Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Happy birthday with sushi, sake, and cupcakes

What better way to celebrate a 27th birthday than by rounding the troops to eat, drink, and be merry at a local izakaya where small plates of deliciously fattening appetizers (mm...miso-marinated pork belly and fried chicken, anyone?), fresh sushi, pitchers of beer, and massive bottles of dangerously smooth sake are shared family-style? This was the scene at Sara's birthday dinner, complete with a boisterous and unabashedly pervy owner, Oyaji-san, for whom the restaurant is named. My assistant attended the celebration and I, of course, was there in spirit.

Even though almost everyone was stuffed silly, the guests managed to make room for dessert. This comes as no surprise, as I'm a firm believer that there's always room for dessert. My assistant was pleased to present the birthday girl with a batch of cupcakes of her choosing: Rum and Chocolate Cupcakes
Light, fluffy rum-spiked cupcakes with a smooth, rich dark chocolate mousse frosting, these bad boys were quickly gobbled up by the birthday girl and company
Cheers, Sara! Hope you found your birthday celebration as fabulous as you are.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The sweetest bon voyage wishes

Farewells are complex, often bittersweet, and the accompanying emotions can run anywhere from utter joy (oh, come on, we've all had our "good riddance" moments) to heartbreak when saying goodbye to one who will be sorely missed. For instance, saying farewell to a coworker can include a mix of excitement for her next big adventure as well as disappointment at losing a friendly and dependable comrade at the office. While saying goodbye isn't always easy, one can send a colleague off properly with a nice farewell party, complete with warm wishes and a sweet surprise...
...like my signature Mocha Mudslide Cupcakes -- dark chocolate cupcakes infused with strongly brewed coffee and Kahlua liqueur, topped with creamy Bailey's cream cheese frosting and a chocolate-covered espresso bean to truly bring out the nutty coffee flavor in this boozy chocolate and coffee concoction.
Thanks, Doris, for ordering these for your team's bon voyage celebration for Jenny. And Jenny -- best of luck on your new adventure!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Time for a tea party

When people think of tea parties, they usually imagine lush garden settings in the spring with plenty of green grass and blossoming flowers, fancy table settings, adorable tea sets, and an assortment of delicate finger sandwiches and pastries. Well, something seems to be missing from that picture. Cupcakes! Obviously. And whoever said that tea parties were only apt in the spring? Fortunately, in California, you can catch rays of sunshine even in December -- making an outdoor tea party in the winter not only possible, but a simply fantastic idea.

Jacquie wanted to give her guests a sweet treat at her tea party (an annual tradition, mind you!) and ordered two batches of kid-friendly cupcakes:
Rich, old-fashioned chocolate cupcakes topped with silky chocolate mousse frosting and...
Vanilla cupcakes filled with vanilla custard and topped with sweet, tangy cream cheese frosting.

And Jacquie made these teacakes extra special by decorating them with sprinkles and arranging them in a lovely tiered cupcake stand:
What a treat! Thanks again, Jacquie. I hope you and your guests had a wonderful time at the tea party and enjoyed the cupcakes!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sweet and sassy cupcakes for some sweet and sassy dancers

Let's face it. Not all workouts are fun. A two-mile run? Groan. A half hour on the elliptical? Ehh... Pole dancing classes? Meh--wait, what? That's right, S Factor classes give students the opportunity to flaunt their inner vixens, build some serious upper body strength (have you seen some of the more intricate pole tricks?!), and let loose in a fun, safe, and supportive environment. No wonder Stefanie wanted to treat her classmates to a batch of cupcakes after one of the sessions!

