Carrot Cake

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The last few days I have been thinking of my seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Flasch. She used tell students who would come to her with excuses of why they couldn’t finish a paper time that lack of planning on their part didn’t constitute an emergency on her part. I used to think she was just mean but now I understand exactly what she means.

As a professional cake decorator, last minute cakes are a matter of course. They are usually small, licensed cakes that are relatively easy to do. I try to accommodate all last minute orders but I will not take one if it puts an existing order in danger of not being done on time. Sometimes that means I have to say no to a last minute order.

Sometimes I have say no to a last minute order because I am simply not able to do what you need in the time you have given me. I am only able to decorate so fast. I can only keep so many undecorated cakes and cupcakes on hand. I may not have the inventory to fill your order. So sometimes I have to say no to a last minute order.

May and June are the busiest months of the year for cake decorators. There are a lot of cakes for weddings and graduations in addition to the regular birthdays, anniversaries and other special occasions. I hate to have to say no to anyone who wants one of my cakes so would you please help me not have to say it to often by using these tips?

1. Plan ahead. It isn’t too early to order your cakes for May and June. The earlier you order the earlier I can order the toppers and other things I need for your cake and make sure they are here in time to do your cake.

2. Come prepared. If you want us to do something similar to what you saw on pintrest, bring a print out. If you want us to match a color, bring a two inch by two inch swatch of the material you want us to match. If you want us to use a professional photo bring us a signed release from the photographer. We can’t do anything without it. Do this even if your Aunt Sally took the picture in her basement. If it appears professional we can’t do anything without a release.

3.  Be flexible. There are some things I am prohibited from doing by law, see professional photos in number 2. There are some things I am prohibited from doing by the people I work for.  There are some things I am prohibited from doing because I don’t have the talent to do them. Seriously, I can’t draw to save my soul. My stick people don’t even look like people. That still leaves us a tremendous amount of things I can do to design a perfect cake for your event. Thanks for listening to me.

For those of you who are too far away from Fargo, North Dakota, USA, for me to decorate a cake for, I am leaving you a recipe for my current favorite cake to make and decorate at home. So head over to Dessert for Two and check out Christina’s wonderful recipe.

Carrot Cake

A Solitary Thanksgiving Feast–Pumpkin Pie

WIN_20141025_175515 (2) The holiday season can be a very difficult and lonely time for single people, especially if work, money and distance keeps us away from our family. It seems like single people give up a lot of our holiday traditions because they seem impractical or too much work for just one or two people. I think this is especially true when it comes to our food traditions, dozens of cookies, pounds of fudge, and a huge turkey with all the trimmings don’t fit into our single person lifestyle. I propose that we, the single people, start our own holiday traditions. To that end, I will be posting recipes for a traditional Thanksgiving meal over the coming weeks. Since life is short, let’s eat dessert first.

Pumpkin Pie

1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 TBS plus 1 ½ teaspoons brown sugar
1 TBS plus 1 ½ teaspoons white sugar
1 tsp molasses
1/8 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ginger
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
3 TBS lightly beaten egg
¼ cup evaporated milk

Preheat oven to 375 degree. In a small bowl, combine the sugars, molasses, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, salt, egg and evaporated milk. Mix well. Spray in a 5 inch pie pan or 1 cup custard cup sprayed with cooking spray. Pour filling into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake 40-45 minutes.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook

Cranapple Walnut Cake

WIN_20140929_084943 (2)Most people who know me today would have a hard time believing this but there was a time when I didn’t cook or bake. I ate out at least twice a day and if I cooked at all it was open the can, dump into the pan and heat kind of thing. I totally bought into the idea that cooking was too complicated and time consuming, especially if you were cooking for just yourself.

So what changed? I changed when I found Mollie Katzen’s The Moosewood cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest on the library shelves. These cookbooks were unlike anything I had ever seen before. First of all they were vegetarian. I wasn’t vegetarian but the idea of meatless meals intrigued me. Second, all the recipes were handwritten and the illustrations hand drawn. The books were just beautiful to look at. There was something about these cookbooks that pulled me into the kitchen.

I don’t remember the first recipe I ever tried from the cookbooks except for the fact I didn’t really like it. The next recipe I tried, Italian tomato sauce, became one of my all-time favorites and was the first recipe I ever adapted for small batches. The more I cooked from The Moosewood Cookbook and Enchanted Broccoli Forest the more I discovered I enjoyed cooking and baking and I was pretty good at it which drew me into the kitchen even more. Today I cook and bake almost every day.

