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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Raspberry Lemonade Cream Pie

First of all, how did I just discover 101 Cookbooks? I’m going to spend the rest of my day reading over her entire site and absorbing all of her natural food and cooking information. OK, maybe not all day since I am at work.

Second of all, I watched Food, Inc. over the weekend (which was almost a week ago, I realize). A very eye-opening documentary about the food industry in this country, and it made me incredibly thankful to have local, conventional or organic produce and groceries, and grass-fed, local, ickiness-free meat at my fingertips. Thanks Farm Fresh Delivery and Goose the Market! You make me feel good about what I shove into my mouth every day. Tehehe.

Thirdly, make this pie. This pie, this pie. It’s all kinds of sweet-tart summery goodness. And the only oven-turning-on you have to do is to blind bake the crust! Which, let me just tell you, is a HUGE plus when outside felt like 100° for two weeks straight.

the lighting in my kitchen sucks, remember?

What you should really be paying attention to here is the crust. Remember how we made a pie in North Carolina with vodka in the crust? That’s the basic recipe I used here, but I changed one thing.

Meet the flakiest artery-clogging mothaheffah around

Oh yes. That, my friends, is lard. A tub of lard. I have a tub of lard in my fridge, just hangin out. I bought a tub of lard at Kroger (but I went through the self-scan because I was too embarrassed to let anyone ring up my lard). About this lard. It’s not vegetarian. Duh. It’s a tub of animal fat and not the best thing for you. But, BUT (butt) it makes the damn flakiest pie crust I’ve ever tasted. So, I suggest you give lard a chance if you can stomach it. You will be blown out of the water.

hi piggy tail

I probably will only use lard when my kitchen is too hot for butter, because all-butter crust is like a tiny piece of heaven. But I’m never going back to a Crisco-butter combo. Sorry, Crisco.

Another quick note. If you’re a bit nervous about rolling out pie dough because it’s sticky and whatnot, this vodka recipe is perrrrrfect for you. Who’m I kidding, it’s perfect for anyone making pie crust. The vodka makes the dough so malleable and easy to work with that you’ll think you’re rolling out Play Doh. Plus you can drink vodka ice teas while you bake.

OK, so on to the pie recipe. Continue reading

Gotta Get Me Going

I’ve made it to another Friday! In a short nine hours I will be in Chicago with some of my favorite girls in the world. I cannot wait!! Sushi, Indian food, Olympics, girl time.

I haven’t cooked much this week. Last weekend was spent chiefly in the kitchen (much to my happiness I’ll add). Instead I’ve been trying to find the perfect morning pump up music. Driving to work is a chore, despite the cup of coffee I’ve already downed by then. I need good music to get me going for the day. Something that I can turn up, sing along to, or just listen to and feel motivated. Sometimes I just scream loudly, but that makes my throat hurt. So far, I’ve found these bands to be successful.

Guster. Always Guster. Playing Lost and Gone Forever makes me feel home. It’s hard for me to recommend this band to you for any concrete reason other than they are awesome because they’ve just been my favorite for so long (10 years to be exact). I love how goofy they are, I love the drums, particularly the bongos of their earlier years, and how they’ve evolved with each album but not so much that they lose who they are. Here we have “Happier” from Lost and Gone Forever.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have also been good pump me up music. Karen O is their singer. She’s awesome. They played at Lollapalooza last summer (a last minute sub for the Beastie Boys) and I fell in love. I might put that show in my top five. Very high energy, and of course being in downtown Chicago on a gorgeous summer night never hurts either 🙂 I love Karen O’s voice – powerful without getting out of tune. That girl can scream. Two songs here.

“Maps” on Fever to Tell

“Zero” on It’s Blitz!

So what gets you pumped up when you need a lift? I’m always looking for recommendations to add to my morning playlist.

I’m also going to mention the Broderick, a band from dear Bloomington. Four dudes singing solid rock. Check them out, they’re up and coming.

Now onto food! Last Thursday I made a black and white cappuccino cheesecake for our cheesecake competition at work. It was very tasty and made my stomach scream out in protest of too much cream cheese. Cheesecake is a lot of work though, and I think only appropriate for special occasions. So I’m going to give you a better and easier sweets recipe: Meyer lemon bars, which I made Friday night. Meyer lemons are smaller than regular lemons and sweeter, which I like because normal lemon bars can be a bit too tart for me. Between the lemon bars and the leftover cheesecake Adam and I had good Valentine’s dessert. We also had magical dinners. Sunday we made au gratin potatoes, the recipe for which I’ll have to post sometime, Dover sole two ways, and snow peas (mmm I love snow peas for their crunchy sweetness). Saturday night was the real star though in my opinion.

lasagna mmmmm

Lasagna. In a Dutch oven no less. I think you should ideally use a large and deep casserole dish of some kind, but I don’t have one. The Dutch oven worked just fine. The lasagna was flavorful, filling, and cheeeeesy!

OK, so what follows, in case you missed it from all that rambling, is Meyer lemon bars and lasagna.

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