Missy and Adam’s Wedding Cake

Here’s the cake I made for Missy. It’s a three tiered white wedding cake filled with vanilla buttercream icing. It’s spackled with more buttercream and then coated with fondant. The flowers are made out of gum paste and painted with petal dust. The cake weighs more the Elliot, I’m guessing 30 pounds.

Missy wanted deep purple tulips to match her wedding flowers. The white ribbon is what she’s using for her bouquet. There was also the suggestion of using twine, but it shed a bit and I’m not sure what was used to treat it, so we left it off. In retrospect, I may have liked to try and create edible twine. Next time!

I hope you enjoy. If you have any questions, let me know. I hope to give a brief tutorial (for total beginners) in the future.

I have known Missy for 15 years. We both once lived in Washington, DC and that seems like a lifetime ago. I adore her. She is one of my closest friends. We don’t see each other as often as we used to, even though we live within a few miles of one another! But we always pick up right where we left off. She’s a lifelong friend. This I know.

Anyway, I love her. I’m lucky she’s in my life. And so I jumped at the chance to do this for her and I would do it again in a heartbeat, even though I was nervous as hell and lost some sleep!

Overall, I’m proud of the cake. Thanks, Missy and Adam for the opportunity to do something special for you.

Updates On Random

I’m a terrible blogger and getting worse by the day. It’s been, what, a month since I last updated? Is this how things will finally end? Slowly, without realizing they’re going to? I’m sorry. I just don’t know what’s happening.

I never anticipated it ending this way. I always thought I’d get irritated by some other blogger (or whatever) and be done with it once and for all. Or a lurker would send me some hateful email, which has happened many times over the years, and I’d say, “This ain’t worth it! My skin isn’t thick enough!” and finally mean it. But like this? I never thought it’d end like this, like I’m backing out of the room slowly, hoping by the time I let the door close behind me, no one will be left to notice.

I just never thought it would slowly fizzle to nothing. And writing that down makes me feel a little blue.

So! Enough.

Here’s a picture of me after falling asleep with wet hair. Sexy.

Let’s see. I’ve been running. A lot. And then I got a little hurt. I did an 11 miler a week and a half ago and BAM! two days later the outside of my left foot hurt. I haven’t run on it since. I’m hoping that it will heal entirely by this Saturday’s race. This past weekend, things weren’t looking so good. But it’s better today and has been for over 48 hours. So I’m going to give it a shot. The worst that will happen is I’ll get out there, start running and find I’m still injured and can’t finish. But I have to try. I must. And I’m excited about it. I love DC. When I found out I hadn’t made the lottery for the NYC half, I jumped at the chance to do the Rock ‘n Roll half in Washington, DC.

We rented a hotel room right downtown. It has a pool AND a hot tub, which I’m sure I’ll be using assuming I finish the race. It’s also near the Air and Space Museum. And I can’t wait to take Emory. He’s going to love our nation’s capital. I am so excited for him. I’m excited to see my friends, and to run through the streets of a city that means a great deal to me.

What else? I’ve been baking. A lot. I have been baking cakes, muffins, galettes and eclairs (to name a few). And I plan on sharing some recipes, specifically the eclair recipe, because you would not believe how easy it is.

I’m practicing cake combinations for future wedding cakes. This has been oddly fun. The only downside is I’m eating too much of my work and therefore my waistline is expanding. All that weight I lost last fall is inching its way back. Not cool. I felt so awesome back then. So I’m doing Weight Watchers again. I am 10 pounds above my ideal weight and, no, it’s not much, but it’s so easy to slip up and have that rise to 15 and then 20. I don’t want that to happen again.

I’m rambling but at least I’m writing! Something. Anything. Filler? Oh god. No.

