Saturday, November 10, 2012

long hours and holy crap punkin bites.

 it's completely understandable to think that i fell off the face of the blog-earth.
it would make total sense to think i got caught up in something or someone else.
and its just logical to think that i just gave up on this whole thing all together.
but there is where you are wrong.
i'm too competitive to give up and i love cooking and writing about it too much to stop now.
the first two, however, could be perceived as accurate assumptions.
first of all, i did fall off the face of the blog-earth.
i got a job working at a restaurant as a server back in february. perfect little restaurant job a college girl might have after graduation. a couple weeks later, that restaurant closed. four weeks after that, that same 3,500 sq. ft. leased space in a strip mall opened up into something i came to know as "my restuarant."
not because i'm cocky or i think the world revolves around me, but because after the newly hired manager quit, i was asked to fill some big shoes. restaurant manager. i went to school for this, of course, but i never imagined it would come with as many challenges as i faced.
 (here's where my" second of all" comes in)
 i was working 75 hour weeks when the restuarant was only open for about 48. i was working myself to the bone, taking on more and more, and never asking for help. it absolutely became my life. on my one day off per week (sometimes not even that), i would go to my parents house and cry. i needed that day off mentally and personally, but work-wise, i could have put in another 8 hours that day. i have never truly understood the phrase "not enough hours in the day" until i was saying it like a prayer.
please God? just turn back these clocks a few hours for me?
pretty easy to see how and why i got burned out. so a few weeks ago, i quit. i put in my notice, stayed for a month, and after another tearful phone call, never went back.
i had some very encouraging people that got me through more than they will ever know and so i'd like to thank them.
mom, dad, nate, jeremy, julia, dani, calli and josh.
you will never truly know how much i appreciated you through that.
ok enough sappy crap. getting back to why you're really here. food.
i would like to tell you that i have found something sensational. 
 beautiful orbs of pumpkin majesty.
they're like a cross between a donut hole, pumpkin pie and cinnamon toast crunch.
so basically they're awesome. and so easy it's ridiculous.
so try them.
first, just put all the dry ingredients into a medium bowl. whisk by hand or mix on high speed with your whisk attachment if you have other things going.
then mix all the wet ingredients in a larger bowl.
mix all those together, add the dry on top...

...and fold together until it is just combined.
then take our your mini muffin pan and plop little blogs of thanksgiving-y smelling pumpkin goop into each little pocket, almost filling them.
note: to make them turn out more round, like real donut holes, smooth out the goop with your finger. that way, they will come out in perfect little balls, instead of looking like mini pumpkin muffins (their alter ego). it will also make your friends ask you how you make perfect little pumpkin balls.
tell them it's magic.
that's what i told my friends and they just raised their shoulders and said "i actually don't care how you made them, these are awesome."

as if you needed more reasons to love these, here's another.
you can probably make them right now.
if you are a somewhat normal person like me, and you have pumpkin in your cabinet, you most likely have everything else to make these.

if you didn't smooth them over before you put them in the oven, like i didn't the first time i did this, they're going to look like this:
not that that's a huge deal or anything, but it's easy and adds to its cute little punkin personality :)
to complete these babies, melt some butter in a shallow pan in the oven while your pumpkin gems are cooling off a little.

then mix sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.

then roll!
first in the butter (you can also brush the butter on them, but since i don't have a pastry brush... cough cough christmas present cough... i just rolled them around slightly in the melted butter), then in the cinnamon sugar.
then look at your magical morsels of magnificence.
but looking can only do so much... 

so i held one up, took a bite and muttered two little words
"holy. crap."
then i said it again. and maybe one more time.
and then it was gone.

