Archive for September, 2009

Deep Dish Pizza Cake

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009
It's delivery...no, it's a Pizza Cake!

It's delivery...no, it's a Pizza Cake!

A hot trend in cake decorating right now is creating a cake that mimics something from everyday life.  Food shaped cakes are some of the most popular. 

My brother-in-law, Joe, just celebrated a birthday… and what better excuse to bake a cake than for a birthday!  Joe, like everyone else in my family, has a love for great food.  He and my sister have traveled and ate their way around the globe.  However when it comes down to the basics, pizza is his go to food.  With that information in hand, I decided a pizza cake was the best bet for him.  This was a fun cake to make simply because…who doesn’t like pizza? 

I started with size and shape.  I knew the cake would be round, but how just how big of a round?  I opted for a 12” round not because there were going to be a ton of guests, but because I thought it would be the most realistic size for a pizza shaped cake. 

Cake baked, cooled, and sliced; I needed to get busy with my plan for decorating the cake to look like a pizza. It had to look realistic. So I started with the obvious…crust first.  In order to give the cake a great crust, I piped a very thick wavy line of buttercream all around the edge of the cake.  After the buttercream was piped, I placed it into the fridge to set up while I worked on the fondant.

A thick, wavy piping of buttercream helped form the "crust"

A thick, wavy piping of buttercream helped form the "crust"

I have been making my own marshmallow fondant for some time now and find that it works well for me. Plus, the cost of making your own fondant compared to purchasing fondant is like night and day.  Not to mention, marshmallow fondant tastes much better than “regular” fondant – which is normally inedible. 

Once the fondant was rolled, I brought the cake out and went to work covering it.  The crust of a pizza is a multitude of colors and shades. To give my pizza cake this illusion, I watered down some brown gel food coloring and started sponging it on with a crumpled paper towel.  The crust ended up turning out great; it looked just like a Papa John’s pizza crust.

Sauce was my next task.  I chose strawberry preserves to which I added a dash of red food coloring.  I spread the “pizza sauce” edge to edge. 

The pizza "sauce" is strawberry preserves.

The pizza "sauce" is strawberry preserves.

On to the cheese – most people’s favorite part!  I have seen cheese done several different ways, my way was to melt white chocolate and drizzle it in a caddywampous pattern over the top. Then, it was back to the fridge to set up.

Now on to the toppings!  So many to choose from, where do I start?  Of course I chose pepperoni, the classic pizza accompaniment.  Since Joe is a meat lover, chunks of sausage made sense.  I added black olives for their round shape and unique color.  And finally, green pepper, to add a hint of green which rounded out the overall look. 

Anyone order a pepperoni, sausage, black olive and green pepper?

Anyone order a pepperoni, sausage, black olive and green pepper?

All toppings where made out of marshmallow fondant and then hand painted with gel food coloring. A more random arrangement worked best when it came to the toppings.  The end result was a super realistic pizza cake which everyone adored.

pizza-cake-top

The Grapefruit Martini

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009
The Grapefruit Martini
The Grapefruit Martini

This oh so perfect cocktail with an addicting sharp grapefruit bite, the Grapefruit Martini, was inspired by the Grapefruit Gimlet served at Lola in Cleveland, Ohio.  Made with grapefruit, lime and ginger infused Ciroc Vodka; it is the perfect blend of tart, sweet, mellow goodness.   Not too girly, this concoction is the perfect cocktail to serve at your next party or gathering. 

What you will need to infuse the vodka
What you will need to infuse the vodka

Infusing vodka is incredibly easy to do.  We made our infused vodka by taking a bottle of Ciroc Vodka and pouring it into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid.  We added the rind from one grapefruit and the rind from one lime.  We also added a sliced piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb) to the mix.  We let this sit for about 3 days.  The smell of this infused vodka is divine – citrusy and sweet.  I am sure you could use it in a number of different cocktail applications.

Ciroc Vodka infused with grapefruit, lime and ginger
Ciroc Vodka infused with grapefruit, lime and ginger

If you are pressed for time you could skip the infusion aspect of this recipe and simple buy a bottle of Absolut Ruby Red.  We decided to sample both versions  of this cocktail – one with our infused Ciroc Vodka, the other with Absolut Ruby Red.  The infused Ciroc Vodka produced a much more smooth drink than the Absolut Ruby Red version.  We aren’t too picky though… we would be happy sipping either version.

