Monday, December 20, 2010

Doing s'more good this holiday season

This time, with more flour-covered hands on deck! My assistant works for a big company, so it's no surprise that there are a number of avid bakers who share her passion for crafting all things sweet and fresh-out-of-the-even. She and her coworker, Christine, recently started a baking interest group for employees to share recipes and participate in fun events, from cupcake crawls to bakeoffs. They kickstarted this club with a bake sale fundraiser themed "Holiday Sweets and Winter Treats," with all proceeds benefiting the Community Services Agency of Mountain View -- a food bank just down the street from the office.

Take twenty brilliant bakers, mix in pounds and pounds of butter and sugar, whip up a good cause, and you've got yourself a recipe for a sweet success. Here are some of the S'more cupcakes that my assistant sold at the event: chocolate cupcakes with a gooey marshmallow center, topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting and a cute little Teddy Graham. The only thing missing was a campfire to keep our bakers warm on this chilly Tuesday afternoon.

In only an hour and a half, the bakers collectively raised $850 in sweets. There were macarons, cheesecakes, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops, and plenty more to boost blood sugar levels and good spirits. With the company match, the group donated $1700 to CSA.

Thank you, everyone who participated! Whether you drew your spatula and contributed your baked goods or dropped some Washingtons to indulge your sweet tooth, this event couldn't have happened without you.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Here comes the bride

For many a bride, weddings are a whirlwind of planning, browsing, decision-making, and oftentimes stressing out -- all for the big day during which (hopefully!) all the pieces come together in a beautiful celebration with family and friends. I can think of a small handful of weddings that my assistant has attended in the past couple of years, from the serene union of two of the sweetest people she has ever met to an upbeat ceremony in which the blushing bride sang her wedding vows. Each was unique, but one thing remained the same: the bride was always beautiful -- no dark circles or droopy eyelids to reveal the lack of sleep leading up to the special day. Her secret?

Mudslide cupcakes. While I haven't verified this little guess, I stand by this! Steve seemed to agree when he requested a box to bring to the office and share with bride-to-be Cheri right before her big day. Rich, Kahlua-spiked chocolate cupcakes with Bailey's cream cheese frosting -- sweet enough to keep the bride smiling, slightly caffeinated to chase away sleepiness, and perfectly sized to ensure that she'll have no trouble fitting into her dress.

Thanks so much, Steve, for trusting me with such an important order, and congratulations, Cheri!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sugar and spice, and everything nice...

That's what little girls are made of. And if that's true, then they ought to be treated to one or more of the following:
  • A horse (not a pony -- why have a pony when you can have a horse?)
  • A cash register complete with functioning barcode scanner
  • The Crayola Big Box of 96 crayons
  • Legos, and lots of them
  • Stickers (preference given to the puffy, sparkly, and scratch-and-sniff varieties)
  • Anything from Sanrio (with the exception of Spottie Dottie)
At least my assistant seemed to think so when she was a little girl. These were the most coveted items of her girlhood, consistently making their way onto her holiday and birthday wish lists from ages 5-10. While she had procured quite the sticker collection by the time she reached the second grade (through good behavior and lunch-time trades) and eventually did receive the toy cash register of her dreams, she never did get that horse or big box of crayons with such delicious-sounding colors as Electric Lime and Macaroni and Cheese.

This post is dedicated to anyone who is currently, formerly, or soon-to-be a little girl.

After these bad boys caught her eye, Heather requested a box of vanilla cupcakes for her coworkers' baby shower. Congratulations, Lea and Chris! What better way to welcome a bouncing baby girl into the world than with fluffy vanilla cupcakes topped with pink vanilla cream cheese frosting, a cute little Teddy Graham, and some sparkly pink sanding sugar? All signs point to cute.

Moving from high chair to heels, my assistant whipped up a similar batch of chocolate cupcakes with pink cream cheese frosting (this time flavored with Bailey's Irish cream) for her friend and coworker's twenty-something-eth birthday (oh, the details of that aren't important, and a true lady never reveals her age). Happy birthday, Stef! Why bunnies, you ask? Well, why not?

