Swedish Princess Cake

You remember my post a little while back about how I am avoiding baking lots of small cakes. I also mentioned that I am trying to become a 50’s housewife in the  sense that I aspire to have a regular supply of baked goods on my kitchen counter (and to wear adorable aprons while baking said items). I seem to be on track in my enjoyment and  baking regular-sized cakes, especially ones that come as a challenge. When my friend, Aubree, asked me if I would create a Swedish Princess Cake for her 25th birthday, I happily agreed.

What I was NOT aware of was how much of a process creating said cake is. I began by Googling ‘Swedish Princess Cake’ and discovered the following things about Swedish Princess Cakes:

  • They are traditionally green
  • The construction of said cake is made up of 6 components
  • If you do it well, it is beautiful and dome-shaped
  • If you do not do it well, it looks fairly unappetizing

As someone who appreciates a good culinary challenge, and also as someone who aspires to greatness in her kitchen, I was determined to make the most beautiful princess cake the city of Bozeman had ever seen. As the birthday approached, I set to work on my time line, which went something like this:

Day 1 (Friday):

  • Procure ingredients (of which included 2 cans of marzipan, a bottle of kirsch, sugar, butter, a vanilla bean, cream, strawberry jam, and eggs)
  • Make kirsch sugar syrup (kirsch, sugar, water) and refrigerate

Day 2 (Saturday):

  • Make vanilla pastry cream (eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla bean, gelatin, cornstarch) and refrigerate
  • Color marzipan green, wrap and set aside
  • Make Swiss butter cream frosting (egg whites, sugar, butter, vanilla)

Day 3 (Sunday):

  • Make genoise cake-yellow sponge cake- (eggs, flour, sugar, vanilla)
  • Whip cream for filling

Construction of cake, part 1 (still Sunday):

Once the genoise cake had cooled, I found an 8-inch bowl, which I lined with plastic wrap and began the upside-down construction of the cake. the first step was to cut the genoise into wedges to fill the dome part of the cake. With each cake layer, the kirsch sugar syrup would be brushed on each side to keep things moist. Once cake layer 1 was down, whipped cream filled the dome, then another layer of kirsch-brushed cake, followed by vanilla pastry cream, followed by more cake, followed by whipped cream and a generous layer of strawberry jam with one more layer of cake. The bowl of cake was then wrapped and refrigerated overnight to set.

Day 4 (Monday- Party Day!)/Construction of the cake, part 2:

This was the most nerve-wracking part of the whole process. If anything were to go wrong at this point, Aubree would not only have an ugly cake for her birthday, but one very grumpy party guest. So. I turned the cake over onto the cake pedestal- it did not fall or slump. The pastry cream was oozing out a little, but I went to work right away sealing all layers and cracks in with the swiss-buttercream frosting- which just happens to serve as a pretty fantastic mortar for sealing up cakes. Once the buttercream was smoothly shellacked onto the cake, it went back in the fridge to continue to set-up.

Four hours later, I was rolling out the light green marzipan for the finishing touches. Traditionally, Swedish Princess Cakes are adorned with green marzipan and a single marzipan rose on top. This being a spring birthday, and for a person who has an affinity for peas, I created a pea-like decor with small tendrils surrounding the base of the cake and some embellishment on the top.

And, voila!

I give all credit to the creation of this cake to Baking Obsession. I would not have even attempted this cake without the thorough directions, methodology and detailed diagram that was essential in the construction of such a cake.

I did not get a photo of the cake’s cross-section. But you can get an idea of what it might have looked like above. Just imagine as much deliciousness as you could possibly fit into a cake, and you’re almost there.

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Mother’s Day Socks

I am finally coming around to knitting socks.

I had knit almost 4 socks before I tackled these beauties. I knit one and got a bad case of second-sock-syndrome… I also didn’t much care for the yarn. Fail. Then I knit a pair of socks, and used 2 colors, but didn’t secure the ends of the strands very well, and they came out and made holes in my socks. I might have worn them 3 times.  Another fail. Then I began knitting another pair of socks- following the lovely jaywalker pattern. I realized over half way through the sock that I didn’t have enough yarn and so I didn’t even finish the first one. Fail again. Each of these attempts occurred at least a year apart.

