March 29, 2009

Lemon Layer Cake

happy birthday to my bro

All week I was thinking about how I was going to make my brother, Ryan a lemon cake for his birthday. I also wanted to make it extra special and have his face on it. I found a recipe in the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook for the cake…and decided on skipping the lemon curd and used lemon pudding instead.

Casey totally hooked me up and helped me with the face part. Look at the stencil!

the stencil

It seriously makes me laugh every time I look at it…the stencil is sitting in our kitchen still and I feel like I would be so sad if I threw it out. The image was adapted from a photograph, and it’s likeness is spot on!


It started off with a lemon cake…all frosted and nice. Then a photo…some Photoshopping…and some slick Exacto skills from my husband. First there was some preliminary testing…which caused us to add skewers on all side of the stencils for support. Dusted the top with cocoa powder after covering the cake in Saran Wrap.

Filled in the parts that were left on to connect the stencil together…and tada! A few hours well spent, I’d say.

Let’s take a peak at the filling…

lemon pudding filling

I added some strawberries on the sides

side swiped

We were filled with sooo much excitement driving this cake to my parent’s house. When you have something this funny, it’s really hard to contain the joy. It was a hit! My brother loved it and so did my parents.

cutting into ryan

After we dug into it, Casey commented “Ryan is half the man he used to be.” We got a good chuckle off that.

As for the cake…it was very tasty! The cake part wasn’t as moist as I hoped, but I think it was due to my leaving it in the oven too long. The pudding inside turned out wonderful. I was nervous about taking a gamble, but it all worked out! The frosting was soooo good too. Another cake down! Hmmm what cake to bake next?

Lemon Layer Cake

serves 10

(adapted from Magolia Bakery Cookbook)

For the Cake:
– 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
– 2 cups sugar
– 4 large eggs, at room temperature
– 1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup milk
-1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
-2 teaspoons grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and lightly flour three 9-by-2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottom with waxed paper.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time. Combine the flours and add in four parts, alternating with milk and lemon juice and zest, beating well after each addition. Divide batter among cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.

For the Filling
-1 package JELL-O Instant pudding (the smallest box)
-1 3/4 cup milk (or whatever it calls for to make the Pie filling recipe)

Follow the direction on the box for Pie filling. Make sure you do this well in advance. Make sure you put an even amount of frosting on each layer. I kinda skimped on the first layer and was annoyed by it!

For the Lemon Buttercream Frosting:
-2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp)
-8 cups of powdered sugar
-1 teaspoon lemon zest
-1/2 cup lemon juice

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of sugar and juice, then the zest. Beat until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the remaining sugar, one cup at a time until the icing is thick enough to be of good spreading consistency. (It took me less that 5 cups to get to this point). Use and store at room temperature.

When cake has cooled, spread the pudding evenly between layers and frost the outside of the cake with the buttercream frosting.

Makes 1 three-layer 9-inch cake.

March 27, 2009

shabu shabu

the table

shabu shabu

It’s hard to get out these days now that there’s a baby to consider. Last night I hosted Shabu Shabu night. We had our usual group of friends join, and they brought the food to us! Cooper went to bed before anyone arrived. How awesome is that?

Here’s a peak into the evening.
I’m really glad I covered our dining room table with paper. Such a snap to clean up!

i went to TOWN on bok choy last night

mushrooms, bok choy, & tofu

here’s a peak at my bowl… I couldn’t get enough mushrooms & bok choy! YUM

my plate...my beers...my mess


Good Food + Good Company= Great Times.

March 23, 2009

Irish Soda Bread

the gift that keeps on giving

The internet has been chalk full of provocative pictures of Irish Soda bread lately…and boy have I been seduced. Is this the only time of year people make it? I saw Martha make some on her show last week and decided that I would put that recipe in my food queue. You should see how much head space is taken up in my noggin for food…it’s ridiculous.

I found a recipe in Martha’s Baking book and decided on a whim last night to make some. After Cooper when down for the night, I was hit by the most wonderful smell in my kitchen. What a glorious thing…to have fresh baked bread on your counter. That scent is intoxicating.

mixing the stickyness

egging the top

what a gorgeous LOAF

i couldn't resist. i cut into it like 3 minutes after i took it out.

I’ve never really tasted traditional Irish soda bread, so I am not sure how this one fairs in comparison. The raisins were juicy and extremely plump & moist. We smothered a piece in butter and topped it with honey the second it came out of the oven. It tasted like a crispy scone.

Such good crunch…the next day I didn’t even have to reheat it because it was still soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. Casey said he normally doesn’t like Irish Soda bread, but I think the addition of sugar in the dough probably convinced him otherwise.