I can't help but think of all the amazing women and girls in my assistant's life who have helped shaped her into the young lady she is today. Family members, friends, coworkers, and inspiring strangers -- rock on, ladies. Rock on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Starting from scratch

When I think of the friends, family members, and coworkers that my assistant has crafted cakes for, I can't help but think: wow -- she's in good company. A little over two years ago when she first moved to San Francisco (before my time), she had been so nervous about not knowing anyone in the city and having to start from scratch.

You and I both know that some of the finest things in life start from scratch. But every now and then, we sure can use a head start or that extra bit of help. Would my assistant be as happy today if her family friend and coworker hadn't introduced her to their network of friends in the Bay Area? Are box-mix cakes truly inferior to those made from scratch?

While I'll never know the answer to the first question, I'd have to argue "yes" to the second one. Cakes made from pre-packaged mix are tasty enough, but the effort poured into a from-scratch cake oftentimes makes it taste that much better. Well, with one exception: rum cake. The cake that my assistant's mother taught her how to make. The cake that started it all.

Today, I'm going to share with you a recipe for the only cake that we don't make from scratch. It's the exception to the rule, and it sure is a tasty one:

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix

1 (3.4 ounce) package instant vanilla pudding mix

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup dark rum (we like to use Myer's)

  1. Preheat oven to 335 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix. Mix in the eggs, milk, oil, and rum. Mix until combined into a smooth batter, but don't overbeat. And for best results, make sure your eggs and milk are at room temperature.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let sit for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a serving plate.
You'll find that some recipes call for a butter rum glaze -- if you want to go that route:
  1. In a saucepan, combine a stick of butter, 1/4 cup water, and 1 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup rum.
  2. After you've turned your cake out of the pan, take a fork and prick it everywhere (don't worry, it can't feel a thing) -- top, sides, and center -- and pour the glaze all over. Let the bundt cake absorb all that rummy goodness and repeat.
If you want the glaze you see here:
  1. Mix 1 cup of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of rum and keep adding rum by the teaspoon until you get a nice pouring consistency.
  2. Pour slowly over the top of your cake until it looks like an oversized glazed donut ;)
The bundt cake you see here was made with love for my assistant's friend and cube-mate, Linh-Chi. Happy birthday, Linh-Chi -- cheers to a wonderful you!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A slice a day...

...keeps the doctor away. If only! Can you imagine?

- Ah CHOO! Oh no, I think I'm catching a cold.
- All right, I'm going to prescribe some strawberry shortcake as a preventative measure.

- I can't see that sign over there. It seems like my eyes get worse year after year.
- Not to worry. Packed with beta carotene and Vitamin A, carrot cake will take care of that.

- How do you mend a broken heart?
- Chocolate cake. 'nuff said.

If only! Instead, the harsh reality is that cake rarely makes it on doctors' lists of endorsed foods. I often hear about fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean meats, but where's the love for the tortes, chiffons, and bundts? And what on earth do doctors eat on their birthdays? Carrot sticks?

Well, it looks like they have their cake and eat it too. And they'll tell you: moderation is key. That's why med school student Joseph requested a cake with which to celebrate his friend and classmate's birthday -- this one:

Dark chocolate, Kahlua-spiked cake generously frosted with rich Bailey's cream cheese frosting -- this cake that my assistant cheerfully nicknamed "The Doctor's Orders" was garnished with Kahlua-dipped lady fingers and fresh strawberry halves.

Thanks, Jojo -- we hope you and the other budding doctors enjoyed a great celebration, and that your friend had a very happy birthday! Cheers to exercise, a healthy diet, and the occasional 400-calorie slice ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's cuter than a cupcake?

A kid eating a cupcake. That's an easy one. Kids are the cutest. I don't know about my assistant though... If I had the chance to interview her when she was a wee three-year-old, here's what that would sound like:

Me: Hi there!
T: (focusedly coloring -- inside the lines, mind you) Hi.
Me: So, tell me something about yourself.
T: Okay.
Me: What's your favorite color?
T: Brown.
Me: What?
My favorite color is brown.
Me: Wait, brown?! Really? Why?
T: (finally looking up) Chocolate.