Mollie Katzen inspired me to start cooking 15 years ago and she still inspires me to cook today. This recipe incorporates one of my favorite fall fruits, fresh cranberries, into a very moist, spiced cake. Unlike most cakes, the batter is very thick so take care to spread the batter evenly into the pan. I love this cake plain but it would also be good with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Cranapple Walnut Cake

¾ cup plus 2 TBS packed brown sugar
4 TBS canola oil
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
1 medium apple, peeled and thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup fresh whole cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 6” cake pan with non stick cooking spray. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, oil, and vanilla. Stir well to combine. Add the egg to the wet ingredients; stir well to combine. In another small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt until blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until combined. Fold in the fruits and nuts. The batter will be very thick. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, taking your time spreading it into place. Bake on the center rack of the oven 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s The Heart of the Plate

Angel Food Cake

Full size 10 inch angel food cake
Full size 10 inch angel food cake

As I write this post, my angel food cake is upside down, cooling on the counter. I can hardly wait to cut into it and sink my teeth into my favorite light, and fluffy dessert. But if there is one thing learning to make angel food cake teaches a person it is patience.

Patience while seperating the eggs because even a little bit of yolk will keep your egg whites from fully whipping. Patience to get the egg whites whipped to the soft and stiff peaks stages. It can seem to take forever. Patience for it to get done cooking and be cool enough to remove from the pan without tearing it up. Patience, patience, and more patience and I am not a patient person by nature!

Angel food cake can be intimadating because it is a very technique driven recipe. The good news is that none of the techniques are very difficult, they just take practice and, yep, you guessed it patience. Hurrying at any stage of the cake can cause a flat cake. Not necessarily unedible, just not living up to it’s full potential. Once you master the techniques you will also be able to make meringue pies and meringue cookies.

Today I am posting two recipes. One recipe for the small batch angel food cake that feeds two people and a recipe for a full sized recipe that feeds 9-12 people. You can make the small cake for two in muffin cups or get small angel food cake pan at craft stores, like Hobby Lobby or Michael’s, in their cake decorating department. You should be able to find a full size angel food cake pan at any store that has a decent house wares section.

Angel Food Cake (for 2)

  • Difficulty: Advanced
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3 TBS cake flour
4 TBS superfine sugar
Dash of ground nutmeg
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp cream of tartar

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the flour, 2 tablespoons of super fine sugar and the nutmeg in a small bowl and whisk to blend well. Place the egg whites, salt and vanilla in a medium size mixing bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer on medium speed until the whites are frothy, about 5 seconds. Sprinkle the cream of tartar over the whites and beat until soft peaks fold over when mixer is turned off and beaters are lifted, 20 to 30 seconds. With the mixer running, gradually sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons superfine sugar over the egg whites and beat on high until the egg whites are glossy, about 45 seconds. They should form stiff peaks when beaters are lifted. Sift half the flour mixture over the whites and fold it in with a rubber spatula. Fold in the remaining flour mixture. Spoon the batter into 2 ungreased muffin cups. The cups will be completely filled. Bake the cakes for 15 minutes then drape a piece of aluminum foil over the cakes and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until the top are golden and spring back when lightly touched. Remove pan from the oven and flip pan upside down to cool completely. 2 servings

Adapted From Debby Maugans Nakos’ Small Batch Baking Cookbook

Angel Food Cake (Full Size)

  • Difficulty: Advanced
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1 cup cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
9 egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine flour an 1/2 cup sugar, mix well. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the salt and cream of tartar. Continue to beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the extracts and remaining sugar. Continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff enough to stay in the bowl when turned upside down. I know this sounds crazy, but it works. Gently fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula. Turn the batter into an ungreased 9 or 10 inch tube pan. Bake 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert the pan over a liter pop bottle and let cool completely. Remove from pan and enjoy.

Adapted From Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything

Wacky Cake

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This morning when I went to work on a post for my blog, I discovered I had two followers! I was so excited! I have two followers and one of them doesn’t even know me! Okay, this isn’t on par with the Pioneer Woman’s blog or even some of the lesser known food blogs I read. It is exciting to know that someone was interested enough in what I wrote to want to see more. So I thought I would celebrate my second follower with a cake.

Wacky Cake

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 ½ TBS cocoa
½ cup sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup water
2 ½ TBS canola oil
½ tsp vanilla
½ tsp vinegar

In a 2 cup baking dish, combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda. Mix it until it is well combined. Make four wells, two large and two small. In the large wells, pour the water and oil. In the small wells, pour the vanilla and vinegar. Stir until well moistened. When the batter is well mixed smooth it out and spread it into place with a spatula. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let it cool 30 minutes before slicing.
— Sprinkle with powdered sugar or serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.