and as i took them to my friends' house, they all said it too.
and after, when i walked into the bar with them (yeah i do that), everyone who tasted them there said the same thing.
so i'm just gonna make a huge assumption here and say they might be kind of ok.
pssh. whatever. these are the best.
"Holy Crap" Pumpkin Bites
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup vegetable oil, or melted butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¾ cup pumpkin (fresh or canned)
½ cup low-fat milk
For Coating
1/2 stick butter, melted in oven or microwave
⅔ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° and spray your mini muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt and spices in one bowl and whisk till combined. In another bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients (oil, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, pumpkin and milk). Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and mix until just combined (do not overmix).
Using a cookie scoop (or a spoon), fill mini muffin tins until almost full. There should be plenty of batter to do this.
Bake for 11 - 14 minutes, depending on your oven. In the last few minutes, melt butter in the oven. In a small bowl combine your sugar and cinnamon.
Let the bites cool for a few minutes before brushing them with the melted butter and then plunging them into their cinnamon sugar bath.

Monday, June 11, 2012

blueberry lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting. hello summer.

i hate to say it.
i really, really do.
don't make me do it!
ok fine.

this blog took a back seat.

i graduated from college, moved back home, and couldn't find a job.

I had so much time on my hands, it was a problem.

but then i got a job, a good job. like i'm-the-general-manager-of-a-new-restaurant-and-i-kind-of-love-it-kind-of-good-job.

and now i have so little time on my hands, it's a problem.

so with staff to train, schedules to make, liquor to order and people to schmooze, i gotta say, this blog was not on the top of my priority list.

but don't fret, i've still been cooking on my days off! so hopefully after writing this one, i'll have a little more oomph to write a few more and then i'll get back into it.


on to more delicious topics, please look at this cake.

drooling accepted... and encouraged... and expected.

as soon as summer comes around, i have an impulse to eat and cook with as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible.

as in instead of bringing cupcakes and snickers for my staff, i bring snap peas and bing cherries.

as in i've been waiting to make a blackberry cobbler for about 3 months now.
as in a normal stop at the grocery store has changed from cereal, milk and wheat bread, to cereal, milk, wheat bread, raspberries, green beans, and peaches.
as in... this cake.

blueberry lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting.

oh. hello my favorite pairing of fruit.

lemons and blueberries go together so well. which is exactly what makes this cake so ridiculously great. subtle lemon flavor in the cake, but huge lemon kick in the frosting. and the blueberries exploding with each bite of the dense, moist cake just gets me every time.

hence why i made it for my birthday.

(22, baby!)

the flavors going on in here were a little nostalgic for me as well. wanna hear a possibly-boring-for-you-story, but one that brings me back to a more carefree time?

of course you do... (wink).

it was the summer of 2010, my first summer in door county. tia had worked with me all summer, and subsequently we had become best friends. we worked together, went to lunch together, blah blah blah, laid underneath the stars and talked about life together. :) on our last night there, we decided to go to all the restaurants we hadn't been to and just grab either an appetizer or a dessert. on our last stop, we grabbed dessert to go, so we could enjoy it at the drive-in movie theater. and as soon as we found out the restaurant had their own pastry chef, we knew we chose the best for last. it was a slice of peanut butter chocolate ganache pie for her, and a lemon curd tart with blueberry compote for me.

and they were crazy good. and when you share crazy good food with a person who is just as much of a foodie as you are, there's no room, or desire, to talk of anything else.

but seriously, warm blueberry compote over a cooled lemon tart... are you kidding me?

whoever the pastry chef was (i picture them as a her for some reason), we should probably all be friends. because i can only imagine her being as big of a food nerd as i am. and when we become friends, i will make her this cake. and we will all sit down with a fork in our hands, blueberry lemon cake on our plates, and a conversation on our tongues that speaks only of it's greatness.

Blueberry Lemon Cake

2 cups + 6 tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup 2% milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Spray three 8" round cake pans with nonstick spray and dust with flour. Sift dry ingredients into medium bowl. Transfer 1 tablespoon flour mixture to larger bowl. Add fresh blueberries and toss to coat them with flour. Set remaining flour mixture and blueberries aside.
Stir whole milk, sour cream, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest in small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar, until pale yellow and very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, until well combined. Mix in flour mixture alternately with milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries. Divide batter equally among 8" round pans.

