Tuesday, May 30, 2006

More to Come

just sayin, my birthday was quite nice.

i will have a real post about the cakes, but just to let you know: dry ice makes things freeze nice and hard.

i will also say that my roommate and i camped at the coast sunday-monday. yesterday: a little drizzly. today: absolutely gorgeous and sunny.

i would have liked to have stayed another night. especially since the cigar-smoking, beer-drinking, creed-listenin' boys in the campsite next door left today--we could have had silence! our neighbor on the other side must have got in late because he slept in the driver's side seat of his car until this morning when he (over the course of 2 hours): napped on his picnic bench, stared at his empty firepit, and eventually set up his tent.

also, we were the only english speakers on the beach. everyone else spoke russian. my russian is now so bad that i couldn't eavesdrop properly. but i still can identify a member of the russian mafia in under one minute!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Why I'm Baking Saturday's Cakes On Thursday

I really need to stop staying up so late.

Well, the birthday plans are in motion.

I bought a TON of ice cream tonight.

Thursday, after another stimulating class of microbiology, I buy a chunk of dry ice, 5,000 eggs, some really good chocolate, cream, and chambord. I think I have the rest of the ingredients.

Then, I bake.

I'd like to get the cakes baked up tomorrow and then assemble everything Friday. I have learned not to leave cake baking and assemblage till the last minute. Believe me, I learned the hard way. Like the time I baked Zetta's German Chocolate Cake the same afternoon as her party: the cakes didn't rise more than 3/4 inch apiece, I was two hours late because I tried baking another round--which didn't rise much either--and because I was so late I didn't wait for the cakes or the coconut pecan frosting to completely cool before assembling everything, and by the time I got to Zetta's house the whole cake was melting and sliding apart. GRRRRRR.

July 10, 2004
Occasion: Zetta's birthday
Name of cake: Jen’s German Chocolate Cake with Coconut-Pecan Frosting Dramatic Disaster Extravaganza
Constituents: Three layers all American chocolate butter cake (three b/c they were too short)
One layer filled with classic egg white chocolate buttercream
Another layer filled and cake frosted with coconut-pecan frosting

(7/11) There was cake trauma. Extraordinaire. I started the cake too late in the day, I lost all the printed coconut-pecan frosting recipes, I started the cake too late in the day.

Regenia and I were talking as I was mixing the cake and I mixed it wrong; I put in the egg mixture when I was supposed to put in the chocolate mixture; I finished up the cake anyway and baked it; the whole thing fell so that it was only about ½ inch high and mushy the whole way through. By this time it was 6 pm and that is when the party started. So we called and told her we would be there around 8 pm d/t cake disaster. We put those two cakes aside and I started over, knowing that it was really too late. I mixed them right and poured them into the pans and baked them away, and still when they came out they were really short; maybe ¾ inch instead of an inch and ½. What happened? Is the baking powder too old already?? I used it last week to make Becky’s cake and everything came out just fine—what????

So we decided to make a three layer cake—using the cake layer left from the first batch (I had eaten and given away to Toni most of one layer of the ruined batch) but by this time I had already made the egg white choc buttercream to fill what I thought was going to be a four layer cake—which now that it was only three layers I didn’t need. So now I have TONS of frosting—Regenia said to make a cake for new moon—I think I’ll make cupcakes or something.

So then I tackle the coconut-pecan frosting based on some of the recipes I refound online—it seems pretty simple enough and super sweet. I used a recipe that didn’t call for adding additional sugar (b/c you use all this sweetened condensed milk and sweetened coconut). I toasted up the nuts and coconut sort of—but we were pressed for time so I didn’t do it as thoroughly as I could have…and I didn’t let the cakes cool completely and I didn’t let the coconut pecan frosting cool at all (you have to cook the sweetened condensed milk and the yolks and the butter until it thickens) and so I layered the cake with a layer of coconut pecan and then a layer of buttercream then frosted the cake with the coconut pecan (had just barely enough to do so) and then as we were driving over to the party at 8:30 pm the buttercream started melting and the top layer of the cake was sliding all over the place and the coconut pecan was melting down the sides and the whole thing was a disaster. I was miserable. And really pissed off.

But it tasted good (super rich and sweet) and everybody liked it, so there you go. But I am still upset about the whole thing.

