Monday, April 26, 2010

Ode to the weekend

There's something just so blissful about weekends, isn't there? Sometimes it's staying up and out as late as you'd like on a Friday night, knowing you can sleep in the following morning. Other times, it's the excitement over plans you've made with friends and loved ones -- excursions that feel like a lifetime away on Monday but become so deliciously tangible by the time Thursday rolls around. And every now and then, it's not having any plans at all -- just having the freedom to relax and do whatever you feel like without an agenda.

Well, lucky me! The beauty of being imaginary is that every day feels like a weekend day. I know not everyone has this luxury, so that's all the more reason to celebrate those Saturdays and Sundays when they make their appearance. Heather knows this, and she made sure that her friends did too when she brought a round of margarita cupcakes to a friend's birthday party.
Tequila-spiked butter cupcakes filled with zesty (literally!) lime custard, brushed with tequila, and topped with lime cream cheese frosting and a fresh lime wedge. Add a sprinkle of course sea salt, and you've got a cupcake that tastes true to its cocktail namesake, a cute little party favor, and a nice way to wish a friend a very happy birthday.

Thanks, Heather -- I hope these cupcakes brought some extra sweetness to your weekend!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The different flavors of birthdays

Birthdays. It's interesting how varied our feelings toward and reactions to our own special day can be. Some people shout it from the mountaintops, throwing elaborate fetes or even multi-part affairs with plenty of food, drink, and rowdy, uninhibited fun. Others let the day come and go quietly -- treating it as just another day and no reason to make a fuss. And still others dread the reminder that, in the blink of an eye, they've grown another year older as they stare fixedly on the reflection before them, searching for the newly sprouted white hair or wrinkle that hadn't been there the day before.

Well, my assistant's friend, Alastair, belongs somewhere in the second camp. He was going to let his birthday slip quietly by, lost in a sunshine-filled spring weekend. My assistant, who while in no way a "shout-it-from-the-mountaintops" kind of birthday girl, believes in the beauty of birthdays and wasn't about to let a special one slip by unnoticed -- without warm wishes and, more devastatingly (IMHO), without cake.

So here's what she did:
You wouldn't guess from the looks of it, but this is a coffee cake. Not coffee cake in that it's meant to be paired with coffee, but coffee cake in that it's loaded with it. Here we have a single layer of dark chocolate mocha cake topped with Kahlua-infused cream cheese frosting, patted with coffee cream cookie crumbs, and garnished with fresh strawberry halves. A nice little pick-me-up for a long day at the office and an even better birthday cake for someone who enjoys Kahlua and strawberries.

I hope you had a fantastic birthday, Alastair! And I certainly hope you enjoyed the cake :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spring's a'bloomin'

I know, I know – this post is long overdue, but my assistant has been away on a family vacation, leaving me with nothing but daydreams of cakes to be made and blog entries to be written. Before she left to explore a bustling and very delicious Hong Kong (egg tarts, dim sum, and noodles galore…with plenty of tropical fruit to boot), she had the chance to craft a birthday cake for a repeat customer. A year ago, Joshua ordered a birthday cake for his wife Mai. This year, he wanted to surprise her with something new. Never having tasted red velvet cake before, he decided to take the plunge and order a triple layer red velvet cake for Mai’s special day.

With red velvet now among my favorites in my cake repertoire, I was happy to oblige. However, the challenge came in crafting a red velvet cake that looked pretty. I’ve noticed that so many red velvet layer cakes look homemade (good!) but homely (not so much…), with bright red crumbs poking haphazardly through otherwise white frosting. I wanted Mai’s birthday cake to have a neat outer appearance with the bright red interior coming as a pleasant surprise. For this mid-March birthday, I looked to the blossoming spring season for inspiration.
My assistant filled three rich buttermilk cake layers – bright red in color with just a hint of cocoa – with two layers of creamy Bailey’s cream cheese frosting before frosting the assembled cake with a thin coating of Bailey’s buttercream to hide any red crumbs. After allowing the cake to rest in the fridge, she added an additional layer of freshly whipped vanilla cream before piping pink rosettes and a border of green “grass.” Throw in a circle of white chocolate chip “mushroom caps” and you’ve got yourself a cute little garden-themed birthday cake that’s easy on the eyes and certainly easy on the palette.

Thanks, Joshua, for trusting me with such an important cake, and happy birthday, Mai! I hope you enjoyed a beautiful spring birthday and a cake themed to match.