Grapefruit Martini

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 parts grapefruit infused vodka
  • 2 parts grapefruit juice
  • Squeeze of lime
  • Garnish – the grapefruit rind you used in your infusion

Shake vodka and grapefruit juice in a martini shaker and pour into a cold martini glass. Squeeze a bit of lime and garnish with a piece of grapefruit rind. Enjoy!

Beer Bottle Cap Cake

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

heineken-beer-cap-cake

My good friend Sherry decided to host a surprise 40th birthday for her husband Scott.  The party was to be a casual gathering amongst close friends.  I, being the girl who bakes, was in charge of all things CAKE related.  I got busy thinking about the cake…size, flavor, and of course, the shape. 

When baking a cake for a friend or family I always want to give it a personal meaning.  Scott, like many men I know, has an affection for sports and beer, Heineken Beer to be more specific.  What better way to celebrate such a milestone than with a beer inspired birthday cake? 

I set out to surf the Internet for ideas for this cake and I couldn’t believe how many I found!  There were bottles of beer cakes, ale flavored cakes, bottle cap cakes, beer can cakes and of course, cakes shaped like beer kegs.  I turned my attention to the bottle cap designs thinking this would be easier than some of the others to pull off. Sweet Retreat was an incredibly useful website, giving me clear step by step instructions on the process of building this cake.  Click here for their step by step Heineken Beer Cap Cake instructions.

Heineken Beer Cap Cake

Heineken Beer Cap Cake

I did choose to modify a few things in order to give it my personal stamp. Another difference, I don’t own an airbrush…yet.  I had to hand paint the cake which is nice for certain things but was not ideal for coloring this particular cake. 

I also decided to change up the lettering.  To do this, I looked for the Heineken Beer font online, downloaded it, installed it on my computer and then printed the letters in my desired font size.  From here I took the printed letters and covered them with sheets of wax paper, whipped up a batch of royal icing and began piping. 

When piping letters, be sure to pipe more than one of each letter as they will break every once in a while.   I let the letters dry overnight.  The next morning I lifted them off of the wax paper using an offset spatula and placed them directly onto the cake….great effect!  The cake was a hit and the party was too much fun.

Lights, Camera, Action – My Outer Banks Nightmare

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009

I am on vacation with Joe and several friends in the Outer Banks – and I need to share our horrible experience so far.   Really, I am not one to complain about things – I don’t like conflict – but this house rental in the Outer Banks through Carolina Designs is unacceptable.   

Lights, Camera, Action – house rental number 646 from Carolina Designs is the biggest dissppointment I have ever had on a vacation – seriously.  

We are renting this house from September 6 -13 – the total cost of the rental came to over $4500.  The description of the house is a complete lie.  The rental description boasts about a volleyball court, horseshoe pit and outside gas grill.  This is what we arrived to at Lights, Camera, Action in the Outer Banks.  Here you go, Lights, Camera, Action!

The lovely volleyball court - full of burrs and broken shells
The lovely volleyball court – full of burrs and broken shells

The “volleyball court” at Lights, Camera, Action was full of weeds, burrs and broken shells.  The net is barely hanging on.  We actually weeded the court, and it still looks like this.   Next to the volleyball court is the horseshoe pit…exactly that, a pit.  There may be no horseshoes, but you get a bunch of complimentary cigarette butts and empty beer cans.

Anyone want to play?
Anyone want to play?

The pool at Lights, Camera, Action which was suppose to be cleaned on the Sunday in which we arrived was full of dirt and funk:

it is Tuesday, and I am still looking at the same dirt in the pool.
Hum, it is Tuesday, and I am still looking at the same dirt in the pool.

So yes, Carolina Designs could “fix” the issues and I wouldn’t be doing this – but it is Tuesday, day three of our trip, and I am overlooking the same dirty ass pool and run down volleyball court.

How about a dip in the crystal clear pool!
How about a dip in the crystal clear pool?