We moved! I love our new apartment building. It’s fantastic. We gave up our personal view, but we gained a super patio, a gym, a roof deck, a massive playroom which is often filled with kids. We have a nice kitchen and a bit more (definitely more useable) space. I’m happy here. And we’re right on the East River. So the views from outside (and the roof) are spectacular. I go to the gym during the day while Elliot naps. I wheel him down in the stroller and work out while he sleeps next to me. The view from the gym is of the entire skyline. It’s pretty great.

That’s all for now. I have a bunch of pictures I need to upload, pictures of the new place, all my cakes, the kids. And I’ll do that soon.

And I’m sorry I haven’t written much.

My Externship At Mast Brothers

I’m not sure I mentioned this before, but I’ve been working at Mast Brothers for several months fulfilling the necessary 210 externship hours to finalize my pastry degree. It’s been a crazy awesome couple of months too. I’ve learned a great deal and met some fascinating, talented and hilarious people.

But it’s also been a buttload of work! I work every weekend all day long. (Thanks to Toby Joe for being full-time dad.) I’ve also been working every Tuesday. My mother drives up from South Jersey every Monday, spends the night surrounded by stuffed animals, Thomas trains and found objects, watches the kids all day Tuesday and then drives back home that night. Yes, this is insane. And I can’t thank her enough. I couldn’t have done it without Toby and my mom.

Anyway, this is my last week at Mast Brothers. I’m done next Tuesday. And I’m going to miss these guys. They’ve made me cry several times from laughing so hard. And the weekend crew tells the most insane stories. I guess you could say I live vicariously through them. And I tell them that. Every Saturday and Sunday morning I get the lowdown on what took place the night before. Sometimes they come in hungover, sometimes still a little drunk. They remind me of 26-year-old me who had just moved to New York and had the energy to do all of that and then some. Their stories have me reminiscing about my own life. And last week it occurred to me: I’m pretty happy at age 37. I want to hear all about their lives, even bake them hangover biscuits, but I don’t wish to return to those days. I’m pretty OK with being done with all that—laughing along or just listening.

Anyway, it’s a bittersweet farewell, you see, because I’m finally going to have my weekends back. I haven’t really had my weekends (this goes for Toby too) since starting pastry school back in July of 2010. I’m not sure what people do on the weekends anymore. Spend time with their family? Go shopping? Sit around in their Saturday pants? Watch football? Blog?

YES! I will blog more. And make lollipops. And I will try and figure out what I’m going to do with my culinary degree.

P.S. I guess it’s a good thing I have a new alma mater since Penn State is going down the shitter. :[

Behold: The Cake

Here’s my final cake. I put roaches on it. Not too weird, right? Let me explain.

When I got this project, I pictured a really simple, white wedding cake. I wanted to try and do something really elegant. I imagined super fine piping, minimalistic but nice. And then I pictured something on it NO ONE would want to see on any wedding cake. Ever. A roach! A roach would be funny on a wedding cake, especially a wedding cake made in NYC where roaches outnumber people by like a billion. That would be funny, right? I mean, who wants a roach on a white wedding cake? Not me!

This image was funny to me. But the roach would have to be as realistic as possible. The cake would have to be well done, too. It would have to look close to perfect, as close to perfect as a pastry student could get. It couldn’t look cartoony or cheap. If any of the things listed above didn’t work out, the cake would suck. I had my work cut out for me.

Given I hadn’t ever worked with gum paste prior this cake, nor had I rolled out fondant before this project, I am pretty damn pleased with it. And it tastes good too! Even the fondant is edible. The roaches are as well. But I won’t eat gum paste. Or roaches.

I don’t know. I kept thinking of the last scene from Secretary. Where Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character (Lee Holloway) is making James Spaders’ (Mr. Grey) bed and it’s a perfectly made bed. And then at the very last moment, she puts a giant bug in between the sheets. I kept thinking of that scene. I don’t know why; maybe I have a tumor. But I love that movie. I love what that bug represents. So, yeah. Bugs, dudes. Bugs.

Anyway… that’s my cake. But for those who don’t like the bug, I took one without it as well.