So, what have I learned?
1. don’t make the cakes late!!!!!!!
2. do I have to buy baking powder every two months or so???
3. If I really do make a four layered german choc cake I need to double the coconut pecan recipe.
4. plan ahead plan ahead plan ahead!!!!
a. Even if I don’t bake the cakes a day early (how do I keep them from going dry if I do?) I can at least prep them the night before like I did w/ my bday cakes so that they can bake up fast in the am before going to work)
b. I guess I could have made the buttercream ahead and left it at room temp overnight…

Hmpf. I hate cake trauma. I really wanted to be able to bring her a nice present of a beautiful cake and instead I brought her a disaster of a cake really late and even though everyone liked it, the presentation factor was missing. We didn’t get to put candles in it and sing happy birthday and all that birthday stuff. Hmpf.


To this day, I still can't figure out what the heck went wrong. At first I thought it was the baking powder, but one week earlier I made a cake that rose well, and two days later I made another. So it wasn't the baking powder.
Then I thought it was the old(er) eggs but last year I made a cake with eggs that were a little old and the cake rose well. Not as high as it should have been, but much more than 3/4 of an inch. So I don't really think it was the eggs.

Regenia thinks Zetta used her voodoo magic to jinx the cake so that she wouldn't have to endure a bunch of people singing happy birthday to her. Well, she does keep a voodoo doll at work...

Sunday, May 21, 2006

My Personality Dictates I Do This

I can't help it. According to my astrological chart, sun AND mercury are in gemini, and leo is my rising sign. So not only do I want everybody to pay attention to me, but I want to talk about me and have you be enraptured with my discourse. It's so not my fault.

From Astrology.com

** All About Gemini

Gemini is the most lighthearted sign in the zodiac, hands down. The Twins' circle of acquaintances is as varied as their interests, so they see an awful lot of invitations. Of all the reasons we love to have our Gemini pals around, their wit comes first. These folks find humor in absolutely everything, and their ability to say what's on their minds in an extremely entertaining fashion is world-famous and well deserved. These word-wizards and storytellers are able to uncannily impersonate anyone and anything at the drop of a hat. That includes accents, gestures and subtle idiosyncrasies that no one else would ever notice -- but then, if Gemini were a business, its motto would be 'Details-R-Us.' Actually, I can only do one accent, and it has been dubbed "Pedro Von Moscow."

True to the nature of its ruling planet, Mercury, Gemini is also quite communicative. So during those rare times when these talkative Twins are actually alone and not chatting on the phone, IMing with a friend or answering their voluminous email, they're probably on the phone or the Internet, or poking away at their Blackberries with a vengeance. If not, Geminis will manage to keep those restless minds active by doodling or solving puzzles and word games. I do love a good logic puzzle.

As for the dualities this sign is famous for? They're all true. In reality, there are a lot more than just two sides to the average Gemini, and each facet of this versatile sign has a fascinating story to tell. All that being said, it's easy to see that the one thing they just can't stand is being bored, tied down or isolated. AMEN, MY FRIENDS! 'Variety is the spice of life' is this sign's very own motto, and Gemini lives every second with that motto in mind.

So if you're a Gemini yourself, you know this all boils down to the fact that you can't stand being in a rut -- especially when it comes to relationships. Your sign has been called fickle more than once, but that's not fair. Totally. The Twins are perfectly capable of being faithful, as long as the person they're with is witty and interesting enough to keep them interested. No, it's not an easy task, but it's well worth it. Life with a Gemini is full of constant activity, endless movement and even more fun. And you can bet they won't scatter their affections if they can find someone who'll be willing to at least try to keep up. Gemini, whether you're a friend or a lover, you're one of the main reasons life on this planet can be fun for the rest of us -- so accept our thanks for just being you.
You are welcome.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Cake Dilemmas

I would like to register a formal complaint against all internet copy pirates.

When I google "Baskin Robbins ice cream cake recipe" and see in the first page five different websites claiming to have this recipe, I expect each page to have their OWN VERSION of the recipe. But instead I find THE SAME RECIPE copied and published on all five websites.

Dude! What are you people thinking?!

Anyhoo. It looks like I will be getting a comfy room for the birthday festivities where people can come and go as they like and eat and drink as they please. I am satisfied with this plan.

I am also resigned to baking and assembling my own ice cream cake. Woah now, don't get me wrong. The ECL loves baking cakes, duh, I mean, duh, but I can't make a goofy cool kitschy Sponge Bob Rockstar Cake! I love goofy cool kitschy cakes with toys as decorations!

Even though I would really rather pay some B&R to do it for me, I am now getting curious as to what I could do to make an even BETTER ice cream cake. Without cool toys and colored frosting. If that is posible.