No joke. And while I'd say that her social skills have improved tremendously through adolescence and now adulthood, you can expect the same one-word responses and lack of eye contact when she's extremely focused on a task. Like baking in the kitchen. Like making these:

and these:
Last month, Brian requested two dozen cupcakes for his sweet little girl Isabelle's 3rd birthday party with only two specifications: that they feature strawberries and the color purple (Isabelle's favorite). My assistant rolled up her sleeves and carefully crafted two dozen vanilla cupcakes with vanilla cream cheese frosting, some topped with pastel sugar sprinkles and others with fresh strawberry halves.

The result? A box of mixed-and-matched cupcakes with which to surprise and dazzle Isabelle's friends, family members, and teachers during her birthday party at school. Thanks, Brian! We hope Isabelle had a birthday celebration as sweet as she is!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chocolate cake with a tall glass of imagination

When you think about your favorite children's author, who comes to mind? Shel Silverstein? Beverly Cleary? J. K. Rowling? My assistant thinks Lucy Maud Montgomery (she simply adored Anne of Green Gables as a child), but I think -- hands down -- Roald Dahl. While the Harry Potter series was nothing short of amazing and while the adventures of Ramona Quimby and her sister Beezus were indeed endearing, think about it: Charlie and Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant any other children's novels sound as delicious and fitting for a budding baker? Oh, the thrill of exploring a chocolate factory. Oh, the things I could make with a massive peach!

Imagine my excitement when my assistant was invited to co-host a Roald Dahl-themed brunch party with her friend Julia. James and the Giant Peach Cobbler, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Fondue, a cocktail punch bowl inspired by George's Marvelous Medicine -- my head was spinning with ideas. My assistant decided to do what we do best: cake.
Why not bring a rich, fudgy cake as homage to Bruce Bogtrotter of Matilda -- the boy who triumphantly devoured a gigantic chocolate cake as punishment for stealing a slice belonging to wicked Miss Trunchbull? Two layers of moist chocolate cake frosted with creamy chocolate buttercream -- Miss Trunchbull's Chocolate Cake, as we called it, was a perfect ending to a bountiful brunch.

Thanks, Julia, for hosting a scrumdiddlyumptious party. Reader, do you remember which book that was from?

Friday, October 15, 2010

The perfect potluck

My assistant and I -- we love potlucks. They're so much fun, all the cooks and bakers put their best feet (or spatulas) forward with homemade goodies, and even store-bought items seem to taste better than they would on any other occasion. While I (being imaginary) can only taste the smorgasbord vicariously, I can certainly draw inspiration from the personal touches that the home cooks put into their dishes, the buttery treats that the bakers display with pride, and the happy laughs and chatter all around.

Let's take a stroll back into summer, mid-August, when my assistant didn't have a chance to more regularly update this blog.

Sunday, August 15, 2010
Summer Harvest Celebration with Auntie Betty and Uncle Soph
My assistant's Auntie Betty and Uncle Soph are no strangers to Carrie Cakeaway. With their lush, beautiful vegetable garden, it was only fitting that they host a summer harvest party for family and friends. From a colorful salad made exclusively with vegetables freshly picked from the garden to their famous butternut squash bisque, this was a beautiful afternoon that ended with cake, cake, and more cake.

My assistant and I brought a colorful chocolate fruit cake -- rich, chocolate cake layered with fluffy meringue frosting and sweet strawberry slices, and topped with more fluffy meringue, strawberry halves, and freshly diced mango. In the spirit of full disclosure, this was meant to be a "chocolate-dipped strawberry cake," with strawberries, chocolate, and not much else. However, a ripe, juicy mango was employed to cover up the top center where the delicate frosting had deflated in the summer heat. The result? A cake that was easier on the eyes and still a hit with the party guests.

Thanks again for hosting, Auntie Betty and Uncle Soph! Cheers to you both, your bountiful garden, and a beautiful summer potluck.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Surprises served cold

(The first in a long string of catch-up posts. This should have been posted in early August, but my assistant has been dropping the ball on writing. For shame! Summertime is no excuse for a sluggish imagination. Thanks for sticking around through the hiatus. It's good to be back!)
When it comes to surprises in your fridge, there are the good, the bad, and the ugly. Leftover soup that tastes even better today than when you first made it yesterday? Good. An empty milk carton? Bad. The moldy cadaver of a plum that got lost behind the bottom drawer months ago? Ugly, definitely ugly. Well, I'm all about keeping things on the sweeter end of this spectrum, and I can't imagine a sweeter surprise in the fridge than a box of assorted cupcakes made just for you.