Bake cakes about 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool cakes for about 10 minutes, then invert onto a nonstick-sprayed surface.
Lemon Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon lemon zest
5 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract
pinch salt
few drops of yellow food coloring

Cream butter and lemon zest in bowl of electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment, about 3 minutes. Slowly add powdered sugar, mixing on low speed for about 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and beat on med-high for 3-4 minutes until very fluffy. Yields enough to frost outside of three layer 8″ round cake.

Monday, March 19, 2012

grilled pizza bar

even despite the fact that i can hear the pitter patter of raindrops hitting my cement patio whilst i write this, i know in my heart that summer is upon us.

you know how the groundhog did that thing and told us there was going to be 8 more weeks of winter? well.

God must have been like "i'll show them!" i'll give it to them in 4!" and so he did.

i have tan lines. spring training is in full swing. all boots and mittens have said hello again to the top shelf of the closet and i have said good riddance to the ice scraper that has lingered in the back seat of my car for far too long.

i am so completely ready for this summer. i seriously can't wait. i haven't been around milwaukee for the whole summer for 3 years and i plan to live. it. up.

i don't know if global warming is actually legit or not but if it means that we get 75 degrees in the middle of march, i am all for it.

and what better way to kick off the summer than with a new grilling recipe?

and what better new recipe to try than grilled pizza?

ok, so i was a little over exhuberant for this. as in i made my own pizza dough and my own pizza sauce. obviously that's not completely necessary, but if your crazy like me (and have a lot of time on your hands!), it's definitely worth it. i also made my pizza over-the-top awesome, but any other day of the week a mushroom and pepperoni pizza is just as wonderful.

i was cooking for my two older brothers and a friend of ours, so i decided to do a make-your-own-pizza bar. so once my dough and sauce was done (both recipes below), i worked on the toppings.

as previously stated, spring has sprung in my mind. and lately, when i think of spring, asparagus is literally the first thing that comes to mind.

and i'm not kidding, people.

so i par-cooked some asparagus, chopped up some mushrooms and sliced some fresh mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes. i also had some pepperoni, shredded mozzarella, and an italian blend of cheeses. this was going to be a fantabulous pizza bar.

and with my pizza sauce done simmering on the stove and my brother telling me the grill was ready, we started on this little adventure.

and when i say adventure, i really mean learning experience.

you see, i took bobby flay's advice on making, rolling out and grilling the pizza dough, thinking he probably had made a few. however, it was not-so-foolproof.

here's what not to do: don't make the dough, roll it out into 1/8" thick rounds and then keep them in the refrigerator, stacked between sheets of plastic wrap and then covered.

because that is what i did, and as you can probably see, i only had one that came off the grill in the same shape i had made it to be.

the crusts were rolled too thin to begin with, so when i tried to de-plastic wrap them, they started to tear and rip and make me upset.

here's what you should do: make the dough about an hour and a half before you would like to serve them. roll them to a thickness where you would feel comfortable picking up with both hands and placing them on the grill grates, probably more like 1/4 - 1/3" thick. then dust with just enough flour and leave under some lightly placed plastic wrap until your grill is completely ready.

another tid bit of information is to start with all your coals together, for a higher heat, then when you take the pizzas off for the first time, spread them out evenly around the bottom of the grill, so there is a lighter and more even indirect heat.

once the crust is past the doughy stage and moving onto the grill mark stage, take them off the grill and bring them back inside. here, we each called dibs on certain pizza crust real estate and got to the assembly.

for mine, i started with the pizza sauce and then piled it high, starting with asparagus, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms and fresh mozzarella. i topped it off with a sprinkle of the italian cheese blend and a shake or two of dried oregano leaves.

for my brother's mountain-of-cheese pizza, there is a sauce base, an obscene amount of pepperoni, a layer of fresh mozzarella and then a manly handful of shredded mozzarella. he also sprinkled on some crushed red pepper flakes and oregano leaves as well.

my other brother's was very similar to that and our friend decided to stick with just cheese. no harm in that! in fact, you probably get to appreicate more of the grill flavor that way.

really hard to tell which one is mine...