And so she did, choosing a batch of (Almost) Mocha Mudslides to share as a post-workout treat.
Why the "(Almost)"? Well, these cupcakes packed some very strongly brewed coffee in the batter, but no Kahlua, so the coffee component of the mocha equation didn't shine through as potently as it does in my usual Mudslide cupcakes. Instead, the coffee in the batter worked its magic by intensifying the chocolate flavor of the super moist cake, creating a nice contrast against the silky Bailey's cream cheese frosting that rocked a mellow sweetness and a subtle tang. Yum!
Ladies, I hope you enjoyed the cupcakes! And thank you, Stef, for trusting me to whip up some sweet and sassy cupcakes for some even sweeter and sassier dancers ;)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Celebrating the season of giving

I have exciting news to share! My assistant jumped at the opportunity to participate as a seller at a holiday gift fair at her place of work. (Yes, she actually has a day job, and it involves working at the headquarters of a company famous for its search engine, lava lamps, penchant for primary colors...oh, and it's fabulous, fabulous food.) She collaborated with the lovely Georgette, who manages one of the cafe kitchens, to bake over 230 cupcakes for the gift fair. That's 230 cupcakes in two flavors: pumpkin spice cupcakes filled with cinnamon-infused vanilla pudding and topped with cream cheese frosting and Guinness chocolate cupcakes topped with Bailey's buttercream.

But that's not the exciting part. The exciting part is that the fair took place today, and Team Cupcake raised $760 in cupcake sales and will be donating 100% of proceeds to the San Francisco Food Bank!! And because my assistant's place of work offers a generous gift-matching program, the company will match the donation, bringing the total to $1520. And according to its webpage, the SF Food Bank distributes $9 worth of food for every $1 donated.

That means 230 cupcakes will help bring $13,680 worth of food to people across San Francisco and the Marin County who need it most.

Thank you, everyone, who came by the cupcake table and bought a cupcake or made a donation. Giving back has never tasted so sweet, wouldn't you say?

If you're wondering why there are no pictures to capture the awesome event or the table filled with beautiful, chocolate curl-topped cupcakes, it's because my assistant lost her camera in the hustle and bustle of the sale. Distracted by cupcake sales and by guarding the donation box with her life, she may have absentmindedly tossed her little point-and-shoot camera in an empty pastry box, which was promptly thrown out :(

Let's just focus on the good. Thanks again, everyone, for your support!

Update, here are a few camera photos taken of the frosted and chocolate curl-topped cupcakes resting in the fridge before the big sale. Quality's a bit lousy, I know, but at least there's some footage of the sweet little cupcakes on their holiday mission to be indulged and do good -- all in one tasty wallop.
And here's another. Imagine standing in front of this big commercial fridge just packed with pumpkin and chocolate cupcakes all lined up and ready to go. Oh, the temptation!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mas margaritas, por favor!

I think it's safe to say that a refreshing margarita makes for a great happy hour at the end of a busy workday. Naturally, a refreshing margarita cupcake is a great way to bring happy hour into the workday, don't you agree? Bernadette did just that when she ordered a batch for her coworker's going-away party at the office after these festive little party starters caught her eye. She was introduced to Carrie Cakeaway through her husband, Brian, who coincidentally works with my assistant and sampled a couple of cupcakes at la Carrie at Robin's going-away party.
From zesting fresh limes to busting out the tequila (and maybe reserving a half shot for the baker), these cocktail cupcakes are a lot of fun to make. Like the original batch and tasting true to the classic margarita, these cupcakes feature a tequila-lime cupcake base and a zesty lime pastry cream filling -- all topped with tangy, lime-infused cream cheese frosting, a freshly cut lime wedge, a generous sprinkling of course sea salt (to capture the salt rim of a traditional margarita), and a little straw for one's viewing and sipping pleasure. Well, minus the sipping. Maybe.Thanks so much for your order, Bernadette and Brian! I hope these were a hit at the party -- or shall I say, fiesta :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cocktail cake challenge

So if you've been following this blog, you'll know that many of my creations pack a slightly naughty punch, spiked with spirits, liqueurs, wines, and even champagne. In particular, I pride myself on my cocktail cakes customized to taste just like their namesakes. Whether it's a stiff Manhattan or sweet Lycheetini, creamy Mudslide or fruity Margarita, no cocktail lacks the potential to be transformed into layer cake and cupcake form. Imagine my surprise when Karen requested a birthday cake for her roommate, Carolyn, that had me stumped for the very first time -- a cake inspired by the Amaretto Sour.

