Hey, busy week, it’s almost the weekend. How about some cake to go with all that coffee you’ve been drinking? SKOR. I made a coffee cake (used dark brown sugar, less vanilla, all purpose white flour–once used whole wheat and not nearly the same) and topped it with chunks of SKOR (3 bars). Baking and hammering candy bars are therapeutic over here. For nostalgia, I dug up this photo that documents my first taste of coffee. We made homemade doughnuts on Sundays every now and then, and my dad let me drink out of his mug that time. Which reminds me – it’s almost jacket season! Now, where can I find an awesome purple windbreaker in my grownup size?
Sprinkles in Chicago this weekend: both the kind that come from the sky and the kind that come from the cupcake gods! When I realized that we were going to stay two blocks from the latest Sprinkles location, I flipped out. I have been following Candace Nelson since she first appeared on TV six years ago, and now her original gourmet cupcakes are baked fresh in the Midwest. So before we left I requested to make a cupcake stop during one of our days in the city, and my brother-in-law said, “why not both days!” And even though there was rain, we totally did stop both days (yes, one of the million examples of why I have the best bro-in-law ever). Of course I like the looks of the colored flavor-indicating sugar dots, but these cupcakes are about the ingredients. They are not too fussy and have proven to be a trendy classic. My top two were the carrot and the chocolate marshmallow. The ganache covering that cupcake will be on my mind for quite some time. I love the rain and fresh chocolate marshmallow cake.
I was flattered when asked to bake a cake for my dear friend Mary’s 30th birthday back porch celebration. I asked for her top 5 ingredients, and she said, “lemon and raspberry would be on the list, possibly strawberry or coconut. Usually chocolate, but it’s so-oo hot that fruit is on the brain.” I found a hot pink raspberry cake recipe, then I was told about this lovely lemon yogurt cake recipe. Why not both? I added frozen raspberries to one of the layers of the undoubtedly light and fresh lemon cakes, and topped it with raspberry cream cheese frosting. The hot pink cake turned into mini-cupcakes with dark chocolate buttercream. The evening was filled with deliciousness (her husband makes homemade breads! and they made those nuts I can’t stop eating). The birthday girl was aglow.
This weekend I helped celebrate my nephew’s 6th birthday Cars style. For the kids’ cakes, my sister poured chocolate cake batter into donut pans, popped them in the oven, and out came cake tires! We each got one of our own and customized the sidewalls with frosting and candy; the kids were genius decorators! We all kept calling them donuts, but they were lighter than that. What a simple to handle and festive alternative to cupcakes. I couldn’t get enough of the toppings (surprise!) and have to say that the cake to frosting ratio here was perfect (which is hit or miss with regular cupcakes). Tirecakes taste nothing like burnt rubber.
My mom’s mom was born on July 3rd the same year as Shirley Temple and Mickey Mouse. Because of her birthday, the 4th of July holiday is among my favorite family holidays, too. As long as I can remember, she invites relatives over to her house on Elizabeth Street for a cookout to celebrate. Some aunts and uncles just walk up the street to her front yard, while the rest of us drive in from different corners of the state or country. The configuration of people varies from year to year, but you can usually count on breakfast at Wimbledon, Lay’s potato chips, Uncle George at the charcoal grill and a coconut cake (Grandma’s favorite). I am thankful for both the verbal and silent support that comes from my family and for the sustained comfort that my grandma has instilled in all of us. These are the days when the familiar beats the new and fancy.
I am in New Orleans for the first time in my life for my first ALA Conference! I didn’t eat one full meal today, but in between registrations and check-ins, I was able to have a few tasty bites around the Conference Center. Baby Arugula Flatbread with Shaved Manchego and Marjoram, House Sourdough from Feast, Warm Pork Fat on Toast with Thyme and Piccalilli (my stomach churned for a bit afterward, but it was so rich and cozy). Finally, my indulgent version of bedtime tea and milk: Creole Cream Cheesecake with Chamomile to drink. What makes a cheesecake Creole? Oh my, a tangy combination of whole milk, skim milk, and cream with spiced Steen’s cane syrup and dehydrated berries. Sweet dreams.
Who wants gumbo mail? Later this week I will get on a plane bound for the American Library Association’s annual conference in The Big Easy. There are 20 postcard stamps in my suitcase, and I can’t guarantee that your postcard will be as charming as this one I received from a sweet friend who spent some time in New Orleans six years ago… but get a hold of me with your postal address, and I will send you one during my first visit! I am not sure how much free time I will have, but I would also love recommendations for what shouldn’t be missed. My nephew is quite the mapmaker lately and made me this drawing last week when I told him where I was going. “TC means take care,” he said. Black tea and orange madeleines hit the spot this stormy morning before heading off to work.