Saturday, August 30, 2008

What 330 Cupcakes Looks Like

There were so many cupcakes I couldn't even get them all in the frame. And can you imagine the resident toddler's confusion as to why he could not use the kitchen table OR eat any of the 330 cupcakes on it? Well, by now they've been covered in flowers, boxed, delivered, displayed, and finally eaten by a few hundred toasty wedding guests somewhere in Swannanoa. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you... the beginning of the Fall 08 Wedding Season.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Part II: Heart of the Home by Ann Jackson

So, for my next installment of "Cookbook Reviews and Bibliomancy," I want to introduce one of my favorites: Heart of the Home, by Ann Jackson. Relatively obscure and hard to find (I had to special order mine from Malaprops), this book was published in 1995 and re-released in 2000. The book was introduced to me by Cathy Cleary of the West End Bakery. It seems that Ms. Jackson and I are of the same mind when it comes to food: recipes must be simple and intuitive, but fresh and innovative at the same time. I love the recipes, which are all vegetarian and often include vegan options, but what I love the most about this cookbook is the commentary, quotations, the copious ironic 50's housewife vintage clip art throughout, and the hilarious stories that precede most recipes. The recipes are flexible, too, encouraging the cook to substitute, experiment, and above all, be practical. Ms. Jackson is undeniably country, Tennessee country at that, and nothing says country like the utilitarian home economy demonstrated in these recipes.
There are sections for "Salads and Dressings," "East Tennessee Favorites" (where you will find step by step instructions for vegetarian collards, hoppin' john, and red eye gravy, and the cornbread recipe that I use- "Flawless Cornbread"- which is flawless, every time.) There's sections for vegetables, grains, a WHOLE section for sauces and gravies, with no fewer than 17 different sauces and gravies (I mean, really, without the benefit of sausage, that's alot of different kind of gravies). My favorite from that section is the "White Woman's Barbeque Sauce" which includes fresh grated ginger juice, molassas, cayenne, and miso, among many other things. There's a pie section, a "main courses" section, and one for soups and one for "leftovers." The sections on "Outdoor Cooking" and "Bag Lunches for Bag Ladies, or, A Little Something for a Truck Driving Man" are excellent, funny, and smart. But of course, my favorite sections are the "Breads" and "Sweets" sections, with the best Old-Fashioned Gingerbread recipe ever. I used to make that gingerbread recipe when I was pregnant, and eat the whole damn thing. In an hour. Molasses is really good for you when you are pregnant. But, above all this, my very very favorite thing about this cookbook is the last two pages: The "Household Hints" section. I'll give you a sample from household hint #15: "What if the oven blows up in your face? This can be hectic. This is also the reason that good cooks have an aloe vera plant around the house.... Try not to let the experience scare you. Go right back into the kitchen, otherwise, you may never bake another apple pie for as long as you live."
Friends, Heart of the Home is a warm and sweet creation from a cook after my own heart. The book is quirky, kooky, and it has as its base the understanding that the highest form of cooking is cooking for those you love.

And Now For The Bibliomancy (where I flip through the pages with my eyes closed and randomly choose a recipe or passage that will have some kind of deep occult meaning for all of us):

"When I make tortillas I flash back to an ancient lifetime, a brown wrinkled old lady squatting in front of a fire, rolling out tortillas on a rock. It seems every culture has its own version: crepes, strudel, pasta, shortbread, hoecakes, dumplings, chapati, biscuits, pancakes, knish, and pirogi. I love recipes that haven't changed in 5,000 years. Some are a lot easier than others, but most of them are pretty simple, made from basic peasant type food. Tortillas are my favorite, here's how to do it..."

That's all, friends. Stay tuned for more in this series, as well as another series I'm contemplating starting: Profiles In Cake. or something like that. Basically, just interviews with my favorite cake ladies. more soon, mwah.

Introducing: Art Seen Asheville

Hello Friends,
Just wanted to give yall a heads up about a new blog in town:
Art Seen Asheville. Local Artist Ursula Gullow, Producer and Director of the URTV show Art Seen Asheville, now brings us the blog by the same name. Art Seen Asheville is a blog "focused on Asheville but showcasing interesting arty happenings from all over the place." Its full of critiques, highlights, videos, interviews, and generally lovely things to look at and think about. Those of us seeking aesthetic inspiration, engaged and engaging art, and thoughtful commentary, would enjoy checking it out.

(she's working to get on the blogroll, but in the meantime, you can check it out here.)