So, you can understand why I am hesitant about knitting socks.

But besides all of the things I mentioned above (second sock syndrome, holes in your socks, not enough yarn) there are a lot of really great things about knitting socks, for example:

  • Socks can be knit at almost any skill level- from beginning stockinette to advanced lacework.
  • They are small enough to travel with, but use enough yarn that they take a while to finish.
  • They require a formula: leg, heel, gusset, toe that keeps things interesting and don’t allow you to get bored with your sock (until you get to the second one, anyway).

With these positive things in mind, I was determined to try again- after all, I like knitting, therefore I should like knitting socks (sounds logical enough, right?). And with mother’s day around the corner and a river trip directly in front of me, I bought some yarn, a small dry bag and found the loveliest sock pattern- kalajoki by Tiina Seppälä (available as a ravelry download).

 

The motivating factor about these socks, was, of course, a deadline. When I started these socks I had two weeks before mothers day. I’ve always been motivated by deadlines, and this only reinforces that fact. Note to self- when you want to get something done, make sure you have a firm deadline.

Even though mothers day was quite a while ago (and my mother had already sworn off socks for the season), socks are a gift that keeps on giving. The gift of warmth is a wonderful thing, especially if it is given in style!

 

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Filed under knitting, socks, Summer

… So I baked a cake

Remember when I made cupcakes?

That was a little while ago, I started baking cupcakes in a quasi-commercial capacity almost a year ago, and I did so for about 4 months. Then, when all was said and done, I was completely burned out on baking tiny cakes. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve made cupcakes since the farmers’ market ended late last summer- 3.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like cake anymore. It just means I don’t like making small ones.

What I fancy these days is the everyday cake. Remember when your mom made cake that was always available under a glass dome and when you came home from school you would pour yourself a big glass of milk that your dad had gotten from the cow that morning? Well, I don’t. But I’m trying to create that false sense of nostalgia that we all have when we see certain advertisements… or maybe that’s just because I took an advertising class in college that contributed heavily to an existential crisis.

If anyone wants to send me a nice milk-glass cake pedestal and glass cake dome, I would be ever-grateful. And I’ll send you a cake.

This cake is a delicious any-time, every-day cake. It can serve as a breakfast-y coffee cake since it has both fruit and nuts, but also is accompanied very well by a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I might also put a plug in for The Essential New York Times Cook Book, if you’re like me and you like the NYT and compulsively check their food section every day (well, at least until they started charging to look at their paper online), you’ll love this book. It’s got great recipes, but also gives a wonderful history of food in the USA.

Teddie’s Apple Cake- Adapted from The Essential New York Times Cook Book

  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 c vegetable, canola or other light oil
  • 2 c sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 c peeled, cored, and chopped apples
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 c raisins
  • Vanilla ice cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan (I found that a deeper spring-form pan works great) and set aside.

Whisk together flour, salt, cinnamon and baking soda

Beat oil an sugar together in a mixer with paddle attachment for about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla until the mixture is creamy.

Stir in the dry ingredients until just blended.

Add apples, walnuts and raisins and stir until just combined.

Transfer the batter to the cake dish and bake for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cook in pan.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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Chicks!

We’re in the planning stages of a garden (planning to plan, really). I called up my landlord to see if it would be alright to tear up a good chunk of the back yard- which doesn’t have much in the way of grass, but a lot in the way of weeds and non-grass foliage. After getting the go-ahead for tilling, I also inquired about chickens. I was pleasantly surprised when she said yes! That was Thursday, and today, Sunday, we went to pick up chicks from the chicken store (farm and ranch supply).

Luckily, we have friends that went through the whole chick-buying chapter of their life last year and thankfully, had all of the supplies we needed (water dispenser, food dispenser, bedding, heat lamp, deep tub). It really couldn’t have been more easy.