Here are my cake concerns (for those of you not into the cake baking experience, please skip ahead, or around, or whatever):

1. butter cake doesn't really taste like much of anything when it is cold. wouldn't make a good ice cream cake base.
2. but i love butter cake!
3. however, a genoise would taste fine cold, AND i could then add an alcohol syrup.
4. hmmm
5. the white frosting is really just thinned out vanilla ice cream that is frosted on and then refrozen
6. but the little chunky shells or whatever they are around the edges! what are those?!
7. if they are sweetened vegetable shortening (read: commercial frosting) then, well, i just can't do that.
8. even if they taste good, i just can't do that.
9. what if i used lightly sweetened whipped cream--that i don't freeze, because frozen whipped cream separates into liquid and fat--that i frost on right before serving?
10. wait, where the hoohah is this cake going to sit while we eat drink and etc?? it can't sit out on a table, it has to stay cold!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Happy Blah Day

My birthday is fast approaching and for once, I don't really care.

I know I need to plan something because I'll feel even worse and more blah if I don't surround myself with activity and friends, and of course, birthday cake.

Birthday cake. For a couple of years I instisted that I and I alone would bake my birthday cake. And I made some fabulous cakes.

When I turned 30 I made two cakes, and my sister, who had flown up here to spend the big three-oh with me, tried to help but I kept kicking her out of the kitchen because she was either in my way or not doing it right. Nice, huh.

We learned from mom that the best way to help her cook was to get the hell out of the way. I definitely inherited that attitude when it comes to baking...

When I turned 31 I had a Mad Hatter Tea Party and I baked a cake with two tiers. I made everybody wear a hat and recite a poem or sing a dirty song. I even thought about forbidding coherent speech. It rained that day so we had the tea party in my basement.

Last year when I turned 32 we went to this Persian restaurant (unremarkable food) and listened to live middle eastern music and watched some egyptian cabaret bellydancers perform. One of the Jellos ordered a hookah (vanilla cherry) and it turned out to be quite nice. I decided I wanted an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins like I used to as a kid: chocolate cake with mint chocolate chip on one half and gold medal ribbon on the other. SOOOO good. Not enough leftovers.

This year I am thinking of another B&R cake, because, duh, Gold Medal Ribbon. But I also think, what if I made my own ice cream cake?

And then I look at how messy the kitchen is and I think, maybe I'll just order the cake...

May 27 2003
Occasion: Jen’s 30th birthday
Name of Cake: Its All About The Cake
Cake #1: alcoholic version (based on cake bible’s star spangled rhapsody)
One layer bittersweet cocoa almond genoise, split, w/ grand marnier syrup
Two choc meringue discs
Center layer filled with chocolate whipped cream and halved fresh strawberries
Other layers and frosting grand marnier mousseline butter cream
Halved strawberries for the top
Cake #2: teetotaler version
Same cake, w/ sugar syrup
Same meringue
Same whipped cream and strawberries
Mousseline butter cream made with frozen orange juice concentrate
Halved strawberries for the top

Dude, bad foreshadowing when Michele put on the evite “its all about the cake.” She came up to spend my 30th with me and we spent the whole dang weekend baking freakin cakes!!

I made a double batch of grand marnier mousseline butter cream—somehow we filled it too thickly, or something?

The genoise was really difficult to make. I don’t think I pureed the almonds enough to be fine enough to substitute for flour. The cakes were dense and fudgy. When I split them, I did a shitty job. One of them kind of fell apart. Frosting to the rescue!

The meringue discs weren’t so hard to make but they were time consuming. And I had to drive all over town to get the right pastry tube and tip. Ended up in Tigard and Michele slept in the car while I shopped. Sorry Michele! They also took forever to dry out, but they were awesome once finished.

The butter cream was another drama. The stuff is really like the book says: it starts out looking like a disaster but with enough beating it transforms into this silky wonderful frosting. Still, the second batch of alcoholic frosting didn’t ever seem to coagulate completely. Maybe too much liquor? I actually kind of liked the orange juice concentrate frosting a little more. It turned out a darker color too. Good thing, too. But wow, that frosting holds up well in warm temperatures. I didn’t need to worry about the frosting melting like I do with neoclassic buttercream.

Michele tried to help out, but I kept interfering with her jobs. She just wasn’t being as freakishly anal as I would have liked her to be. (sorry Michele!)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Oh Hell Yes

Heh. How could I say no? When it said, "click here to enter all your personal information and join our email list so we can stalk you forever" I eagerly obeyed. Because now I can proudly say:

Oh Hell Yes
Originally uploaded by jensteele.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Laughter Helps

I'm super duper mopey these days bordering on complete lack of interest in life tinged with a touch of confused anger and delusional hope.