so with all of our pizzas assembled, we moved back out to the grill.

and with the coals all spread out, it worked really nicely to melt all the cheese and soften everything up without putting any more color on the crusts.

and they were all really good.
like really good.
like i-got-compliments-from-my-brothers...-really?!-good.

so this one is definitely going on the go-to entertainment food list. it's fun to be able to make your own (especially fun for the kiddos!) and it's even more fun to play with the different kinds of toppings you could think of. pineapple, canadian bacon, italian sausage, black olives, caramelized onions, chicken, or green peppers just to name a few. plus you can make it a ton easier and pick up a ball of pizza dough from your favorite pizzaria and buy your favorite jarred pizza sauce. then all you have is a little chopping to do!

so go embrace this awesome weather that God has blessed us with and grill up some pizzas. your family, and maybe even your waistline, will thank you.

Pizza Dough
2/3 cup lukewarm water (105 degrees F to 115 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugart
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for oiling bowl
1 3/4 to 2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal, or I used Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
2 teaspoons coarse salt

In a large bowl, stir together 1/3 cup water, yeast, and sugar and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in remaining 1/3 cup water, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 3/4 cups flour, cornmeal or bread crumbs, and salt and blend until the mixture forms a dough. Knead dough on a floured surface, incorporating as much of remaining 1/4 cup flour, as necessary, to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth about 5 to 10 minutes. Form the dough into a ball.

Lightly oil the sides and bottom of a large bowl with oil, add the dough, turn to coat in the oil, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Gently punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece on a lightly floured surface into a 10-inch circle that is 1/4 to 1/3-inch thick. Brush off excess flour and transfer the dough to a baking sheet, cover each circle of dough with plastic wrap and continue stacking rolled out pieces on top of each other. Wrap lightly with plastic wrap until ready to grill. (Makes about 4-8" round pizza crusts.

Meanwhile, heat the grill to high.

Brush both sides of the pizzas with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until golden brown on both sides, 2-3 minutes per side. Remove from the grill, spread sauce and other ingredients onto the crusts and top with cheese. Place back on the grill, close the cover of the grill and let them go until the cheese has melted and any vegetables are tender, about 2-5 minutes, depending on the toppings.

Pizza Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (tomato sauce would work, too)
2 teaspoons of dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons of dried oregano leaves
2 teaspoons of dried marjoram (don't go out and buy this just for this recipe, but if you have it, throw it in)
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped (optional)

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add in the minced garlic and saute until a light golden brown. Continue to add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. If adding fresh basil, do so right before you remove the sauce from the stove. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

stuffed pork chops michael symon would be proud of.

has anyone seen that new show called "the chew"?

i love it.

but shoot. i think confessing to loving a daytime talk show is probably the first step to becoming an old cat lady! nooo!

anyways... it's awesome. it's got clinton kelly (fab!), mario batali (iron chef #1), carla hall (i've never heard of her before the show, but she's basically hilarious), daphne oz (daughter of dr. oz, weirdly enough), and michael symon (iron chef #2!). they are so funny and make some delicious looking food, too!

the reason i mention this is because michael symon could probably be considered a pork connoisseur and i wish i could make these pork chops for him. because man, are they good!

so these were the main entree for my dinner party that included that crazy valentine's cake for dessert. i think the funniest part of this whole party was that i wasn't even there for it. i had to make everything ahead of time with strict instructions on finishing everything. from cooking times to what plates they should go on to how to garnish it. i wanted it to seem like i had been there, even though i wasn't. and because i had no end product pictures, i even left my camera asking to take pictures for me.

when i got home that night, my sometimes-technically-challenged parents said that they took pictures for me, much to my surprise. super pumped to see what they looked like, i turned on my camera.

not to my surprise, the most recent picture was one that i took right before i left.

all of their friends who were over for the dinner party chimed in, "we saw them take the pictures!"

what? don't get me wrong, i believe them. but no cameras take pictures and just automatically delete them upon turning the camera off. and my camera is slightly confusing when it comes to deleting pictures so it's not like they could've bumped the "erase all recent pictures" button.