The household made a big jump today- almost tripling in size. Luckily these little gals don’t eat all that much… yet. Just for your reference (and mine as well), we one each of the following chickens: Araucuna, Black Jersey Giant, Buff Orphington, Light Brahma and Red Star. I’m fairly pleased at the selection that is offered at the chicken store.

Now we just need to build a chicken coop. I’d say we’ve probably got a month and half until we can no longer contain them in a plastic tub. Nothing spurs motivation quite like necessity.

Happy Spring!

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And then I ate five in a row

This post has been a long time coming- let’s say 5 years. It all started when I spent a semester abroad in Ecuador. My host mother was a wonderful woman, Ines, who was also a fabulous cook, but not without eccentricities. For example, when I moved into my room, I found one wall that was plastered with gift bags- some were solid colors, others had decorative prints, some had Disney characters (I don’t think I ever asked, but I’m sure it was simply part of the decor). I should get to the point otherwise we will all be wallowing in a sea of my Ecuadorian nostalgia.

As I mentioned, she was one hell of a cook: tamales; ham, cheese and peanut butter sandwiches; tasty rice dishes; jugo de tomate de arbol (tree tomato juice); mote pillo (hominy with eggs); and an 8 pound birthday cake were among her specialties. The most delicious and baffling of her culinary concoctions was pan de yuca. For those who haven’t yet read the latest issue of Saveur Magazine (and also for your general edification), there is a great article about the cassava plant. Cassava is a starchy staple in many countries around the equator that also goes by names such as manioc, or yuca (say YOU-ca). Obviously, I knew that this pan (bread) was made up of yuca, but I didn’t ever pay enough attention to the baking process to replicate it (I always offered to help, and was always shooed back to the kitchen table to drink my endless cup of Nescafe instant coffee).  After 4 months of Ecuadorian immersion, I returned to the states not expecting to ever taste pan de yuca again.

So, a couple of years went by and I stumbled upon this blog. It’s author, Laylita, grew up in Ecuador and writes about many of the foods I experienced during my stay- including- pan de yuca! So I made a mental note, bookmarked the blog and went about my day-to-day for another couple of years, periodically checking back to make sure it was still there (it was).

Okay, I feel like this story is starting to drag on a bit… but stay with me.

As mentioned before, there is an article in this month’s Saveur Magazine about the wonders of Cassava- complete with a Brazilian variation of my beloved pan. In this article I learned that tapioca starch is really just cassava starch. Revelation of revelations- I had a bag of tapioca starch in my freezer left over from baking gluten-free cupcakes last summer!

I followed the recipe on Laylita’s blog instead of Saveur- only because I wanted to get the recipe as close to my memory of it as possible, I thought that a woman who grew up in Ecuador would hit closer to that target than a recipe from the other side of the continent.

The truth of these little treats is that they taste best right out of the oven (okay, give them 5 minutes to cool a tad). Since they’re made with cassava/yuca/tapioca, they’re also gluten free but tend to harden up once cooled. Give ‘em a quick nuke in the microwave and they’ll be almost as good the next day.

Did I mention they’re cheesy too?

See, it didn’t take THAT long to cover 5 years worth of time to track down one tasty recipe!

Pan de Yuca (adapted from laylita.com)

Preheat oven to 500

2 1/2 cups yuca flour (tapioca starch)

4 cups grated motzarella cheese

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

1 stick of butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

2 large eggs

milk

Preparation:

Combine flour, cheese, baking powder and salt in a mixer and mix until incorporated

Add butter and eggs and mix until butter is entirely incorporated. I’d add a bit of milk to get the dough to bind together- but not much- 1/4 cup MAX.

Remove the dough from the mixer and form into a ball. You can make the dough ahead of time and store in the fridge for up to a day.

Make small round balls out of the dough (about as much as you can squeeze in a fist) and place on a cookie sheet with parchment.

Bake for about 7 minutes. They will look very anemic- this is when you pop them under the broiler to give them a bit of color- just until golden.

Serve immediately.

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Filed under Baking, Comfort Food, Ecuador

Sunshine makes everything look better.