Here's what Nikki hid in the fridge as a birthday surprise for her boyfriend Leif: a box of rich chocolate cupcakes with an assortment of his favorite toppings and flavors. On the left half of the box, we had cookies and cream cupcakes with crushed Oreos blended into vanilla cream cheese frosting. The cupcakes on the right half were topped with silky, bourbon-splashed cream cheese frosting and either a chocolate-covered coffee bean or fresh summer strawberry.

Thanks, Nikki, and happy birthday, Leif! We hope you enjoyed your sweet surprise as much as we enjoyed baking it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


I am going to fire my assistant if she keeps this up. Over a month without updates? Unacceptable! We've been baking up a storm in our little kitchen, but she hasn't had a chance to report. No excuses! Please stay tuned for a flurry of catch-up posts in the next week.

I miss you too!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A guest in our kitchen

For the first time in Carrie Cakeaway history, we had a guest in our kitchen! Talented fashion blogger, designer, and photographer Tony Wang of post.fashionism, joined my assistant in an afternoon of baking as she gave a step-by-step tutorial on baking and decorating cupcakes while he snapped up the lovely photos you see here and in his blog post about their adventures.

When asked for interesting flavors he'd like to explore, Tony made some mouthwatering suggestions, including lemon, melon, mango, chamomile, rose, and almond. My assistant and I were particularly excited by chamomile and the prospect of working with tea, as we'd had great success with chai cupcakes in the past. We thought that ripe, sweet cantaloupe would pair perfectly with the tea -- mellow enough to complement the subtle chamomile flavor while still distinctively fragrant and melon-y.

And with that, we baked some fluffy vanilla cupcakes infused with chamomile and green teas, topped them with luscious cream cheese frosting with a splash of fresh cantaloupe juice, and some cantaloupe cutouts.

They say, "Too many cooks spoil the broth." Well, it's a good thing we're not making broth then, isn't it? When it comes to cupcakes, collaboration is easy! One to make the batter, another to make the frosting, and as many as you'd like to decorate the individual cakes once they've cooled out of the oven.

That being said, who here would be interested in a cupcake workshop?

Thanks, Tony, for joining my assistant (pictured above) and me for an afternoon of baking fun! I hope you enjoyed the cupcakes that you so beautifully decorated and photographed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

...especially when you're sipping on refreshing margaritas poolside or, better yet, indulging in a margarita cupcake.
These bad boys are chock-full of everything you love about margaritas (the zip of the lime, the combination of sweet and savory thanks to the salt-rimmed glass, the kick from the tequila) and everything you love about cupcakes (rich, buttery cake, the frosting, the adorable little package, and -- did I mention the frosting?)

What we have here are tequila-spiked cupcakes brushed con mas tequila, topped with tangy lime cream cheese frosting, and garnished with a fresh lime wedge, an inedible (but oh so cute!) straw, and a sprinkle of course sea salt for good measure.

Thanks Heather, for the opportunity to whip these up for your officemate's farewell party. Best of luck to her on her new adventure, and warm summertime wishes of fun, sunshine, and sweet treats to all!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A cup full of sprinkles and a barrel of laughs

Two cupcakes are baking in the oven. One tugs at its paper wrapper and says, "Is it me or is it really hot in here?"

The other cupcake looks over, wide-eyed, and yells, "Holy crap, a talking cupcake!!"

Okay, okay -- so I wouldn't cut it in comedy, but I'm happy to leave that to my assistant who, until recently, was a proud member of sketch comedy group Kamikaze Theory. After more than a year of improv exercises, song circles, writing sessions, and plenty of love and laughter, she decided to transition from active cast member to number one fan in order to focus on me--I mean, cake. Focus on cake. Well, and me. We're a package deal, you know!
To show her love for her tremendously talented and wildly attractive castmates at their most recent show, she arrived with a post-show surprise: a box of rich chocolate cupcakes topped with luscious cream cheese frosting and festive confetti sprinkles. These were a "Congrats," "I miss you," and "You guys were fantastic!" bundled up in a sweet little package.

