Here and Now. Buttermilk Skillet Cake with Praline Topping.

This weekend I am focusing hard on the here and now, not on the what I wish and what should have been. Because in reality what should have been is right where I am here and now.

Here is a snoring pup and a snoozing cat. A gin, tonic, and mango juice beverage. One pound of bacon vs. one girl. The Rhythm Center with one of my favorite almost-four-year-olds. March Madness. And cake, because as Julia Child said,

I have a cake recipe for you to, you know, help you avoid meetings. It comes to you from the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve passed the recipe over many a time, probably because it looks so simple. I’ve passed it up for the fancier carrot cakes, avocado cupcakes, brown butter chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate muffins … uh, maybe I just passed it up for chocolate.

You should probably bring this cake to your next meeting at work, because every office could use a midday party. And it is the perfect cake for a spontaneous meeting-gone-party. So simple and unassuming in its cast-iron skillet (though you can make it in a cake pan, too). It most importantly is easier to make than going to the grocery to buy a cake. If you bake or want to start baking, the ingredients in this recipe are ones you either always have in your kitchen or ones you should buy, because you will use them in any other recipe you’ll make. It smells just like a simple, perfect cake should—buttery, warm, vanilla-y. Buttermilk is key here, making the cake lovely and tender.

And the praline topping? It looks like caramel, but it’s so much easier. Trust me. Caramel and me do not have a good relationship.

But as this topping boils on the stove, your kitchen starts to smell like a candy store. I may have stood over the pot just breathing in the sweet scent.

Sweet and simple cake like this is perfect with a cup of coffee after family dinner on Sunday night. I guess that makes family dinner a party.

Here and now is pretty good.

Recipe after the jump!

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Birthdays. Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Buttercream.

Let’s be honest for a second. Is that OK? I’ve sat in front of my computer about fifteen times in the last week and a half staring at the big, blank “Edit Post” screen. I’ve typed a bit. I’ve brainstormed a bit. Mostly I’ve just felt anxious as more time passes and my planned birthday cake post goes unpublished. Unwritten, really. Nothing is coming.

I want all this inspiration in the start of the new year. I’m really thankful that my friend Sam got me this really cool journal, 642 Things to Write About, because I want to be inspired, but in small and not overwhelming doses. I want to plan big for 2013, but big plans give rise to anxiety. I did make one successful plan: I signed up for a marathon in November. A mother fucking marathon. Oh shit.

This is the year I turn 29. One more til 30. Instead of resolutions I’m making a 30 before 30 list. Thirty things I’ll do this year. Number 26: Run 26(.2) miles by completing a marathon. Number four: Send flowers to four friends. Number 12: Go to shabbat services 12 times. Number 20: Take pictures of 20 of my favorite things. Do you have any things to add? I need helping filling in the numbers. I’ll post my whole list next week, after the birthday happens.

Birthdays come with cake. Always cake. My favorite part of birthdays. I love making cake for other people.

Happy birthday Marnie

I hate asking other people to make me cake. I always lust after these complicated layered things, covered in frostings, drenched in flavored syrups. And it’s not that I don’t trust my friends to come through, I just feel bad asking for something complicated.

After all, a birthday cake should be filled with a good, joyful energy that you bake into it. Not a stressed out, this will never live up to expectations energy. In reality, I’m a fan of a simple cake, a cake with good flavors, one that I can even make on a weekday, because sometimes that’s when birthday celebrations happen, but that looks and tastes dang fabulous.

One that I am proud to put on my pretty silver cake stand, but that didn’t take hours for me to make, because, after all, we are busy. It’s a fact of life. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to shower cake on our loved ones on their birthdays. So, simple and lovely cakes for busy people who are looking in every corner for simple inspirations and have birthdays to celebrate!

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A Lemony White Chocolate Birthday Cake

When one of your best friends turns 27, you throw down in the cake department. At least that’s what my friends and I do.

So I started planning for Samantha’s birthday cake weeks in advance. Sam’s birthday is in the beginning of April, right when Spring starts to tease you with a few warm, sunny days. So a cake that says Spring! She doesn’t really like chocolate in an obsessive way, which is OK because in my book this time of year rings in the beginning of fruit-baking season.

So when I saw a white chocolate cake filled with lemon curd, I figured I’d found my cake. I like white chocolate in certain situations, where you don’t want a chocolate flavor perse, but you want a nice, sweet cake. I looooove lemon curd. Have you ever had it? Seriously, it’s worthy of eating all by itself with a spoon. Creamy, tangy, delicious. Balances out the white chocolate perfectly. I was completely inspired by the original cake’s pretty pastel-colored frosting and polka dots, but not so much the fact that it was cream cheese based. Too heavy. So I opted for whipped cream. I felt really good about giving this cake to Sam to celebrate her life.

Also, a note. I’m normally terrible at assembling layer cakes. As in they end up lopsided, the icing melting down the sides, and the layers sliding apart. This cake was supposed to be four layers (bake two layers, slice each in half). The idea of four layers scared the shit out of me. I went with two. I also think the whipped cream as icing really helped. It slathered on easily and I didn’t have to do a lot of smoothing. The pink and yellow really helped the whole thing look nice, too I think. Sam said the yellow dots looked like popcorn. I’ll let you decide!

I did use some layer cake tricks that I’ve picked up on various blogs. I’ll bold them in the directions below. I did do the cake over two days. Actual cake (and curd if you make your own) day one, whipped cream and assemblage day two.