So finding this link on Michele's blog cheered me up a lot:

From Engrish.com

Saturday, May 06, 2006

I Hate This


and regardless, in the evening
a light is thrown by the setting sun
it speeds along this vast familiar
and silently crosses everyone
it's the light that's changing
it's the light that's changing
it's the light that's changing
it's only the light
across the gardens, across the schoolyards
across the chapels where lovers have leapt
across the table in our old kitchen
across the cities where our future slept
it's the light that's changing
it's the light that's changing
it's the light that's changing
it's only the light
what can I do to defy you
what can I do to deny you
'cause I want no part of this breaking
this is a hurtful mistake you are making
and to me this love was true and shining
these years were real and defining
please don't forget how much I meant to you
when you are redefined by someone new
across what's left of these old places
across the playgrounds where old friends play
across the lines on familiar faces
across the nothing that we say
it's the light that's breaking
it's the light that's breaking
it's the light that's breaking
it's only the light

© Mason Jennings

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Deliciously Nasty

I can't stand Tom Cruise. He bunches up my underwears.

Okay. Okay. I cried when I saw The Last Samurai. I cried a lot. But that was because of Ken Watanabe. Mr. Watanabe was good enough, and sexy enough, to render TC superflous.

So I am feeling much joy and satisfaction that the Go Fug Yourself girls have been fugging TCruise lately during his new stupid movie press apprearances.

Warning: this stuff is bitchy. But oh so funny!

Mission Unfuggable April 25, 2006
Fugging Impossible April 26, 2006
Mission Impossible: Fug May 1 2006
Fugging Unfuggagble: Fug May 3 2006

I know. It isn't cake. But just as satisfying.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Heartwarming Story of a Man Repeatedly Punched in the Face

Escapism is fun.
Trolling the blogosphere led me to this very funny and very brave video clip of Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent's Dinner.
man.descending: At the Correspondents Dinner

For people who like to read, here's a transcript of his speech.

I Used To Be An Overachiever

Wow. Take a read at what I was doing exactly a year ago.

And to think I was upset when Joelf told me he would be baking the cakes for the bridal shower. Was I nuts???????

Don't answer that.

ps: happy one year anniversary, Jellos! I still haven't developed the film from your wedding! But you love me anyway!

A Tasteless Cake

Meredith's sense of humor is way worse than mine: he is more raunchy, rude, potty-minded, inappropriate, and just plain bad.So you can imagine how terrible we can be when we hang out. We sort of egg each other on to a place where nothing is too sacred to be made fun of in the worst way possible. So I tried to make a cake that would be tasty yet tasteless enough to be worthy of Captain Inappropriate.

April 27, 2006
Occasion: Meredith's birthday
Name of Cake: Explosion! Anus!
Constituents: Devil's Food Cake baked as a bundt
Basic Powdered Sugar Icing
Rocky road fudge packed into the center of the bundt
Raspberries for embellishment

I didn't have my camera when I made this cake, so you'll just have to wait until the film gets developed. In the meantime, use that imagination--it might not be lost yet!

I got this idea whilst getting an acupuncture treatment, so blame it on the needles if you turn up your nose at my creation.

I was worried that I'd overfill the bundt pan so I made 5 little cakelettes, and they were yummy. This was the first time I'd made the Devil's Food Cake recipe from The Book, and it's a keeper.

The bundt cake = anal sphincter

Embarassingly enough, I had the most trouble with the freaking icing. You would think that powdered sugar and water, essentially, would be an EASY thing to make, but I found a way to mess it up. I wanted a really thin icing--more like a glaze, really--so I kept adding more and more water to it. Oh, and a couple of tablespoons of cream, don't ask me why. And of course, my achnemesis showed up: The Curdler. I don't know how the little shit found me this time.

So I sort of painted on the icing, which kind of worked, and since it was grainy looking anyway, that actually made it better.

grainy white icing = Candida? Or, something a little more spoogy? You be the judge.

The fudge recipe was super crazy easy. And even though the recipe called for chilling the fudge for 2 hours in the refrigerator, I shoved the cake in the freezer while I made the fudge, and as I packed the stuff into the middle of the cake (sphincter) the fudge started firming up real fast. I've got a pan of extra fudge sitting on the kitchen table. Good chocolatey flavor, creamy fudgy texture.

rocky road fudge = diarrhea with undigested food

I topped it of with a few well-placed raspberries. Tasty little tartlings.

raspberries = hemorrhoids

Needless to say, mission accomplished.