Ok, so we can’t play volleyball, how about a nice steak on the grill?  Would you cook on this thing?  Ha, well don’t worry – you can’t!  It doesn’t even work.

Would you cook on this thing?
Would you cook on this thing?
Is that a chicken bone?
Is that a chicken bone?

So, the grill at Lights, Camera, Action doesn’t work – what are we gonna have for dinner?  How about something out of the fridge?  There was enough food and gunk left on the counters, in the cupboards and in the fridge to keep the bugs happy for weeks.  We all spent hours cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom when we arrived.  Just what you like to do on your vacation, clean someone else’s dirty house.

Now, in Carolina Design’s defense, when they called me back the next day they did say they would have come out to “fix’ the issues if we would have called earlier than we did.  Mind you, check in time was 4:00PM, they close the office at 5:00PM.  So, I would have had to pick up my keys at 4:00PM, drive 30 minutes, get into the house and stage my complaint within that hour.  They say, we  shouldn’t have cleaned, but rather left the house as it was until the next day.  I doubt anyone would have left the house as it was.  It was gross and unsanitary.

To give you an idea of the dust and grim…take a look at what the vents look like:

Clean huh?  Disgusting.
Clean huh? Disgusting.

The reason I am so upset is because we rented this house specifically because of all the amenities – because of the outside grill area – because of the volleyball court – because of the horseshoe pit – because of the 2 whirlpool tubs (there was only one) – because of the video library (10 bad movies) – because of the games and puzzles (1 game with missing pieces and some scattered lincoln logs) – because of all the so called “amenities”.  All falsly advertised. 

And you know what I asked for as compensation?  All I wanted was the owner of the house, or Carolina Designs, to cover the $400 pool heating fee.  That is all.  This is the response I received from Carolina Designs:

“Megan,

I sent your initial email to the owner this morning in an effort to expedite a resolution as I await your official request. I asked for his thoughts regarding complimentary pool heat and he has declined to offer approval.

We can certainly contact the pool vendor and have the heat turned on for you; however, by our policy, the full fee of $400 plus tax will be required before it can be activated.  The reason for this follows: the fee is a fuel fee, and the majority of fuel is used in actually getting the pool up to the maximum temperature of 85 degrees. So, even if you add the heat option several days into your visit the same fee applies.”

Seriously…you won’t cover the cost of the heating of the dirty pool?  Nice!  We cleaned your house, 6 of us, for probably about 2 hours each – 6 times 2 equals 12 hours of work.  12 hours!  My time is valuable, even more so when I am on vacation.   

Just take responsibility and do something about it - that’s all.  The maintenance man was here yesterday to fix some minor things – broken chairs, missing toilet paper holders, broken door handles – but claimed “to be the wrong person to complain to”.  Of course. 

Again, in Carolina Design’s defense, my rental agent explained to me that I personally signed item #15 in my lease that clearly states that no refunds will be offered, no matter what circumstance.  Obviously, not likely written in those same terms – but in some round about way.    The only way to get any sort of refund is if the house is “deemed legally uninhabitable.”  Well, I would hope so. 

My rental agent from Carolina Designs then proceeded to explain to me that the reason that the house was in such a shambles was because it was late in the season and because it was so popular.  “Things like this happen”, she explained.  That was their excuse.  Honestly, I don’t care.  I still paid full price.  Not to mention, I didn’t even complain when I received a bill for an additional $40.70, well after the final payment was due and had been paid,  because they miscalculated or didn’t account for a tax increase.   

So thank you Carolina Designs;  thank you owners of Lights, Camera, Action house rental #646 in Corolla, North Carolina; thank you for making my vacation to the Outer Banks vacation so “special”. 

 UPDATE – it is 11:44AM on Tuesday – we finally got a new volleyball net.  The sand has still not been raked and nothing else fixed. 

12:18 – The landscaper is working on the weeds in the volleyball court – thank god.  Oh, but mentioned we should watch out for the Black Widows nest.  Wow, it keeps getting better.

 12:49 – Wow, the volleyball court is back to normal.  Weeds removed, new net, raked out – looks great.  On to the grill now.


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