Yikes! I needed to blend the robust almond flavor of Amaretto with the tartness of Sweet and Sour mix without ending up with something tasting like it had far too much going on or, worse yet, had gone bad altogether! I was concerned that the nutty almond and tart lemon flavors would compete against rather than complement each other, and so chose to highlight these flavors in separate components of the cake. Boy, am I glad I did because I feel confident calling this Amaretto Sour Cake a big, boozy success tasting true to its namesake:
Here we have two cake layers rich with almond flavor (and we wouldn't expect any less with our healthy pour of Disaronno Amaretto), filled with sweet and sour lemon custard, and frosted with a tangy cream cheese frosting flavored with pure almond extract and more Disaronno. Thin almond slices were toasted in the oven to bring out their essential oils and nutty flavor before being pressed against the sides of the cake. And what Amaretto Sour would be complete without a maraschino cherry? Or sixteen...
Take a bite and you'll find yourself sipping on an Amaretto Sour, with almondy, sweet, and sour flavors blending in harmony -- but don't forget to chew!
Thanks, Karen, for ordering. I hope Carolyn had a happy birthday and that everyone enjoyed the cake!

And a friendly reminder to all: Ditch those steins and shotglasses and bring out the forks and plates because Carrie Cakeaway, your friendly cake bartender, is at your service ;)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Babycakes for a baby shower

Filled with oohs, ahs, and plenty of love and warm wishes for the glowing, expecting mom, baby showers are lovely celebrations and perfect occasions for cupcakes -- particularly of the teensy variety. My assistant and I were thrilled when Joy requested a batch of mini cupcakes for her friend, Jaclyn's baby shower, sharing with us a copy of the invitation to the "Bollywood Baby"-themed shower for inspiration. And inspired we were!

The word "Bollywood" sent my head reeling with possibilities, from a tangy mango and yogurt combo for mango lassi cupcakes to even a cashew and curry walk on the savory side. The fact that the shower would be held over brunch inspired me to craft a cupcake tasting just like a steaming hot cup of spicy Masala chai. With Joy's stamp of approval, my assistant and I whipped up this batch of Vanilla Chai Latte Babycakes:
Made with strong Masala chai, milk, and plenty of aromatic spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, ground ginger, and clove, these petite cupcakes were rich with chai flavor. And topped with a floret of vanilla cream cheese frosting speckled with chai spices, these babycakes were something of a tease: "But we're too cute to be eaten!" I hope that didn't stop any of the guests from indulging in these one-bite wonders!
Thanks so much, Joy, for trusting us with such an important order and for giving us free rein to design a cupcake matching the Bollywood Baby theme. I hope everyone enjoyed the babycakes as much as my assistant and I enjoyed making them. And congratulations, Jaclyn!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Autumn celebrations aplenty

Happy Halloween, folks! As if that wasn't reason enough to throw a huge shindig, my assistant's Aunt Betty and Uncle Soph hosted yet another of their epic barbecues -- this time to celebrate the birthdays of good friends, Ryan and Mae. I always find myself having to fend off serious pangs of envy whenever my assistant excitedly makes her way to her aunt and uncle's gatherings -- gatherings brimming with great food and wine, fantastic company, but, alas, no invitations to imaginary folk like me. Well, one can live vicariously, and boy, were the butternut squash soup and coconut chicken curry tasty!

It's been awhile since my assistant and I whipped up a layer cake, as we've been sidetracked by a flurry of cupcake orders. In fact, the last layer cake we made was for Auntie Betty's birthday in August. The Sweet and Sassy Strawberry Shortcake is a hard one to top, but we were up for the challenge and ready to present not one, but two tabletop stunners.
For Ryan, we went with a decadent Chocolate Mousse Triple-Decker:
Three layers of rich chocolate cake filled with silky dark chocolate pudding, frosted with creamy chocolate mousse, and topped with fresh strawberry halves...
this is the making of a chocoholic's dream.

