It’s my party (and I’ll make a cake if I want to)

So I’m 22. Holy. I remember when the big 2-2 was just another number in my 11x table. A lot has changed since elementary school multiplication drills.

Toddler Hilary, circa 1993. Snake-shaped chocolate cake decorated with Smarties.

To celebrate that I’m one year closer to death, a year older and therefore 366 days more awesome, I decided to bake myself a cake. A four-tiered, rainbow cake with chocolate whipping cream frosting, that is.

To be fair, it wasn’t all for me. My friend Christine‘s birthday is a day before mine. This year we decided to have joint birthday festivities at her house. It’s practically a tradition that I bring a kick ass cake to her place. You may remember this little gem from last year’s Fourth of July in March party.

"Let's cut the cake like it's our wedding!"

Anyways, we were turning 22. And 22 means adult. And adult means CAKE KINGDOM. Right?

Right. I’m a year older and more wise, remember? This means I’m never wrong.

The layers were made using Dorie Greenspan’s Perfect Party Cake recipe. It’s my all-time favourite and creates a light and fluffy base with just a hint of lemon flavouring.

Note when making a four-tiered cake: buy a real cake pan. 

Please listen to me, it will make your life so much easier. If you have an oven that bakes things evenly, buy four pans and bake all the layers at once. All the power to you! Just don’t use a springform pan and bake each layer one at a time. Otherwise, four hours later you will find yourself transformed into a kitchen zombie waiting for that final blue layer to be complete. Le sigh.

Since I didn’t want to spend $20 to make a luscious buttercream icing for this cake (because, lets face it, when you have FOUR layers, that’s a lot of butter), I opted for a light, chocolate whipped cream frosting. There is half a litre of whipped cream on this cake.

Whipping cream turned out to be the perfect choice. It meant the finished product wasn’t unbearably sweet and was far easier to spread than traditional buttercream icing. Which is ideal for someone who is god awful at icing cakes. There is a layer of whipping cream in between every layer, as well as a thin spreading of four-berry jam. Got to amp up the fruit (sugar) content, you know.

(L) Jam layer, (R) One of these things is not like the other

The finished cake was possibly the girliest thing I’ve ever made, and looked like a cross between a dessert worthy of Barbie’s wedding and an Easter egg hunt. It also would have been appropriate for a five-year-old’s birthday party. What can I say? I’m getting older age-wise, but my baking is regressing in maturity appeal alongside.

And to that I say: Happy fifth birthday, Hilary!

PS: A few of my friends made me a surprise birthday dinner! How sweet are they? Here we are… thanks to Freya for taking the picture!

Hilary, Shannon and Tara

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Chipotle chocolate brownies

ALSO technically known as Cinco de Mayo pt. 3, but it is really too late in the month for me to include that in the title. Shame on me.  SHAME.

My half-week blog neglect came as a result of this kid visiting Ottawa for the past few days.  With Matt having left last night, I declare today to be my day of refocus.  I intend to clean my bedroom (which is a complete hole), do piles and piles of laundry, and clear out the grocery store in a haul that is worthy of a king (on my bicycle of course).  I start my summer job at University Affairs magazine tomorrow, and am hoping to quickly get into a routine that sees me working, biking, and food-ing out in a hardcore way.

But first, I must tell you about these brownies.

Yum, yum, yum.

In the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to do a spiced chocolate/Mexican chocolate brownie adaption.  My choice of dessert was also swayed by sheer laziness, and a lack of desire to create the complicated (but traditional) deep fried banana/ice cream combinations that Cinco de Mayo websites were suggesting.  And so, the chipotle chocolate brownie was created.

I half made up the recipe, combining a variety of ingredients and instructions from a few different websites.  The result was a gigantic 9×13 pan of brownies.  Please note, there are currently two people living in my house.  Much brownie was eaten for breakfast, lunch, supper and the occasional midnight snack.  Half was given to my landlord’s wife as a “thank you for fixing our dryer/thanks for letting us live in this awesome house” gift.

I bake for people, that’s just what I do.

Turns out my spontaneous purchasing of a $6 bottle of chipotle chili pepper was totally worth it.  The brownies had a divine spicy kick and were moist and slightly undercooked on the inside (just the way I like them).  On top, a generous spoonful of dulce de leche ice cream to cool off the spiced hotness of the brownie.  Delicious on so many different levels.

And with that, my friends, I bid an “adios” to Mexican cuisine for another few months!

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Mother’s Day and dad’s birthday, served up in one family feast

My mom and dad sure have a talent for celebration co-ordination.

Mom (don't mind the beached whale of a pitbull in the background)
Dad (sorry - I had nicer pictures but Garrett insisted I use this one)

Huh?  Let me explain…

As you know (if you are good little sons and daughters), yesterday was mother’s day, the holiday where you are meant to wine, dine and brunch your dear ol’ mum to her heart’s content.  Also accompanying the Sunday festivities, however, was my dad’s Friday birthday.  See, celebration co-ordination, requiring a double whammy of gifts and cards galore.

The other peak of festivity in my household falls in early September, thanks to my parents having decided to get married on my mom’s birthday.  A few years ago her 50th birthday corresponded with their 20th wedding anniversary.  Guess who played grade 10 party planner?