In about 15 minutes from now, I am heading to Em’s preschool where I will show the kids the bug cake and let them eat the shit out of it. I hope to have pictures of that as well. Getting there will be tricky. I plan to wear the baby and put the cake in the stroller. This is NYC. No one will care.

Hey! I wonder if I’ll see any roaches.

The cake isn’t too weird, right? I bet the kids won’t think so! I mean, have you ever seen Yo Gabba Gabba? Kids don’t find anything weird.

ETA: this is what’s left of the cake after Em’s preschool got a hold of it:

It was awesome. They loved it. I loved watching them eat it.

That F*cking Weird Kid

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. Emory started school last week and there’s been some adjusting on my part to the new routine. He’s going to the same school, but it’s at another location. And that location is a wee bit further away. So, it’s been a bit of a change. Plus, my big boy is away every single day! This is a first for me. He’s gone to school before, but only for a few days each week. Now, it’s every day and I miss him. I really miss him.

The lollipop business is still going strong. A year ago today, I had about five sales. At the time of writing this, I have 932 transactions. Many of those included more than one sale. I owe every last bit of that success to Etsy who featured me last October. Things have been going strong ever since. I am so grateful for their help and everyone who has supported me since then. Thank you!

Speaking of lollipops! I just rolled out my first Halloween lollipop. It’s called Trick Or Treat. It’s apple on the outside (just a hint!) and a candy corn on the inside. It’s quite good! I test everything I make before selling it. I usually make small individual candies first. I often end up with a stash. This stash is already depleted. I was pleasantly surprised by how good it is. So, if you’re a fan of candy corn, this one’s for you!

What else? I graduate this weekend! I can’t believe I’m finally done with pastry school. I started in July of 2010. I have given birth since then, which seems crazy to me. I was adopted by an entirely new class since then, too. It’s been a long time. Anyway, we’ve been working on our final cakes for the past several classes. Think of a wedding cake, but it doesn’t have to be for an actual wedding, if that makes any sense. Basically, we can do whatever we want within the timeframe we’re given. We do need a certain number of gum paste flowers for chef to grade, but they don’t have to be on our actual cake. We have to include some piping, as well as rolled out fondant. Other than that—color, style, concept—it’s up to us. Oh, and we can’t really do anything on our own. It has to be completed during class hours.

Anyway, I’ll have a picture of my cake next week. I will say this much: no one is likely to ever, EVER hire me to make their wedding cake. Also: I might end up friendless. At least that’s what I’m starting to think based on the response I received from my classmates. My “concept” didn’t go over too well with them. They looked at me with disgust in some cases. I got a snarl from one gal. And another said, “You’re not really doing that, are you? Because that’s really gross.”

Here I thought it was a little funny and not all that weird.

Something occurred to me on Sunday night while having dinner with Toby Joe. I’m 37-years-old and and I’m still very much considered “that fucking weird kid”.

“When will that finally change?” I asked him seriously.

“Never, Michele. You’ll die that way.”

“But I don’t, and never have, felt all that weird. I feel I’m very normal, even boringly so.”

“Well, that just means you’re really fucked up.”

So, yeah. My cake might be considered strange to some, which could be interesting since we’re “showing them off” on Sunday night during our graduation party. But I’m doing it anyway. It’s no stranger than fondant, y’all. And besides, I’m used to social anxiety and awkwardness.

Mom It Down: Easiest Peanut Butter Fudge Ever

I was craving fudge on Sunday, specifically peanut butter. So I read through a few recipes and came up with this one. The original recipe was taken from All Recipes and I modified it a bit. Anyway, it’s just too damn good and easy not to share. I don’t have any photographs because my card reader seems to be broken. Forgive me for that. But it’s super easy. I promise.

What you will need

  • Saucepan
  • Mixer
  • 8 x 8 square pan
  • wax paper (optional)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Fill mixing bowl of KitchenAid with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Melt butter in your saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar and milk. Stir often. Let the mixture boil and after it boils let it go for 2 minutes. It will bubble up quite a bit.