Especially when it feels every bit like spring outside. Right now ‘spring’ looks like mud and really gross snow and a full-on moat that must be traversed (and periodically bailed-out) to get to our apartment. Yes, ‘spring’ is probably going to get a bit worse before it gets better, this is especially taking into account The Great Dog Feces Thaw that is now in full effect throughout Bozeman (lovely, I know).

But! The sun is out, and it is warm to boot. I had a little sweater to finish for a little someone and after I was done sewing on the buttons I couldn’t help but get a little carried away with taking photos of some other luscious yarn. The colors couldn’t be more spring-like and tulip-hued- a very welcome contrast to this muddy, foul-odored mid-march day.

I’ve been struck by the knitting bug- in a big way. I think this is what happens when you get to a level that not too much intimidates you anymore. I’ve got way too many plans. I’m currently in the midst of another sweater, another one for me. After that, I’ll start to consider knitting things for other people again. I do wonder if knitters get to the point where they have too many knitted goods. I suppose you could ask the same thing of people who build model trains, or collects books. Maybe the answer is ‘no’. I’ll let you know if I ever feel like I have too many knitted things.

And, because we’re still waiting on flowers, I’m so happy to have found a dinner set at a local thrift store that brightens my kitchen. $12 for a set of 8 large plates, small plates and bowls. Flowers every day!

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How to survive winter

Hello my long-neglected blog.

I would apologize, but I find blog-neglecting apologies to be yawn-inducing. Instead, I should say how happy I am to be back! December was quite a month with projects and holidays and the whole shee-bang. I decided to take a hiatus from most public gatherings and much preferred to be hunkered down with a knitting project (or two, or three) in the comfort and warmth of my own home. Then I went to Tucson for the best visit with three of my favorite people. I have to say that the worst part about vacation is coming back and realizing that you could be doing things that don’t involve sitting at a desk all day. Note to self- you’ve really got to work on that.

There are a couple of other things that have been keeping me away- though they are quite minor and I am probably just making excuses. One is that I wish that there were more hours in the day to devote to things I’d really like to be doing (don’t we all) and another is that I live in a basement where most of the lighting is awful fluorescent and not so great for photos (this means ANYTHING).

But, that’s awfully negative thinking. The post-vacation blues must really have me down. So let’s look at some really great things that have happened in the past two months:

For starters, I have been knitting a lot: leg warmers, a GREAT winter hat and I’ve started another sweater for me and a much smaller sweater for a much smaller person.

Also- I’ve been running- enough so that I’m beginning to self-identifying as a runner (the importance of self-identity is a thing I learned as a sociology/anthropology major- it’s kind of a big deal)! So that’s great. I’m also reading Born To Run and it’s sort of blowing my mind and making me want to run more, and farther, and faster. So that’s another thing. For your reference, one week ago I ran for a full hour without stopping. This is also kind of a big deal. I’m very much looking forward to running on surfaces that are not covered in ice. With any luck, warmer weather will arrive with the month of March (“warmer” being not freezing).

Continuing along the self-improvement vein, I also took a trapeze class at a local studio. Besides being a really cool thing that you can tell your friends you did, it’s perhaps the best upper-body workout EVER. And it’s fun- if not somewhat discouraging when you can’t do something you vividly remember doing, easily, 20 years ago. Bozemanites, please check out mountain air dance for schedules and more information.

As far as surviving my second Montana winter, I’d say I’m doing a far better job than last year. For starters, I’ve got some great athletic outlets, which, excitingly, include a snow sport! I don’t know if you’re aware, but downhill skiing is freaking expensive! To avoid buying gear and a ski pass, I’ve taken to uphill skiing (also known as Cross-Country or Nordic skiing). Last weekend my beau and I skied 10 miles into a forest service cabin. It might just have been the most relaxing and intense weekend trips I’ve had in a while, and it made me want to and live a reclusive life in a cabin.

Perhaps that’s where you should start to look when I don’t show up for work tomorrow.

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Filed under cold, knitting, Working out