Valentine’s Day Cake

I will pretty much celebrate any holiday if it means I get to bake. Pair that with access to a photographer and I will bake a million things! So, in continuation with the blog post from the past couple days, I am going to continue with another Valentine’s Day treat.

I turned to my trusty cook book, BakeWise by the wonderful Shirley O. Corriher. I love this book because, not only does it have incredible recipes, but the explanations on why you want to do something a certain way and tips on how to actually do them, are  unmatched. So, I wouldn’t be doing the cookbook justice if I didn’t strong encourage you to get a copy for yourselves. The recipe that I used for the cake was the magnificent moist golden cake – it is a moist and sweet cake that was easily sliced into three layers.

I had much more success with this cake, as compared to my last; however, it was still far from seamless. After baking for 40 minutes, I open the over door so that I could insert a toothpick into the cake to see if it was done. Unfortunately, when I opened the door, the middle of the cake dropped. I saw it happening and quickly shut the door and continued cooking the cake for another 5 or so minutes. I seemed to limit the damage, but there was a slight sink hole in the middle of my cake and when I sliced it open, you could see that the middle was slightly undercooked. So while I’ve progressed and aren’t overflowing my cake pans anymore, it seems as though I still a bit of practicing left to do before I achieve perfection!

Up next was my favorite part – frosting and decorating. I decided to make Shirley’s Crusting Confectioners’ Sugar Buttercream because I was intrigued by the smoothing technique she described that called for using a Viva paper towel (I know, now you are probably intrigued too!)

Crusting Confectioner’s Sugar Buttercream

Make about 4 cups (*I made a half recipe and had plenty to frost a three layer cake)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups Crisco or other shortening with emulsifiers
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
2 tablespoons clean vanilla flavoring (if you can’t find this, regular works – just know your icing won’t be bright white)
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons meringue powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons water
plain white Viva paper towels

  1. With the paddle attachment of a mixer, whip the butter until soft, and then whip in the shortening. Beat in the extract and flavoring on low-speed.
  2. Sift the sugar through a large strainer with medium mesh just to remove any lumps. Beat the sugar and the meringue powder into the fat mixture on the lowest speed. Scrape down the sides as needed.
  3. Stir the salt into the water to dissolve and mix it into the icing thoroughly on low-speed only.
  4. Adjust consistency to a spreadable icing with a little more water or confectioners’ sugar. Do not over mix or mix on high-speed.
  5. For a very smooth cake, similar to a cake draped with rolled fondant, let the icing dry just until a dry Viva paper towel touched to the side does not stick, 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the humidity. To create an absolutely smooth surface, use a plain white Viva paper towel  and start with the sides. Place the towel against the side and smooth up and down gently with your fingers or palm. Do not allow the towel to pleat or fold. If desired, smooth a contour edge and smooth the top.

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I decided to add chocolate piping around the top and bottom (similar to the design that I did on my last cake). I then finished it off with some shaved milk chocolate on the top – with a hearth silhouette for Valentine’s Day.

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I was happy with the way it turned out but as I said earlier, I still have  a long ways to go before I can compete on Cupcake Wars or start can claim to be the next Cake Boss :) Unfortunately, for my co-workers, that means a lot more cake tasting!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope yours is filled with love and baked goods.

Valentine’s Day Cookies – Part 1

Sugar cookies are my favorite. They taste good, they are pretty to look at and they are a Brethauer family staple. We first learned the recipe when my family took a trip out West and visited my pen pal (who was the daughter of my father’s medical school roommate) and her mother made them in the shape of starts. Since that point, we’ve often referred to them as “star cookies” regardless of the shape we chose to make.

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make some heart-shaped “star cookies.” I often make these in 2 (sometimes 3) steps.

First you have to make the dough. then refrigerate it for at least an hour before rolling out. And I tend to wait a day before frosting the cookies. That way, you can ensure that they are 100% cooled and you don’t get too tired!

Rolled Sugar Cookies (AKA Star Cookies)

1 cup sugar
1 cup butter (softened)
3 Tablespoons half-n-half
1 teaspoon vanilla (I use vanilla bean paste)
1 egg
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. Combine dry ingredients. Set aside.
  2. Beat sugar and butter until flurry. Add half-n-half, vanilla and egg. Mix well.
  3. Add dry ingredients in two parts. Blend.
  4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap. Chill for at least one hour.
  5. Roll dough onto well floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters. (*Don’t roll the dough too thin, unless you want crispy cookies!)
  6. Bake at 400 degrees F for 8 minutes.

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Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post on frosting!

