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.