nevertheless, here they are. smoked gouda and bacon stuffed pork chops.

ohh yeah.

the first thing i did was get my filling ready.

almost 3/4 of a pound of smoked gouda, shredded (keep in mind this is for 10 servings)...

couple tablespoons of fresh, chopped parsley...

and a good looking, full pound of crushed up and crispy bacon.

i just mixed it all up and set it aside until my pork chops were ready. ohh, the aromas are already intoxicating. bacon... hellooo?

and not to keep michael symon waiting, on to the pork chops.

i started with some bone-in, 1-inch thick pork chops and sliced a stuffing pocket into them. the easiest way to do this is to put one hand on the pork, flat on a cutting board and then take your sharp knife in to  the pork as parallel as you can to the board.

then, just keep slicing through until you're about 1/2 an inch away from the bone.

woo hoo! the hard part of stuffing pork chops is done! well, i guess you have to do like 2 or 3 more for your family or roommates. or you have like 10 more if you're doing it for a dinner party :)

 once you're all sliced and ready to go, take about two tablespoons of the filling and smash it into those beautiful pita-like pork pockets.

and if two tablespoons doesn't do it, just keep stuffing it in there.

the more cheesy, bacony, melty goodness, the better.

seal it all up with a toothpick or two and call it a day!

...or a raw pork chop stuffed with cold cheese and bacon.

so fire up the grill!

or the grill pan, as i did.

brush each pork chop with a little canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and let those babies sizzle away! (to get those awesome grill marks, just turn them like 45 degrees after a couple minutes). let them go about 4-5 mintes per side.

i flipped them over and did the same on the other side.

now at this point they're not cooked all the way through. so for my dinner party later that night, i just put them in 13x9 pans with a little chicken broth (so they wouldn't dry out) and sealed them off for the refrigerator. but if i were making them right away, i would simply put them in a pan and finish them off in the oven for about 15 minutes or so.

speaking of finishing them off, you'll just have to imagine these being pulled out of the oven.
juices seeping out of the pork.
cheese oozing out of the middle.
bacon sizzling and crispy.
grill marks dark and caramelized.
that's almost as good as a picture, right?

not to mention they taste even better. ho hum yum.

Smoked Gouda and Bacon Stuffed Pork Chops

4 bone-in, 1-inch thick pork chops
4 oz. smoked Gouda, shredded
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Canola oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat grill or grill pan to medium high.

Mix the Gouda, parsley and bacon in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Slice pockets into the larger side of the pork chops. Stuff 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into the pork chops and weave in toothpick to keep most of the mixture from oozing out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush each chop with a little canola oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and sear on the grill or grill pan for about 4-5 minutes per side. (For cross grill marks, turn the pork 45 degrees after 2 or 3 minutes.)

To finish the cooking, roast them in the oven for about 15 minutes. (If these will be refrigerated and cooked later, bump up the cooking time to about 25 minutes.)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

the layers of valentine's day revealed.

this is how valentine's day works.

if you have someone, you're all for it. you're like "bring on the chocolate, the cheesy cards, the hearts, the fluff, the expensive dinner-for-two and the loooove."

and if you don't have someone, you hate it. you think it's a hallmark holiday created by and for the people who do have someone. you think they created it to torture those who don't have someone "special." maybe you even see it as an excuse to make a date with ben and jerry's and the latest channing tatum flick.

whatever your take is on this day, i hope you appreciate the following recipe. because i'm basically in loooove with it. :)

here's the reason i decided to make this extravagant dessert. my parents are part of a bible study and they asked me to make the food for their valentine's dinner. obviously, i agreed.

when in my right mind would i ever turn something like that down? mm. never.

so the other parts of the meal (which were completely delicious as well) will be another post on another day, so just the fact that i'm starting with dessert should count for something!

alright, so if you're a true food-blog-lover, i feel confident that you have seen these rainbow cakes circulating. ever since seeing the first one, i wouldn't call it a strong desire... i would call it more like just looking for an excuse to make a cake that extravagant.