And for Mae, we really honed in on autumn's finest flavors for this Apple Pumpkin Spice Cake:
Two generously cinnamoned apple spice cake layers studded with raisins, filled and frosted with pumpkin cream cheese frosting, and topped with paper thin apple slices and a drizzle of pumpkin butter -- this cake is chock-full of the homey, spicy flavors that we relish this time of year.
Aunt Betty and Uncle Soph: Thanks for hosting yet another wonderful party! Ryan and Mae: We hope you both had very happy birthdays and enjoyed your cakes. And readers: Happy Halloween! Cheers to receiving more treats than tricks this year. That, and no admonishment from dentists or dietitians ;)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A good ol' cup(cake) of joe

A steaming cup of coffee is a great way to jump start the day, keep those engines running through the afternoon, or melt into the evening with after dinner. Like my sweet-toothed assistant, I prefer mine with a generous helping of cream and sugar -- and I can't think of anything creamier or more sugary than a rich, generously frosted Mocha Cupcake.

My assistant's friend, Jalees, was in town for the weekend and wanted a batch of cupcakes to share with his traveling companions. He made a specific request for mocha cupcakes made with Kahlua -- a perfect way to keep him and his friends fueled through the grueling drive back to LA from San Francisco...and through all of the adventures along the way.

Well, here's what my assistant whipped up for her fellow foodie and beer connoisseur:
Mocha cupcakes made with cocoa, freshly brewed coffee, and Kahlua liqueur, topped with Kahlua buttercream. The third row of cupcakes (the ones topped with crushed Oreos) were frosted with Bailey's buttercream to add some variety to this mixed dozen.
Aromatic coffee, dark chocolate, coffee liqueur, and Irish cream? One cannot go wrong!
Thanks, Jalees, for your visit! Hope you and your friends enjoyed the cupcakes and had a fantastic road trip. My assistant would like to hear stories, thank you very much ;)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just another day at the office...sweetened

Have you ever:
Started your day with a cup of coffee?
Brought your A-game to (or struggled to stay awake through) a morning meeting?
Spent over half an hour clearing the ol' inbox?
Shared some serious gossip over lunch?
Taken a deep sigh of relief at the end of the day at around, say, 5:30?
If you answered "yes" to any (or all) of the above, chances are: you've experienced just another day at the office.

Whether you love or hate your job, a surprise treat between your sleepy post-lunch 1:1 and mid-afternoon rendezvous with the espresso machine does a body, any body, good. And what better surprise treat than an ever-so-slightly spiked cupcake to bring a little sweetness to your workday?

Chris had the right idea when he requested a batch of cupcakes to thank a group of hard-working engineers on his team at Microsoft.I've lovingly nicknamed these Bailey's and Berries Cubicle Cupcakes as the slightly oversized cupcake-tops took on a square-ish shape during transit. It's as if they knew they were making their way to similarly shaped office cubicles.
Rich chocolate cupcakes topped with Bailey's-spiked buttercream and a juicy, fresh strawberry half, these beauties were a nice way to give kudos for a job well done. Thanks, so much, Chris, for ordering these. I hope you and your teammates enjoyed them!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fiesta Time!

What better way to kick off a weekend than by happy houring with delicious cocktails and good company, you ask? Well, how about celebrating a birthday with great company and cocktail cupcakes?

My assistant and I were thrilled when Kristine requested two dozen cupcakes featuring her friend Chrissie's favorite cocktail -- the fiesta-friendly Margarita -- for her birthday. I dove right into brainstorming mode, and my mind was sent reeling with the possibilities. Did we want to use rum or tequila? Lime juice, lime zest, or a combination of both? Should we pour margarita mix in the batter? A zesty lime buttercream frosting or a naturally tangy cream creese frosting? The possibilities were dizzying (one might say, in a one-margarita-too-many kind of way...), but entirely exciting.