Nothing Says Love Like Homemade Meatballs and a Teddy Bear

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Matt and I have a tradition where we go out to breakfast to celebrate before work. For some reason (I think that reason being that I am fighting off a cold) I wasn’t really feeling into that idea this year. So we decided to forgo the breakfast and didn’t plan anything special.

When I got home after work I received a phone call from Matt informing me that he was on his way home and was going to make a Valentine’s dinner. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

He came home with grocery bags in each arm and a box of chocolates from Jacques Torres, one of the best chocolate stores in NYC. He also carried up a package that his father had sent me. It was a Vermont Teddy Bear and the world’s cutest note:

“Thank you for marrying him. Happy Valentine’s Day. Love, Dad #2”

I immediately understood where Matt got his “moves.” Thanks Dad #2!

I sat on the couch as Matt chopped, measured and stirred. I saw a box of spaghetti but couldn’t figure out what else was going on in the kitchen…

I was impressed when Matt brought over a plate of spaghetti and homemade meatballs. I was blown away when he insisted that he would do all of the dishes and clean up the kitchen.

This morning as we were getting ready for work I was telling Matt just how impressed I was with his Valentine’s Day surprise. His response, “I bet you wish it was Valentine’s every day and I cooked and cleaned all the time.”

Umm, yeah. Like it is for you?

Be My Valentine

Matt and I have never really been big into Valentine’s Day gifts. For the past few years, we have been going out to breakfast on Valentine’s Day before work – a fun tradition that I hope to continue for years to come. However, just because I don’t expect gifts, it doesn’t mean I can’t create an awesome “wish list” for all you readers. (You are welcome to all the boyfriends who read my blog and have no idea what to get their sweeties this Valentines Day – I am pretty sure than any of these gifts would be a slam dunk.

Jewelery: Matt has a theory that once a girl has one pair of earings, one necklace, one bracelet and one ring – she is set. Unfortunately for me, he has purchased each of these during our 10 year long relationship, so the potential for me to receive jewelery as a gift in the future is basically zero. Well, I’m here to tell you – his theory is wrong. A girl can NEVER have enough jewelery – the more options she has, the better! Here are a few of my favorite pieces.

Tiny Heart Necklace
Blue Drusy Geode Necklace
Pink Drusy Geode Necklace
Morse Code Necklace

Rose Gold Watch: I had asked Matt for a rose gold watch for Christmas. He found the idea of picking this out way too overwhelming (I guess I can’t blame him). Here are a few of my favorites – the gift of time is a classic.

              

“On Trend” Gifts: If you want to seem trendy but don’t want to spend hours reading through InStyle, Elle and fashion blogs,  here are a few options for you.

Ombre Nail Polish Set
Faux Fur Vest (I can't support real fur)
Eco-Chic Lunch Skins
Color Blocking is the New Black

 

Classic Gifts:
If you aren’t looking to be trendy this year, you can never go wrong with an classic gift.

Flower Bomb Perfume
Cashmere Scarf
Toms - gifts that give back
 
Cards:
A simple and sweet card can be the perfect gift. Here are a few of my favs.
 
        
 
 
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

A Valentine’s Day Tradition

I have never really been into the whole Valentine’s Day thing. While I certainly enjoy receiving candy hearts and making homemade valentine’s cards out of red and white paper doilies, I never felt the need to expect boxes of chocolate, a dozen red roses and expensive jewelry. Matt agrees with me on this and we originally celebrated by going out to dinner.

The first year after college, I was working as a consultant, traveling to Princeton,  NJ a fair amount. On Valentine’s Day, I had a 10am flight out to NJ so I wasn’t going to be able to do dinner with Matt. Instead, he suggested that we get brunch at the Four Season before work. It seemed like a good solution, so I went along with it. At 7am in the morning, we sat down to eat and enjoyed a delicious breakfast in a room with a breath-taking view of Boston Common.

There was something nice about going out to breakfast on a week day and in a hotel where the wait staff treats you incredibly nice. I am not sure if it is because they assume you are a guest of the hotel or not, but there was certainly something in the interactions that make you feel really special. Matt and I decided to continue this tradition of celebration Valentine’s Day with a breakfast in various hotel restaurants.

This morning, Matt surprised me by taking me to Norma’s, located in the Parker Meridien. He got the idea from an episode of Gossip Girl, when Nate first met Juliette. So not only did Matt take me out to breakfast, but he was aiming to be as smooth as Nate Archibald – pretty impressive after more than nine years.

Breakfast was amazing. Matt and I both enjoyed ourselves fully and left completely stuffed. It was the best way to start my day and I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day any other way.