because making one on a tuesday afternoon for no apparent reason would be completely ridiculous... for most people.

so with this cake fantasy whirling around in my head and a menu needing to be planned, i took the plunge into rainbow cake making.

and it. was. fan. tastic.

plus i made it v-day friendly :)

and it's a true symbol of valentine's day because after all, it really is what's on the inside that counts... (sorry for the cheesiness, single ladies).

so the cake recipe i found was enough for a 6 tier cake, so a large bowl was definitely in order.

after my idea of holding the bowl up under the kitchen aid paddle attachment got shot down, i resorted to the mini handheld mixer.

then, with six bowls spread out around me, i started dividing up the batter, 2 cups at a time.

the cake itself has an almond taste with the help of some extract, which is probably the reason i chose this recipe. i'm kind of an almond extract junkie. cookies with it are my favorite... if you have any recipes, please share :)

since i wanted my version of the rainbow cake to be valentine's day-themed, i busted out the red food coloring. a drop in the first bowl, a few more in the next, until i was basically emptying the bottle into the last bowl.

it was fun playing with the different shades of pink and red. so fun, that i ended up also dying each one of my finger tips red.

at this point you would think that the most time-consuming of all tasks would be out of the way. however, i had two cake pans to work with and 6 layers to be made. so a 15 minute pop-em-in-the-oven-and-they're-done-kind-of task turned into over an hour of greasing and pouring and baking and waiting and taking out and letting cool and flipping over and regreasing and repouring and... yeah you get it.

another reason i made what seemed to be such an insane amount of batter was because i figured i was going to have to cut off a good amount of the cakes so they would be flat. however, they baked up pretty flat, that i just figured i would leave them and make up the slightly rounded edges with just a little extra frosting (ohhhh yeah, i'm getting to that!).

one by one, they came out perfectly. some sort of baking fairies must have snuck in while i was scrubbing the red food coloring off my hands and sprinkled some sort of magic fairy dust over this project. because they were all very evenly cooked and almost exactly the same size.

 i was kind of geeking out at this point, but not on any sort of level close to what i was like when it was complete.

you'll see... just keep reading, my loves.

on to the frosting!

i would just like to start off by saying two things:

first, i realize what the name of this blog is. but i must admit that light and flavorful and delightfully whipped buttercream is an exception. i'm sorry, ok, but we all have weaknesses.

and second (and much less important), i made the cakes the night before and then made the frosting the next day. i really didn't want to risk putting the frosting on even slightly lukewarm cakes. plus, it was around 8 o'clock by the time i finished the cakes. and being the baker that i am not, i was totally baker-ed out at that point. i couldn't lift another measuring cup, if you catch my drift.

so the next day, the disaster started all over again.

i decided that since i was taking on such an enormous task as making a rainbow cake, i would stick with fairly "normal" flavors my first go-around. so with my plain white almond cake i went with a simple vanilla buttercream frosting that i found here.

alice's recipe called for 2 sticks of butter and 3 cups of powdered sugar as the base. i knew it was going to be whipped but i had no real idea of what that would look like after it was done. so i made one batch.

and i was pretty confident that the 3 dollops of frosting was not about to smother all 6 beautiful layers of cakes.

so i proceeded in doubling what i had just made in order to get 3 times the original recipe.

basically what that meant was 6 full sticks of butter...

and 9 cups of powdered sugar.

i started by whipping the softened butter until it was nice and fluffy.

then came the obscene amount of sugar.

i mixed those on low in order to prevent a dust... ahem, powdered sugar storm in my kitchen. but i don't always win those battles. and apparently i didn't have my game face on that day.

anyways, eventually the butter will start to be incorporated.

first it will look very crumbly.

then it will look really sticky.

and then it will almost resemble frosting. at this point, i cranked the mixer up to medium high speed to get that lovely, powdered-sugar-dense air incorporated into it.

as that happened, i slowly added in some vanilla extract and some half and half.

i think that little bit of half and half (only 2 tablespoons per batch) really made it shine and made it look a lot less like just whipped butter.