After 2 minutes or so, remove from heat and add peanut butter and vanilla extract. Stir up until mixed well.

Pour liquid over powdered sugar.

Using the KitchenAid beater attachment, mix that until all the powdered sugar is incorporated.

Spoon into your square pan, evening out as much as possible. Cover the surface with wax paper. It’s going to be oily. That’s normal. Refrigerate. You’re done!

Overcoming Obstacles

Oh my goodness, there are none. This recipe could not be any simpler. I had fudge within the hour.

Variations

I bet adding some peanuts or chocolate chips to this recipe would be divine. If you try it, let me know.

In other news

I’m still pregnant. Duh. Last night I had this weird sensation that I was going to go into labor. Obviously that didn’t happen. I’m not sure how much more my pelvis can take. It feels really bruised and I find walking more and more impossible. Granted, it doesn’t help I had to dig my car out of an igloo of snow yesterday. Yeah, that was fun.

But enough listening to me bitch; go make some fudge!

Le beaujolais est arrive!

Over the last several months, many people have requested I make wine-flavored lollipops. I never thought it’d be possible, to be honest. But over the weekend I was at a boutique shop here in Brooklyn and noticed handmade candy canes for sale. While the candy canes are all made with corn syrup, they are also made with wine (or made to taste like wine). Inspired, I gave it a shot.

My first wine-flavored lollipop is seasonal. It’s called The Beaujolais. And, yes. I used actual beaujolais to make them.

There are more to come and I’ll surely be posting them here as I add them to my store. I wanted to see how this one went over before rolling out all the rest. This is new territory for me! I’ve done teas and am quite pleased with the outcome, but wine? Totally new territory for me. But it’s been quite awesome. Stop by!

Lastly, I’m always taking flavor suggestions. If you’ve ever desired a certain lollipop flavor, please let me know. I am happy to give just about anything a try. And the weirder, the better!

Mom It Down: Homemade Deodorant!

I can be really stinky. Unfortunately, my armpits (and feet!) are my biggest culprits. I used to go weeks and weeks without having to wear deodorant. But something changed in my late 20s. (I blame hormones. I blame them for everything.) Nowadays, unless I want to fill up an entire subway car with my stink, I have to wear something.

I am forever searching for a natural deodorant that actually works. I have tried Toms of Maine and it just doesn’t work. (It works for my husband, however.) By the end of the day I end up smelling like an onion sandwich.

Old Spice works (and they offer a stick without aluminum) but they are owned by Proctor and Gamble and I try not to support P&G whenever possible. The Old Spice sticks are also filled with other questionable ingredients, so I’m not pleased with them either.

I’ve also used Arm and Hammer deodorant. But the sticks include chemicals such as propylene glycol. And I’m a little bit wary of propylene glycol (PG). While I’m pretty certain that it won’t cause harm in small amounts, industrial strength PG is used in engine coolants, antifreeze, paints, enamels and varnishes.

I always come back to the same question: If I can find something completely “natural” that actually works, why not try it? (Plus, the hippie in me gets a boner for such things.)

Last Friday, friend and twitter contact Mary wrote about making her own deodorant. I’ve always wanted to try this, but never really researched it. So I reached out to Mary and she totally came through. (Thanks, Mary!)

Today I’d like to share that homemade deodorant recipe with everyone. While this doesn’t fall in with my usual “Mom It Down” recipes, it’s pretty awesome. (And it is actually edible! But don’t eat it, because that’s weird and I can’t imagine it tastes very good.)

One more thing I should mention: I put this stuff to the test yesterday. I had an 8-hour pastry class, one where I spend all 8 hours standing next to and over many, many hot ovens. Plus, we’re made to wear long-sleeve, chef jackets. Guess what? It worked!

What you will need

  • Saucepan
  • Spoon

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons shea butter
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Mom It Down!

Put everything into a saucepan.

