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 ;)