I decided against using caraway seeds in this loaf as it called for them in the recipe. I couldn’t find any at the store 🙁 But maybe next time I’ll try to make it with them.

Irish Soda Bread

(recipe Martha Stewart Baking Book)

-4 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 tablespoons caraway seeds
-4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
-2 cups golden or dark raisins
-1 1/2 scant cups buttermilk
-1 large egg
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 large egg yolk
-1 tablespoon heavy cream

1. Heat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and caraway seeds until well combined.

2. Using a pastry cutter or two knives in scissor fashion, cut in butter until the mixture feels like coarse meal. Stir in raisins until evenly distributed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and baking soda until well combined. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour-and-butter mixture all at once, and stir with a fork until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture begins to hold together. It should resemble a rough biscuit dough. Using your hands, press the dough into a round, dome-shaped loaf about 8 inches in diameter. Lift the loaf from the bowl, and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.

4. In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk and cream together. With a pastry brush, brush the egg wash over the loaf. With a sharp knife or razor, incise a cross, about 1/2 inch deep, into the top of the loaf. Transfer to the oven. Bake, rotating halfway through, until it is deep golden brown and a wooden skewer comes out clean when inserted into the center, about 70 minutes. Remove from oven, and transfer bread from the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool.

with a bread like this…it’s a shame people only make it on St. Patrick’s Day.

March 20, 2009

happy anniversary!

3 years down!

This week Casey & I celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary and our 10 year anniversary of being together.

My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary! So we’ll be celebrating at a big party tomorrow night!

Love is in the air!

Happy first day of spring!

March 16, 2009

another weekend has past

I have a lot to show for this weekend (besides being wiped out & tired)

Saturday I went into work and then had a great lunch with a wonderful friend
(we splurged on a cheeseburger, fries & an apple crisp for dessert)

On Sunday, we went to a birthday party for our friend’s daughter who turned 1.

Cute cupcakes huh? So clever and very delicious! They were made by my friend’s mom.

cuppies woot woot

cute cupcakes!

I had my family over for dinner on Sunday. I made a comforting dinner of turkey meatloaf, roasted fingerling potatoes & creamed spinach.

having family for dinner

the start of something good

the end of something good

my plate

-we watched old 8mm home movies with my parents & brother
-i made the grossest waffles from Trader Joes Multigrain Mix (seriously nasty) WHY?!!!
-i made chocolate pudding for dessert on Sunday that didn’t set properly.
-cleaned house
-watched a few episodes of How I Met Your Mother
-daydreamed about being on a sandy beach…away from it all.

It was a busy busy weekend…time to gear up for this busy busy week.

Mushroom & Lemon Orzo

mushroom lemon orzo with pinenuts!

Let me start my telling you that it was never my intention to make this Orzo for Casey’s Birthday dinner. I waffled with the idea of Mashed Potatoes (even bought some potatoes) or a Creamy Pasta. But the morning of the dinner, I was flipping through a magazine cutout that had a recipe for Lemon Orzo and decided I’d wing it and make some.

It turned out to be a GREAT idea. Having a 4 year old and a 5 month old in the house made it tough to time dinner. It’s such a tricky thing when everyone is on different schedules…or engrossed in a movie. I had to get Cooper fed before we sat down to eat, so it was really easy to make this Orzo before I started cooking the steaks. If I had made Mashed Potatoes or a Creamy Pasta, the results would have been GOOEY and gross. The Orzo held up well, and was still really good at room temperature. I have to say that it was EXCELLENT the next day too. I ate it cold. Freshened it up with some lemon juice and added feta. It was a very satisfying lunch. (see picture above)

Mushroom & Lemon Orzo

(inspired by a Rachael Ray Mag)

-1 lb Orzo pasta
-3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
-1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1 10oz. package white mushrooms
-1 10oz. package shitake mushrooms
-juice of two lemons, plus the grated peel of 1 lemon
-handful…or more grated Parmesan cheese
-salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook Orzo pasta according to package.

2. While Orzo is cooking, heat up a skillet with 1/4 cup olive oil. Add the mushrooms and cook until browned. Should take 7-10 mins.

3. Drain Orzo and return to the pot. Stir in lemon juice, lemon peel, parsley & pine nuts. Add two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil…stir it up! Season with salt & pepper to taste. Add mushrooms to the top and serve!

March 9, 2009

Birthday Celebration continued…

I had a birthday celebration for Casey & his sister on Saturday to celebrate their birthdays.

Here is a peak of the table!

I wrapped Lauren’s present first, and it became the inspiration for the table decoration.

happy happy birthday