But anyways, NBD.  It’s fun, and it means that I can hit up two holidays with one hometown return.

It also gives me a shameless excuse to make food for my family.

What was on the menu? Check it out below.

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America the Brave Cake (aka Christine’s birthday cake)

This is probably the first and last time I will ever get to make a Fourth of July cake.  Or at the very least it will definitely be the last time I make it in March.

As you saw in my last post, my good friend Christine recently celebrated her 21st birthday (we were very nearly birthday twins, but she beat me by a day).  In honour of this USA-coming of age and her partial American heritage, she had a “Legal in America” theme, and with such I was required to prepare for my first ever all-American themed bash.

The birthday girl, looking fab (as usual)

I am not one to take party themes lightly.  I knew I had to bake something extra impressive for Christine and her birthday, since she has so patiently sat through stories of a variety of my cakes, cupcakes and cookies, without getting to eat a bite.  Hopping around on the Internet one night, I stumbled on this really cool cake concept on a blog called “17 and Baking.”  First, HOLY, this 17-year-old (Elissa) is a baking/blogging rock star.  She’s been featured on loads of websites, shows and EVERYTHING and she is still only in her teens.  I graciously bow in her presence.  Also, she’s a j-school student and half-Asian.  Other than the fact that she is way more awesome at the aforementioned two things, we seem very similar.  Anyways, the inside of her cake looked like an American flag, and I fell in love.  Check out the link here (I would feel bad posting one of her fantastic pictures on my blog).

As wicked as Elissa’s cake looked, her instructions were a tad time-consuming, and were not ideal since I had left the making of this cake until the morning of the party (all before I rushed to class at 11:30 a.m.).  And so, I decided to tone down the American hype just a bit and go with a checkerboard-like pattern, still embracing the good ol’ red, white, and blue of our neighbouring nation.

If you ever plan on making coloured cakes, you MUST invest in gel food colouring.  It is amazing.  Great, great, magical stuff that makes colours more bright than traditional food colouring ever could.  My cakes looked like colourful sponges that would be used in a kindergarten classroom.  After my initial disturbance by seeing such brightly hued cakes, I decided that regardless of their wonky colour, they would still be delicious.  Also, I LOVE that I’ve conquered my kitchen’s oven.  Not to brag or anything, but these cakes were perfectly baked…

Disturbingly bright cake colours, mid-frosting

FINALLY (I seem to be using a lot of unnecessary caps in this post, I’m channeling my inner Kanye West blogger apparently), white chocolate icing is really yummy.  I added twice as much chocolate as the recipe (see below) requested, and am so incredibly happy I did.  It was like eating a creamy chocolate bar.  Yum.

I officially award this cake the “most badass birthday cake award” and feel like I have finally topped (or at least tied) my pool party cake.  What comes next?  I’m thinking a rainbow cake (this girl is also 19, apparently I’m really far behind these talented American teens).

Enjoy the pictures and, I guess I have to say this, god bless America!

PS: see my adaptation of this recipe below the pictures.

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Carrot Pineapple Cake with Cream Cheese Icing

Note: I wrote this entry Tuesday morning, and not on whatever day I decided to post this.  Just wanted to make that clear so you didn’t think I took some sort of LOST-esque journey through time and space.  Although that would be beyond cool.

….

Who knew the secret ingredient in a carrot cake would be pineapple?

I, for one, most certainly did not, so thank heavens the folks over at Canadian Living set me straight.  As of this post I am officially rediscovering pineapple, it’s delicious.

In preparation for my wisdom teeth removal tomorrow morning, I decided to make a dessert that I might actually be able to eat post-operation.  After all, what is more soft and capable of being gummed-to-death than carrot cake?  I also have been craving vegetable-infused cakes ever since I made my chocolate zucchini cake, so here we are.  Two birds, one cake.

I’m actually typing this post as my cake is in the oven.  It’s morning time in Sudbury, and my parents are at work and my brother is at school.  Our fabulous convection oven is whurring softly, as if reassuringly saying “don’t worry, I’m so much more reliable than your oven in Ottawa, I won’t burn things in a matter of five minutes.”  It’s so strange to be able to trust your kitchen appliances for a change.

Since I’ve been rambling quite a bit in my previous posts (yes, I’m very much aware that I go off on tangents, I’m an admitted word-aholic) let me, instead of talking more, just share a beautiful picture with you.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the dream (and also, as it happens, my desktop background):

Now, did that not improve your day by a tenfold?  Ah well, it makes me feel swell.

But of course, I just need to quickly say what I thought of this cake.  It was very, very moist and full of taste.  I halved the amount of pecans CL told me to put in the cake, since I’m not a huge fan of nuts in baking, and it still turned out dandy.  If you’re wondering whether you need pineapple, you do.  It adds the most surprising subtle flavour and creates an unexpected (in a good way) texture.  Just do it.

One more thing, I’ve posted a link to the Canadian Living recipe below my pictures, but I didn’t use their cream cheese icing recipe.  The recipe I used for that was adapted from Annie’s Eats and was perfectly sweet.

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