After plenty of brainstorming and some executive-decision-making on Kristine's part, we came up with this little beauty:
Hellooo, cupcake! What we have here is a tequila-lime cupcake brushed with tequila syrup and filled with refreshing lime pastry cream (oh, if only I had a photo of a cut cupcake so that you could see the custardy center colored bright green by a generous heap of lime zest!). The cupcake was then topped with a tangy cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of course sea salt to capture the flavor of the salted rim on a traditional margarita glass. Topped with a lime wedge, this little cupcake truly embodied the margarita in all its glory: the zip, the zing, and the savory-sweet-and-sour combination of flavors.

But still, I thought it could use a little something-something.
Aha! Now we're talking. So I know that one doesn't drink a traditional margarita with a straw, but this was just so darn cute that I couldn't resist.
Kristine, thanks so much for the opportunity to whip up our first batch of margarita cupcakes. I hope Chrissie enjoyed a very happy birthday and that everyone enjoyed the cupcakes!

P.S. Anyone try sipping out of the straw?

Monday, October 5, 2009

CupcakeCamp!

Exciting news: My assistant entered her very first cupcake competition! Not so exciting news: She didn't win (I told her that boozy cakes, while delightful and certainly our specialty, don't appeal to everyone). However, her entry received a lot of rave reviews from tasters, the most frequently heard one being, "Mmmm..." and her personal favorite being, "Now that's a cupcake," said by a man with a nice glob of frosting hanging on his beard.
CupcakeCamp was nothing short of awesome (it's things like these that make me wish I weren't imaginary) -- with around 70 bakers and over 700 attendees armed with forks, plates, and little cups of milk, it was a cupcake wonderland! Batches of cupcakes were released in 15-minute intervals, creating something of a highly organized free-for-all. However, there was no pushing, shoving, or flagrant-line-cutting--just patient waiting, free-flowing conversation, lots of eager anticipation, and big frosting-specked smiles from tasters and bakers alike.

Now for my assistant's entry: She wanted to enter the "Best Breakfast-Inspired" category and went with another iteration of what we love to call the "Breakfast of Champions" because, well, seriously...you're some kind of champion if you have bourbon first thing in the morning. Inspired by Humphrey Slocombe's "Secret Breakfast" ice cream flavor and by yours truly, my assistant whipped up a batch of what was essentially spiked milk and cereal: rich, buttery bourbon cupcakes filled with vanilla milk pudding, topped with a bourbon buttercream frosting, crushed Vanilla Almond Special K flakes for lots of crunch, and get this--a bruleed banana slice. I can't think of a better cereal topper than fresh banana slices sprinkled with sugar and browned under a hot, hot broiler. Yum!
And from another angle:
Well, the Maker's Mark didn't do the trick: the winners in the "Best Breakfast-Inspired" category were both savory, with first place going to "Gruyere and Mushroom" and second place to "Bacon and Maple." Overall, it was a wonderful experience, and my assistant would like to give a couple of shout-outs and thank-yous to friends in order of appearance:

Justin - Food buddy! Thanks for coming out and partaking in cupcake madness!
Natsuki - It was awesome meeting you the day before (that was so much fun!). Thanks for coming with your friends.

Nav - Thanks so much for coming and for saving me from the brisk cold with your fleece pullover. Sunshine can be deceiving in the city!

Pandas - I was so stoked to see you all! Congrats on winning your game, and thanks for coming out, showing your support, and making room for cupcakes even after a hearty lunch.
Eric - I'm so glad I found you towards the end of the event with my very last cupcake. Thanks for coming.