Image Credit: Street-Smart I - Oil on Canvas - 24" x 8" - 2008 By Ursula Gullow

BlogAsheville Awards Event

go to BlogAsheville to learn how to nominate your favorite blogs for an award- and save the date: September 27th, 6pm, at an as-yet-undisclosed location: The third annual BlogAsheville Extravablogiversapaloozathon. Woo Hoo!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Full Moon Wedding at Homewood

This is the first wedding cake of the Fall 2008 Season for Short Street Cakes. Prepare yourselves for an onslaught of wedding cake photos over the next three months, as I have dozens of weddings booked for the fall. Yay! This one was an Italian Cream Cake, with pecans baked in to two of the tiers. Fresh flowers from Sweet Earth Flower Company, Asheville, NC.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Part I: The Joy of Cooking

This is the first in an ongoing series of blog posts on My Life In Cake featuring my favorite cookbooks. These are my tried-and-true, all-time favorite, recipe-books-I-read-in-the-bathtub kind of books. They will be in no particular ranking, or order, chronologically or numerically or according to the "best," "second best," etc. However, since my favorite cookbooks have become sort of sacred texts to me, I find that they are useful not just for recipes, but for spiritual guidance as well. Therefore, at the end of each of my cookbook reviews, I'll do a little biblomancy for you, gentle reader.
Without further ado: the first featured favorite cookbook has got to be (duh):

The Joy of Cooking was originally written by Irma S. Rombauer (with revisions carried out by her children and grandchildren, all Rombauers or Beckers). She self-published her cookbook in 1931, when she was a struggling single mom. Now she has left a cookbook empire to her children and grand children. (I think I met one of her great-grand-children at a party in my kitchen about 7 years ago. It was a kid who went to Warren Wilson. I was so in awe, man.)
Anyway, the Joy of Cooking.
C'mon. Its the bible. The Joy of Cooking (or just "Joy" as it is referred to in culinary circles) is simply the best, most comprehensive, most clear and well researched recipe book there is. Its also written in a very prim and proper, loveable-matronly-aristocrat voice, which somehow I love. When I used to live in Athens, Ga, my roommates and I used to entertain ourselves by doing dramatic readings of Joy recipes. My favorite is the Crepes Suzette recipe, which recounts the legend of the invention of the dessert, which like many good ideas, started by the thing the chef was originally trying to make ending in complete disaster. I won't recount the entire story here, but let me just say, its high drama, and it ends with: "and the dish was a triumph!" The point is, when relevant, Joy includes thorough background information on the recipes, their origins, and how they work and why. If you've ever tried to write a recipe, like a true how-to, you know it is not as easy as it looks, but Joy manages to communicate methods with clarity and levity.
I've accumulated three versions of Joy: the 1943 "wartime edition" (pictured) that I inherited from my Husband's Great-Aunt, one from 1975 that I stole from my mom, and the most recently updated edition, which came out in 2006 (a Christmas gift from my husband- thanks baby!). They are all great in their own way. The WWII one has lots of fancy drink recipes, but also lots of frugal recipes and "more with less" inspirations for the home economy. In the forward Irma promises to help us "make palatable dishes with simple means and lift everyday cooking out of the commonplace." swoon. The 70's version has lots of info on killing and dressing game (useful for us possom- and squirrel- eating Southerners), as well as many many options for making that best loved and overused convenience food of the 60's and 70's: the casserole. The 2006 edition is beautiful, huge, and features more international and vegetarian recipes than ever before. One can never read all the information in Joy. There are always new recipes to be tried. When you are standing in front of your refrigerator, trying to figure out how to make dinner with a half cup of leftover black beans, some sausage, a can of water chestnuts and a cassava root, Joy will tell you how.
Um, and that's the end of my feature on the Joy of Cooking.

So now for the Bibliomancy! I will now flip through the pages of each edition with my eyes closed and randomly choose a recipe or passage that will have some kind of deep occult meaning for all of us:
1943: "The question of how to cook apple butter is a moot point. Some cooks cook it very slowly, others prefer a quick heat."
1975: " Sauce Chaud-Froid is so called because it begins as a heated sauce and is served as a cold one."
2006: "The more pungent rums from the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique can achieve great subtlety and complexity when well aged and can be served like fine brandy in a snifter. Don't waste these fine rums in mixed drinks."

Hm, interesting. Obviously our spiritual lesson for the day is that discernment, balance, and listening to our inner wisdom will lead us to greater enjoyment in our lives.

the end.

Oh wait, PS, you should also check out Bake and Destroy Natalie's final project for her zombie class in college: The Joy of Cooking Humans

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake

An Illustrated Recipe for Bourbon Pecan Pound Cake
-Jodi Rhoden, Short Street Cakes, Asheville, NC

-1/4 cup butter
-1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup butter
3 cups sugar
6 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup bourbon

To make the topping, melt the butter in the skillet. Add brown sugar and pecans and stir until combined. Remove from heat.

Grease a large bundt pan, and place the mixture in the bottom of the pan. Press the pecan topping down into the bottom of the pan.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until combined. Scraping down sides of mixer frequently, gradually add the sour cream and vanilla.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt separately. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and beat until thouroughly combined.

Pour batter into bundt pan, on top of pecan mixture.

Bake at 325 degrees for an hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Let cool for 1 hour, then sprinkle some of the bourbon on top.

Turn the cake onto a serving platter, and drizzle the rest of the bourbon over the pecan mixture.

Make somebody happy.

I'm going to clean this post up a little more over the weekend, but for now, thanks to Lexi for fixing my computer so I could get this post out there and GET ON WITH MY LIFE.