A New Obsession

I realize that if this blog had a more narrow focus, it might make more sense. But seeing as how I can barely focus on getting dinner on the table, you get what you get.

Today you get stock.

I remember the first time I ventured into the soup aisle with “stock” on my shopping list. I ended up with a rather anemic looking liquid that cost a bit more than I was expecting. Sure it did the job, but there was little excitement in it. Not that most people get excited about stock, but then again, I am not like most people.

I have put the chicken carcass in a pot with veggie trimmings before. You end up with something darker and with much more flavor. Soon I was receiving all kinds of wonderful advice on how to make stock even better, like leaving the skins on the onions for deeper color. I freeze it all in one-cup batches to have on hand because the more I cook, the more the recipes call for a cup of chicken stock.

What moved me from casual to slightly obsessed was the appearance of a duck carcass in my household. We don’t often eat duck, and this time we had bought the whole thing just to harvest the breast meat. Staring at the poor, breastlest thing, I couldn’t bare to throw that much goodness away. However, I had no flipping idea how to cook the leftover parts of a duck. Then it hit me: stock.

There was no plan, but I went ahead and made the most beautifully fragrant stock ever. Mulling over what one could use such a rich stock for, it hit me like lightening…I would make risotto. If you ever have the occasion to have risotto made with duck stock and wild mushrooms, I HIGHLY recommend it. It was rich and amazing in a way I have never tasted before (and this was me cooking…ME)

So that led me to thinking, what other glorious types of stock could I make? I have made chicken, turkey, duck and shrimp so far. The last batch of chicken stock I made with the surplus water from making applesauce, some red onion, mizuna stalks and garlic. I can’t wait to use it to soften stuffing!

The DH, bless his heart, is getting me some beef soup bones while he is out today. He is a bit concerned that I might be compiling more stock than is reasonably possible to consume. In response I point to the shelves full of fishing and hunting supplies and say, “we all have our weaknesses”. Right now mine is stock. To make more space in the freezer, however, it will soon have to be canning.

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A Tangled Web

My dear friend, Wifey-poo, asked me to help her out with her daughter’s birthday cake. This was an opportunity to make something sinfully girlie and there was no way I was going to say no to that.

She asked for a “Tangled” themed cake, and I have to admit, I LOVE that movie. A quick call to Disney Debbie, and I was in possession of the DVD. After a few viewings I decided to move away from the sketch I’d done with Wifey-poo. There are all these beautiful murals in the movie, and I wanted to try to recreate those on the cake. We had talked about putting a few flowers on the cake. I decided to kick that up a notch…

It wouldn’t be one of my cakes if there wasn’t a disaster in the process somewhere. This time it was frosting the bottom layer. I had wanted it to just be buttercream. My skills in the frosting department have been improving, so I went for it. Well, frosting works better when you haven’t put too much sugar in it. I managed to get it all on the cake, but it looked like a bad spackle job. Lukily, I had enough fondant left over to cover the atrocity, and all was good.

The flowers are made from gumpaste. This is a technique I have been dying to try for a while now. They are much more delicate than anything you can do with frosting or fondant. The colors weren’t as vibrant as I had hoped and I rolled them a little too thick, but every cake is a learning experience.

The murals were the best part. I am not known for my drawing prowess, so this was a huge risk for me. But I was very happy with how they turned out (the pig might be my favorite)

I decided to take the cake in two separate boxes. That way I wouldn’t have to worry about the top sliding to its doom if I had to slam on the brakes. It was the longest eight blocks of my life, but I managed to get it there safe and sound. Coach and Wifey-poo were happy with it, and they assured me that their lovely daughter was as well. What more could you ask for?

An Orange Birthday

A friend of a friend posted on Mom-mail that she needed a Goldfish-cracker shaped cake for her 5 year old’s birthday. Did anyone know of anyone that could do that? My good friend-who-hates-hoodies turned me in and before I knew it I had been talked into accepting my first commissioned cake.

As most of you know, I have had years of experience with the little fish-shaped crackers. If left to his own devices, the O-man would survive on a diet of Goldfish crackers and orange juice, with some pretzels and potato chips thrown in for good measure. Turning this knowledge into a cake shouldn’t be too big a problem, should it?

I figured I would make it for cost, and seeing as how this person was nice enough to pay to go the Toga party earlier this year, I wanted to keep the costs down. I found a nifty recipe for marshmallow fondant on the web, thus making the giant quantities required much less spendy. I always use boxed cake mixes. People always rave about them. Must be something about them being wrapped in nice packages.

I completely destroyed the first batch of cake. I was rushing and freaked out and forgot everything I had learned in the past and tried to shape the cake before I’d put the layers together. It was an unmitigated disaster and ended up being a lovely mound of cake bits in a casserole pan for the kids to eat/decorate.

Round two went much better. I made the two layers and then stuck them together with a good batch of chocolate buttercream: the glue that holds heaven together. After getting the shape right, it only took three tries to get the enormous fondant skin on the cake.

The boys and I put some colorful ribbons of fondant around and on the cake to break up the orange a little and it was done.

I also did a few cupcakes just in case

The fondant goldfish on the cupcakes were shiny, because I made the mistake of putting them in the fridge. When they come out they sweat, and the marshmallow fondant seems to sweat more than the traditional kind.

I was sure I would misspell the name, and double-checked it at least 3,000 times. The worst part of the whole experience was delivering the cake. I was terrified I would drop it or trip or in some other way cause it to be not what it was when I left the house.

Everyone seemed to like the cake, and since she paid me I am now a professional something, which feels alright.

Redemption?

I have two questions.

  1. why is it that the posting titled “Epic Fail” is one of my most viewed ever?  Schadenfreude!
  2. how was it possible that I actually made that awful cake?

So the exotic dancing cow disaster was dismantled in time to make a decent showing at my friend’s house.  I redid it white with a brown border and the old bow on the top dealy.  It was unremarkable, but a Cup Cake Cake would have been preferable to the polka dotted nightmare I had started with.  (This experience has reinforced that I don’t want to do this for money, that’s for sure.)

Here was what it ended up looking like:

Snooze.

But the birthday girl liked it and the cake tasted good so all in all:  mission accomplished.


Epic Fail

So, I made a cake for my friend’s birthday, ’cause that’s what I do.

EPIC FAIL

I’m not sure what I was going for originally.  But what I ended up with was a dickie for Cruella DeVille.

WTF?

Might have to leave this one at home.  Yuck.

Mariners Cake

Coach had a birthday yesterday.  So we hung out after the game and had adult beverages and ate cake.

I volunteered to make said cake, ’cause that’s what I do.

Turned out pretty good if I may say so myself.  The boys loved the mitt, and have declared that they want one on their birthday cakes next time around.  My personal favorite was the rally cap on the “ground”.

The whole thing made it to the field in one piece and though I remembered the sparkler candles, I forgot to bring a lighter.

Happy Birthday Coach.

These Kids Live in a Vacuum…

After a great success with the snack pack desserts for the tball party, I have decided to share another of my favorite baking projects.

When my lovely son O was 3, he was obsessed with the vacuum cleaner.  Not just “Oh I love to vacuum” obsessed, but when people came to the house he would show them where we kept the vacuum obsessed.  So it was no great surprise when he asked if he could have a Vacuum birthday party.  Not Barney, not Star Wars, but Vacuums.  After I was done laughing, I thought “How the f@*k am I going to pull off a vacuum party?”

This is what I came up with.


Luckily it was close friends and family, so I didn’t need goody bags or plates or anything.  I did draw some vacuums on the balloons, but that was it.

I have made many cakes, but this is by far one of my favorites.