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A 27th birthday

The last six months I dreaded January 20. I dreaded turning 27. It would tip me on the close side of 30. And oh 30. That’s a real grown-up age. Hell no.

But 27 came and went and I feel no different. No older, no wiser. Well scratch that, I feel much older and wiser now than I did even four months ago. (I don’t want to be negative about the past, but there was a heavy weight bearing down on me for the majority of last year and I’ve felt so incredibly light the last few months. I think I’d forgotten what happy for more than a few days in a row felt like.)

So how did I celebrate? I know you are just dyying to know. I had dinner at my parents’ house. My mom made Oma macaroni. We got a birthday cake from Parcha Sweets, a new and wonderful bakery here in Indianapolis.

Last weekend my friends took me out to dinner to celebrate. Jen and Samantha made the most wonderful caramelized pear and ginger cake. Perfect after our fancy-schmancy dinner at R Bistro.

In non-birthday news, little miss Lola is happily bouncing around the house minus her cone…and one eye. Meow!

Almond Cake with Raspberry-Lemon Whipped Cream

Well this is a huge embarrassment. I made this wonderful cake for my wonderful mother’s birthday and I forgot to post it.

And now that summer is over, you may be all sad when you see the beautiful berries piled on top of the cake. But, don’t worry! This cake will be equally tasty minus the berries, add some other kind of fruit on top of the whipped cream, no fruit and just whipped cream, different flavored whipped cream (think vanilla, amaretto…), chocolate frosting or caramel on top…are you starting to understand the wonderfulness of this cake yet?

Birthday Momma and Pappy

OK, so back in August, my mom had a birthday. My mom likes berries, tortes, pies, coffee, things like that. Last year I made her this espresso chiffon cake with fudge frosting. Out of this world. This year I went with almond and David Lebovitz. Does FTW apply here?

So like I said, top this cake with anything really. It can even be sliced into two layers if you want to get fancy. Really the cake is the star. It’s got a rich but not overpowering almond flavor and an incredibly moist (sorry, sorry!!) crumb. Honestly, it’d probably be good all on it’s own. Just hop on past the jump and check out the recipe!

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Chocolate beer cake

I wonder at what point in my life I’ll stop having no money. Will that time ever come? I honestly cannot see an end right now. And the thing is I do not spend excessively. I do not. Lunch out once a week, maybe dinner once a week, groceries from Farm Fresh Delivery once a week, the occasional extra trip to the regular grocery to get baking supplies, gas for my car, the occasional trip to Target to buy toilet paper and soap. That is literally all that is on my credit card statement for the past month. Gas. Food. Target. One J.Crew charge, items which were on sale, and one of which I returned. I bought a cardigan thing in June from Anthropologie, but I wear the thing once a week at least. In fact I’m wearing it today. I feel like all my money goes to bills, rent, and paying for the uber-expensive work that was done on my car last month. I also bought a swimsuit last month, which probably wasn’t completely necessary, but if I do ever come upon a chance to wear a swimsuit, it will not be a two-piece. Not anymore.

Seriously, does anyone have any tips on saving money? Because I am at a complete and nearly tearful loss. (Mom, if you read this, I WILL NOT take your money! Don’t offer :D)

OK, on to happier things. Much happier things. CAKE. CHOCOLATE. BEER. I realize I may have lost your attention as I spilled my money woes, but do I haven it back now?

bro and sis

My little brother turned 24 last Wednesday. Yikes, 24. I remember my 24th. It doesn’t seem that long ago, and in reality it wasn’t. Only three years ago. But it was in this Indianapolis-Adam-Jack and Jill lifetime. Last year when little brother turned 23, I fondly remembered my 23rd, in that faraway Raleigh lifetime. So, Last Monday my mom texted me (yes, she’s an expert texter!) asking to keep Wednesday open for birthday festivities. I, naturally, responded with “OK, want me to bake a cake?” Because 1. I have no money to buy birthday presents and 2. Baking is my middle name. Yes, she said. Problem. My brother is not a big fan of sweets. (OK, this causes more problems than just the birthday cake one, because I can’t feed him things that come out of my kitchen.) But he does love chocolate. He also loves good, dark beer. So when I found a chocolate stout cake on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I’d hit the jackpot.

This cake is rich and flavorful, but not so much that you feel sick after one piece. It’s moist and stays moist through the next day. And it doesn’t require any crazy ingredients.

Recipe after the break!

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Almond Joy Cake

This past Sunday Adam turned 28. A month or so ago we were talking about cake and he brought up the idea of an Almond Joy cake, how I should try to make one, and how it should have coconut in it that had been chopped up really small, like in a food processor. I immediately cataloged this into “Possible Birthday Cakes.”

Hey, Birthday Boy

After extensive searching online, the only recipes for an Almond Joy cake were cop outs that used the candy bar, and those were few and far between. So I started brainstorming. Chocolate cake with coconut icing? Coconut cake with chocolate icing? Then one day this cake (Billie’s Italian Cream Cake) from the Pioneer Woman popped up on my  Google reader. It looked incredible and she spoke…err wrote…so highly of it, that I decided to make that the cake. It’s topped off with chocolate icing, the recipe for which came from the woman who cooked and cleaned for my grandparents, and, after around 40 years, became part of the family. Her name is Mattie and oh Lord can that woman cook. Anyway, cake recipe’s after the break!

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