Okay, okay, Little Miss Exclamation Point. That's enough now. You're cramping my style ;)
Just teasing -- I'm so glad you entered and am proud of our entry. Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Champagne and Cupcakes

What a perfect combination. My assistant came back from a day trip to Napa, enamored with the bubbles and oysters she indulged in at Domaine Chandon -- a touristy winery known for its California sparkling wines. With champagne grapes in season, I was inspired to whip up a test batch of champagne cupcakes, which my assistant happily took on a spontaneous outdoor photoshoot. Champagne, cupcakes, and sunshine -- what's not to love?
Because I'm all for alliteration, I'll call this the Chic Champagne Chiffon cupcake: a fluffy chiffon cupcake flavored with vanilla and champagne, topped with a cloud of champagne buttercream and a small cluster of champagne grapes on top.
What's missing from this photoshoot? A chilled, sparkling glass of bubbly. Clearly!
Well, this lucky cupcake got the star treatment: a fancy ribbon bow, fresh air, a bit of first-class travel atop a fancy plate... Its comrades weren't as lucky, as they were quickly gobbled up by champagne and cupcake enthusiasts.

Cheers to enjoying these last days of summer, from the warm air and sunshine to all those beautiful, sun-ripened summer fruits and berries that'll be gone before we know it. So enjoy 'em while they last! Clink.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting Carrie-d Away with More Cupcakes

In my previous post, I promised to never ever subject the world to as crazy a concoction as a white chocolate Tabasco and sardine cupcake...and don't worry, I'm crossing my heart, my t's, and dotting all of my i's and j's for good measure--I won't. But because my assistant encourages me to go a liitle crazy every now and then, I simply couldn't resist giving into the hottest commodity in the food scene right now: bacon. That's right: crispy, crackling, smoky, salty, and shamelessly greasy bacon! There's bacon salt, bacon vodka, bacon chocolate...and bacon cupcakes aplenty, I'm sure. So why not create one with a Carrie Cakeaway twist?

Two of my assistant's coworkers, Jacquie and Toshiro, are moving on to exciting new adventures, so she wanted to bring in a batch of celebration cupcakes for the team. This was a perfect opportunity to whip up a cupcake smorgasbord. Let's take a look:
At the top, we have the Muscat Musings that were featured earlier in the post below: lightly nutmegged moscato wine cupcakes with a tangy cream cheese frosting swirl, a fresh strawberry half, and three tiny champagne grapes.

Next, we have the carnivore-friendly superstar of the batch: the Bourbon Bacon Bonanza. Unapologetically indulgent, these cupcakes consist of a Maker's Mark bourbon buttercake with bourbon frosting, a drizzle of maple syrup, and smoky bacon crumbled on top. I introduced the Breakfast of Champions yesterday. Think of this as the Breakfast of Badasses.

While the Bourbon Bacon Bonanza is a tough act to follow, we have the Mocha Cheesecakelet that's up for the challenge: a dark chocolate cupcake with a tiny hint of coffee, classic cream cheese frosting, a chocolate-covered espresso bean, and a coffee cream pirouette cookie.

And last, but not least, we have the Cookies 'n' Cream cupcake featuring a dark chocolate cupcake with vanilla cream cheese frosting and crushed Oreo cookies sprinkled on top.
Jacquie and Toshiro, congratulations and good luck with your exciting new endeavors! Thanks for further fueling my cupcake craziness, and I truly hope you and the team enjoyed the mixed batch.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crazy for Cupcakes

While I have a whole lot of love for classic layer cakes and old-fashioned bundts, there's something about the sweet little cupcake that sends my excitement through the roof. As a creator rather than consumer, I'm guessing it's because the petite cupcake gives me the opportunity to experiment with wilder flavor combinations that I may not be able to get away with in a larger cake. Well, being imaginary, I like to think I can get away with anything ;) But...out of love and respect for my very real assistant and her role in a real world with real consequences, have no fear: you won't see any white chocolate Tabasco and sardine cupcakes coming from my kitchen anytime soon.

I was very excited when Anne ordered four dozen cupcakes for Robin's going away celebration, giving me the freedom to experiment with frosting and cake combinations as long as I kept them fun, tasty, and included Robin's favorite.