And as for the show? It was hilarious! What, with a charmingly inappropriate children's book illustrator, bigoted manny (that's a male nanny), and -- my obvious favorite -- a bakery in which customers are always right (even when they're oh so wrong)...what would you expect?

Great job, KT!

My assistant is a volcano and she lavas you.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A fly on the wall

I'm an observer today. I see three women whose faint, crow's feet lines can't suppress the youthful twinkle in their eyes as they reminisce about days long past -- from girlhoods in Saigon to new lives, struggles, and triumphs in California. Laughter fills the air, accompanied by the familiar smell of something cooking. Something authentic. Something good. In this case, it's the filling for bi cuon chay, or vegetarian spring rolls with julienned taro root, jicama, and potatoes coated in toasted rice powder masquerading as fatty shredded pork (note: chewy vermicelli and shredded pork skin are conveniently similar in texture). Or it might be the meaty broth simmering on the stovetop, ready to immerse rare slices of beef tenderloin upon serving hearty bowls of pho tai.

On the other side of of the spacious open kitchen, three men -- two husbands and a son -- are engrossed in a World Cup game: the fight for third place between Germany and Uruguay. The women's chatter is interrupted by the "Oh! Oh!! Ohhhhhhh!!"s triggered by close attempts and "almost" moments on both sides.
And working quietly in the middle of it all is my assistant. Completely focused on crafting the perfect dessert with which to end the meal, she is slicing strawberries, whipping cream, and assembling her chocolate strawberry shortcake -- a sure hit with so many chocolate lovers and strawberry fans converged in one room. She looks up to find her mother and aunts (her mother's two best friends, so close they're practically sisters) deftly wrapping the bi chay in rice paper and lettuce leaves freshly plucked from the garden outside. She hears the excitement coming from the dining table, as her dad, uncle, and friend are unanimously rooting for Uruguay to take third. And she studies her cake -- simply assembled and made with love.

She doesn't need me for inspiration today. She's surrounded by it.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Spotlight on my assistant

So, you know a little something about me -- that I love creating cake concepts (especially when cocktails are involved), that I'm the voice behind this blog, and that I'm imaginary. Well, what about the assistant I'm always referring to? Her identity has been a mystery for over a year and a half now -- maybe it's time to share a piece of the limelight. I am a figment of her imagination, after all. So here goes:
Flash back: My assistant -- let's call her T (oh, you didn't think I'd give everything away all at once, now did you?) -- took notice at an early age when her mom would bake the same rum bundt cake for social gatherings and potlucks. Rave reviews poured in time after time, and when T finally had a taste of this "grown up" cake, she understood why. Melt-in-your-mouth moist and distinctively rummy -- no one could have guessed that this potluck rockstar had humble roots in a Duncan Hines box.
Fast forward. T becomes known throughout middle and high school as the "bundt cake girl" and college as the "cupcake girl" -- consistently arriving to potlucks and birthday parties with cake in hand. Pillsbury is her best friend, Duncan Hines is a close second, and Betty Crocker a jealous, neglected third.
Fast forward. T moves to San Francisco for work and falls head over heels in love with the city and greater Bay Area. Occasionally homesick, she bakes to remind herself of home in L.A. Inspired by some incredible baking blogs, she decides to start her own. As she ponders the waning popularity of the homely, old-fashioned bundt cake and rise of the cute little cupcake, I, Carrie Cakeaway, am born!
Fast forward. T discovers the beauty of baking from scratch and refuses to turn back (save once in a long while for the rum cake that started it all). She bids farewell to cake mix and welcomes fresh, locally produced ingredients into her kitchen. I dream up an assortment of cake creations, while T executes -- baking, decorating, and delivering layer cakes and cupcakes -- learning every step of the way.
Fast forward. T's friend surprises her with a gift certificate for a baking course of her choice at baking arts in SOMA. She's thrilled, as she's done most of her learning on the job, through the internet, and never in a kitchen classroom with a live instructor. She picks a beautiful June weekend to take the "Pretty Cupcakes" class (naturally), which is where she decorates the garden-themed cupcakes you see here.
Thanks for your continued support in our cake endeavors and kitchen adventures! Stay tuned, as I continue to work and innovate with my dear assistant, T. Who knows? I might share a bigger slice of the Carrie Cakeaway limelight before the next year-and-a-half mark ;)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Showering the bride with cupcakes

