Chilled Cucumber & Dill Soup (cold, vegetarian, gluten-free) – This was a new recipe I tried. I tasted it while I was cooking it, and truthfully, I liked it better warm. Still, it was pretty good. I served it in 1oz shot glasses. FYI, I subbed vegetable stock for the chicken called for in the recipe to keep it as a meat-free option.
  • Red Wine Poached Figs (hot, vegan, gluten-free) – Holy crap, these were good. Unfortunately, they came out of the oven right after we decided to bust out the cake, so they were largely overlooked by the guests. Too bad for them. If you like figs, you should make these sometime. Soon, because as I mentioned, they are almost out of season.
  • Cucumber Chickpea Bruschetta (cold, vegan, gluten-free) – We made these once before, at our vegan/gluten-free dinner party, and they were as good as we remembered. Yum.
  • Shrimp Cocktail (cold) – Let’s just say we started with two pounds of shrimp and leave it at that.
  • Lemon-Parsley Gougeres – I’ve been wanting to make these for a while. Glad I finally got around to it – they were heavenly little flaky pastry puffs with a zesty lemon bite. They did not last long.

Of course, there was also wine a plenty along with champagne and some non-alcoholic punch, which turned out to be so good that I ended up drinking quite a bit of it.

In summary: delicious food + wine + the most excellent people = one awesome 30th birthday!

*I spent the better part of my actual birthday on Saturday prepping for this party. There were spreadsheets involved. Because, you know, I needed a schedule and a list of prep times and to make sure I had enough vegetarian, gluten-free, & kid-friendly things as well as a balance of hot & cold; sweet & savory. And also I just like spreadsheets. Yeah, I’m a major geek. But you knew that.

Cake, Cake, and More Cake

Boy do I feel sorry for people who don’t (or can’t) eat cake. Because I love it. And it’s come to pass that the tail end of summer and the better part of fall seems to be cake-making season for me. There are so many occasions to celebrate, and as I’m sure you know, I hardly need an excuse to bake. Let’s take a look back at last year’s sweets:

July
Our Wedding Cake
Vanilla-Almond with Berries & Pastry Cream; Devil’s Food with Mocha Whipped Cream; Pumpkin with Ginger Buttercream

August
Devil’s Food with Mocha Whipped Cream, for Julia’s brother Joel’s birthday

September
My birthday. Can’t remember exactly what I made, but I do remember it was the ugliest cake ever to emerge from my kitchen. Pretty sure chocolate and strawberries were involved, but it was a sloppy mess.

October
Ellen mentioned cake on facebook, so Julia told her she should come over and I’d make her one, and a few days later I did. Sadly, I no longer have any recollection of what kind of cake it was…
Green Tea Cake with Red Bean Paste filling for Alice’s birthday (which was light and delicious and really needs to be made again soon). And yes, I know her birthday is in July, but this is when we all had the same free spot in our schedules to actually get together and celebrate it.

November
Would ordinarily be a month for making Julia’s birthday cake, but last year I made pie. Apple pie with FRESH FIGS. It was the BEST. PIE. EVER. Almost made me convert to a pie-as-dessert-of-choice girl. Almost.

The cake schedule is a little lighter this year, thankfully. But Joel’s birthday came around again, as birthdays do, and so there was a Heavenly Chocolate Cake Roll (gluten-free!) with strawberries added to the whipped cream filling.

I should have probably made a cake to celebrate the arrival of our new niece, Sophia, on August 16th, but I don’t think she’s picked a favorite flavor yet…

And last night we threw a party to celebrate marriage equality in New York. [Yeah, I know we live in Chicago, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, or whatever, so eventually it’s gonna walk this way, right? Plus, we were raising money for LAMBDA LEGAL, and you can never go wrong with that. And, you know, we’re still not equal enough. And further more, we were celebrating in solidarity with a bunch of other people at other parties all around the country. So. A party was had. Cake was eaten. Champagne was consumed in copious amounts. Drunken neighbors crashed. But I digress, as always.] Ahem.

So. Naturally, I made some Marriage Equality Cake. The purple side is Devil’s Food with Mocha Whipped Cream (are you sensing a pattern here?) and the green side is Vanilla-Almond with Apricot-Almond filling. Both were quite tasty, and I’ll be eating the leftovers all week.

Which brings us back to my birthday. I’m just gonna let you drool over what I have planned:

Twelve Layer Mocha Cake

I’ll wait while you pencil in the date on your calendar. That’s September 18th, my place, 3ish. See you there.

What a Vegan, Gluten-Free Dinner Party Looks Like

Just the right number of (smokin’ hot) cooks in the kitchen.
(I swear we were all in the kitchen until it was time to eat…)

Our second fabulous dinner party was a serious group effort. Although I did the menu planning, everyone pitched in to get all the ingredients together, and then everyone just took a dish and ran with it. I tend to be somewhat controlling (ok, I’ll admit it – I’m a complete control freak!) so I was mildly apprehensive about letting people help. But, as I am discovering over and over again lately, doing things together totally rocks.

It was, in a word, AWESOME, to share my kitchen with these fabulous women.

Here’s what we made:

Appetizers
Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime (recipe)
Cucumber “Bruschetta” (recipe)


First Course
Plum, Raspberry, and Tarragon Soup (recipe)


Second Course
Zucchini Tagliatelle with Cucumber, Mint, and Lemon (recipe)
Zucchini Pasta with Pesto (recipe)
Yellow Potatoes with Swiss Chard, Garlic, and Rosemary (recipe)

[Imagine we did not eat it so fast, and there is a picture here.]

Dessert
Coconut Curry Ice Cream (recipe)