Let's start with Robin's favorite. I already know she's a fan of sweet moscato wine, so I whipped up a batch of what I like to call Muscat Musings:
Lightly nutmegged muscat wine cupcakes topped with tangy cream cheese frosting, a fresh strawberry half, and three tiny champagne grapes. The Muscat Musing is definitely fruit-forward.
Next, I went with a crowd-pleaser I like to call the Chocolate Obsession:
A dark chocolate cupcake rich with cocoa and topped with a decadent bittersweet ganache swirl (imagine biting into a dense, chocolatey truffle) and a chocolate cream pirouette cookie.
Chocolate addicts, have no fear. Your delicious and antioxidant-packed hero is here.

Last, but certainly not least, the adventurous one. Inspired by an ice cream flavor from the Mission District's Humphry Slocombe called the "Secret Breakfast," I whipped up a batch of what I like to call the Breakfast of Champions:
A bourbon buttercake with Maker's Mark poured generously in the batter and another sweet surprise: a vanilla pudding filling packed in the cake itself. The filled cupcake is then topped with bourbon buttercream, crushed cornflakes, and a fresh banana slice. Think of it as spiked milk and cereal with sliced bananas on top. Now that's a breakfast of champions!
Thank you, Anne, for the opportunity to go cupcake crazy. And Robin, you will be missed! Best of luck to you on your next big adventure!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Seemingly Strawberry Shortcake

Oh boy, it's been far too long since there's been a post around here. It's already August and you know what that means: plenty of gloom and fog in the inaptly-named Sunset District of San Francisco where the sun goes into hiding until September. Well, all the more reason to turn the oven on, warm the chilly kitchen, and bake up a storm. And my assistant did just that on a chilly morning. Finally!

Her Uncle Soph ordered a cake for her Auntie Betty's birthday celebration, giving me free reign to dream up whatever I wanted. What I wanted was a cake as smart as my assistant's Auntie Betty, so we whipped up a Smart and Sassy Strawberry Shortcake:
This, ladies and gentlemen, is not your average shortcake. Nope, it's two layers of buttery rum cake filled and topped with tangy cream cheese frosting, too-cute baby strawberry halves and slices, and decorated with two borders of fluffy vanilla-infused whipped cream.

Here's a closer look...
And another...
And a view from the top...
Being smart and sassy, this strawberry sweetheart sure loves the limelight. And for good reason, don't you think?
Happy birthday, Auntie Betty! As a guest at the party, my assistant (who did not feel the need to bring me along... Where's the love for us imaginary folk?!) can confirm that while this cake is busy--as the smart and sassy often are--the flavors work together quite nicely: the tangy cream cheese frosting balances out the flavors of the sweet, juicy berries, while the light, airy whipped cream provides a delicate contrast against the rum-infused cake layers--cake layers that leave an ever-so-slightly spicy and boozy finish on the palate.

Yum!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Sunshine and Vanilla

I've been feeling restless because my assistant hasn't been baking as often as she--and certainly I--would like. But just before I started feeling all pouty and insecure (why, oh why, is she neglecting me?), she made a trip home out of the San Francisco midsummer fog to sunny Los Angeles and felt compelled to whip up a light, fruit-topped cake to share with her loved ones.

Some summertime sunshine and two hungry, younger cousins--Nathan and Alan (whom she's happily baked for before)--were all it took to get my assistant back into the kitchen and me happily back to work.

Presenting...the light, the refreshing Vanilla Summer:
Chiffon-like vanilla cake topped with rich, french vanilla pastry cream, a border of vanilla-infused whipped cream swirls, fresh strawberry halves, and juicy mandarin orange slices--this cake was as light and refreshing as a cool breeze on a hot summer day.
A perfect picnic dessert...
And it's not bad to look at either.

Nathan and Alan, I sure hope you enjoyed this cake made especially for you! From what I saw (second, third, and fourth helpings), it sure seemed like you did ;)