Over low heat, mix until melted and milky in color.

Remove from heat. If you’re adding a secondary smell, add it now.

Pour into a lidded container. (I made a label for the one made with patchouli because I’m a dork.)

Put it into the refrigerator to firm up.

You’re done!

Overcoming Obstacles

The refrigerated mixture will be rather hard—the consistency of very cold butter. At room temperature, it will loosen up a bit. This is perfectly normal. Mine ended up being the consistency of lotion as did the one I made for my husband.

The smallest amount goes a long way.

Shea butter and coconut oil can be pricey. The good news is, they go a long, long way. I reckon you could get a good year’s worth of deodorant out of one container of each. In the end, I know it’ll be MUCH cheaper than buying deodorant sticks all the time. And your body will thank you.

One last thing from Mary: she mentions that baking soda can irritate freshly-shaven skin. Please keep is in mind, ladies. I would wait a little bit after shaving to apply it.

Variations

As mentioned earlier, feel free to add essential oils to your mixture. I did one all-natural (smells like cocoa butter) for Toby and one using a dash of patchouli for myself. (Might as well turn the hippie up to 11, right?) Be warned, however, that some essential oils can irritate the skin. I would suggest testing any oils before adding them to the deodorant.

As usual, please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

NaBloPoMo: Mom It Down: Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

This could very well be some of the best pancakes I’ve ever had. But I’m a terrible judge of food right now. You could hand me a buttered Saltine and I’d rave about it.

Anyway, these are great. My son gobbled them up. And they’re easy to make.

(Please note: I used my iPhone to snap the pictures, so they aren’t perfect.)

What you will need

  • Bowl
  • Skillet
  • Whisk or spoon (or both!)
  • Hungry family

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk (low fat)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mom It Down!

Put your dry ingredients into a bowl. Give that a quick stir.

Separate your egg white.

Add all the wet ingredients to the flour mixture.

Whisk that up.

In a hot skillet, spoon in your pancake batter. Heat until they bubble, flip, heat some more.

You’re done.

Feed child, self.

Overcoming Obstacles

There really aren’t many obstacles here. I reckon if you wanted to you could omit the egg white-only part and just toss in two eggs. But the egg white makes it nice and fluffy

If you don’t have any buttermilk, simply add a tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup. (Vinegar works best, but either will do.) Top off with milk to equal one cup. substitute that for every one cup buttermilk.

Please note!

This batter keeps really well. I make the recipe above and place the leftover batter in an airtight container. We have fresh pancakes for two or three days. :] It sure beats that frozen crap!

Variations

Spice these babies up if you wish! Add some chocolate chips or bananas, they’re really versatile. We tossed in a few ground flax seeds one day. The sky’s the limit, my friends!

As usual, any questions and/or comments let me know.

Brioche! And My Recent Busy Days.

Forgive me in my delay (yet again) in updating. The Etsy feature has sent me so many new customers and orders, I don’t know which end is up anymore! Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic by the turnout. But holy CRAP have I ever been busy!

I’ve been making lollipops for days and days straight. It’s a good thing Em is in school three days a week so I can run out and make candy. But this is exactly where I want to be. I could not be happier with the way things are going right now.

Let’s see, what else is going on? Pastry school!

We’re learning all things bread at school, which has been awesome. Bread (and candy!) is ultimately why I decided to go back to school to refine my baking/confectionary skills. I love bread. It’s just so alive and amazing. Plus, the variety! It’s never-ending.

We went from studying the direct method of bread-making, to the sponge method. We’re now onto brioche and donuts. Oh yes, you read that right: donuts.

I don’t have recipes to share just yet, but I do have some pictures!

Sadly, I have none of the donuts as they are all in my Toby Joe’s tummy. (This fact is hilarious, as Toby Joe doesn’t like sweets. I found his weakness! Ha!)

I’ll have a Murray post up later today. He’s taking the morning off. (And his Mama is off making lollipops.)