You know you're a great friend when you surprise a bride-to-be with cupcakes (for a future filled with sweetness, of course) and you ensure that they're mini-sized so she'll have no problem fitting into her wedding dress on her big day. Now that's thoughtful, and that's exactly what Sunny did for her friend Joy (who incidentally had surprised another friend with my chai mini cupcakes during her Bollywood-themed baby shower -- what a lovely chain of celebrations and cupcake-gifting!)Three different flavors, two dozen each, and the miniature size requirement called for a delicate touch and speedy execution (mini cupcakes are done baking in no time and must be immediately released from the pan unless you want burnt bottoms -- and who wants a burnt bottom?!). Fortunately, there was also a lot of room for creativity and fun.
First up, margarita cupcakes for the bride-to be: a tequila-infused buttercake with tequila lime cream cheese frosting, topped with a tiny lime wedge and sprinkle of sea salt to taste just like the first sip out of a margarita glass. Look how petite these are!
Next, Sunny requested that my assistant and I include a cupcake featuring both chocolate and some German beer to celebrate the groom's German roots. I needed something strong enough to stand up to the cocoa, and my assistant -- ever the beer enthusiast -- chose a dark, malty dunkelweizen. Take a chocolate cupcake infused with dark beer, add a swirl of cream cheese frosting with dunkelweizen notes, and you've got yourself a wallop of flavor in a cute little package.
Last, but not least, what's more suitable for a springtime bridal show than champagne? I brought out the bubbly for this champagne-infused vanilla cake topped with creamy champagne buttercream and a sugar-coated grape half. Pop! Clink!
Congratulations, Joy! I hope you and all of your guests enjoyed these one-bite wonders, and that you have a beautiful wedding day. And thanks again, Sunny, for thinking of me for this very special occasion.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Baby on board

Today, I state the obvious -- babies are as cute as they are precious, and there's so much to adore about them:
  • Baby laughs -- don't you just melt when a baby laughs?
  • Toothless smiles -- probably the only instance in which toothlessness is adorable
  • The way they wrap their hands around your index finger and squeeze
  • How peaceful they look when they're sleeping
  • The unmistakable baby smell most potent at the top of their heads
The beauty of baby showers is that they foreshadow all these joys-to-come for the glowing mom-to-be. Candice graciously coordinated a baby shower for her coworker, Breda, who is expecting a baby boy. What better way to celebrate than with teddy bear cupcakes?
Two dozen rich chocolate cupcakes (to satisfy any chocolate cravings) with creamy vanilla cream cheese frosting tinted baby blue and topped with a sweet little Teddy Graham. (By the way, it's been too long since you've had a Teddy Graham. They're as good as you remember them to be, so go get a box, stat! Trust me -- I know these things).
Anyway, I digress. Congratulations, Breda, and thanks again, Candice for choosing me for this very special occasion!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Strawberries and sweethearts

There's nothing quite like seeing a loved one's face light up after surprising him or her with something sweet. Some of my favorite requests have come from folks looking for the perfect cake with which to surprise their significant others on their birthdays or on Valentine's Day. These requests are usually very specific, with the romantic "surprisers" detailing exactly what their sweethearts like most, whether it's a favorite cocktail, liqueur, or fruit. And to be sure, they never fail to disclose elements to be avoided -- protectively shielding their loved ones from flavors they may find offensive. The cute little strawberry, for instance, is one man's gem and another's pet peeve.

Well, Li-Ming is certain that her husband, Dave, loves rather than loathes strawberries and wanted to surprise him with a cake featuring them as well as a handful of his favorite flavors, including Kahlua, Bailey's, and lots and lots of chocolate. The occasion? A birthday, and a very special one at that -- his 30th!
Having crafted an almost identical Valentine's surprise (but in cupcake form) from Li-Ming to Dave before, my assistant and I were happy to oblige. We whipped up a rich chocolate cake infused with the deep coffee notes of Kahlua, frosted with silky Bailey's cream cheese frosting, topped with fresh strawberry halves and coffee cream cookie crumbs.

Li-Ming, thanks again for trusting me with a cake for such a special occasion! I hope Dave had a very happy birthday and that you both enjoyed the cake!