look at all those lovely air bubbles!

just in case i somehow measured something a little differently from the first batch, i added it back into the bowl at the end just to gently fold them together. for some reason or another, i then decided to transfer this outrageously heavy amount of buttercream into a separate bowl.

sometimes i think i subconsciously want more dishes to clean in the end. because there's really no other reason.

well with the cakes baked and the frosting whipped, i was ready to assemble! eek! i started with arranging 4 small sheets of wax paper on the bottom of my cake stand around a dollop of frosting. the dollop helps make sure the cake doesn't move around and the wax paper?

stay tuned...

one by one the layers were stacked, dolloped, spread out, and stacked again...

until i had this beautiful mountain of sugar-y, cake-y goodness.

but that's not very aesthetically pleasing. well, i mean the colors are fantastic, but the whole point is to hide the best part!

so with as much grace and master-cake-making craftsmanship as i could, i slowly turned that cake into a white pillar of mystery. 

and let me tell you, i did not have a drop of buttercream to spare.

sometimes my guesstimates are scary awesome.

once it was completely covered and i liked how it looked, i slowly removed the sheets of wax paper, leaving a clean plate. you're a genius paula deen!

a couple strawberries on top because i couldn't resist and voila! 

a six layer masterpiece!

this was the point in which my geeking out reached new levels... even for me.

the worst part was that no one was home. not a soul in ear shot that could hear me making little squealing noises and literally jumping up and down and skipping around my kitchen. picture messages were even sent to friends who i knew would either (a) roll their eyes, but still smile because they knew my excitement or (b) wish they could have been there to help. it was a big moment for me. because like i said, i don't normally take on baking adventures such as these.

the best part about all of this was that i finished it around 1 in the afternoon and it was for my parents' dinner party that night. and as luck would have it, i had to work that night. so with very specific instructions not to cut it before i got back, i  reluctantly left for work. and the whole time, all i wanted to do was get back to my cake. the stuffed pork chops, the mashed potatoes, the vegetables ... they could all have been served cold for all i cared. as long as no one touched my cake, i was happy. 

because i wanted to be the one to slide the dental floss down the center of the cake (yeah, that's the trick to avoiding collapsing layers!), and reveal the hidden treasure inside the white pillar.

call me selfish, but i wanted to be the one to do it.

so they waited. thankfully, i got off work at a very reasonable time, so at least the guests weren't waiting too eagerly for my arrival.

but let's be honest. if they knew what was hidden under that enchanted buttercream, their patience would have been coming to an end much quicker.

and oh, how magical it was.

there were so many elements of suprise here.

first, there's the obvious. it's a tower of magestically cascading colors of baby pink to fire engine red all tucked in to bed under a dreamy blanket of buttercream frosting. is your mouth watering yet?

second, i had no idea i had this in me. honestly. me? frosting a 6-tier cake? git ahhta heeya.

third, and most suprising, i really want to make another one. with some notes that hit a little higher than almond and vanilla on the interesting, yet delicious scale.

so to of all you who are taken this valentine's day, make this for your other half. you're sure to woo them and anyone else who happens to see this true work of art. and to all of those who aren't...

what are you doing this tuesday? because my schedule's pretty wide open :)

Versatile White Cake

2 (18 ounce) boxes white cake mix (I used Betty Crocker)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 2/3 cups water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
2 cups sour cream
8 large egg whites

Place all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir together with a wire whisk.
Add the remaining ingredients and beat for 2 minutes.
Separate into 6 separate bowls, starting with 2 cups of batter in each bowl and finishing off each bowl with the rest. Dye each bowl different colors, or start with a small amount of dye in the first bowl and work your way up to more as you go along. Pour  batter into greased cake pans. Lightly tap cake pans on counter to bring air bubbles to top.
Bake in preheated 325 degree F oven until cake tests done. Baking time depends on the size of the pans and the amount of batter in each pan.
Creamy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
(this is for one batch, keep in mind i made 3 of these!)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
up to 4 tablespoons milk or heavy cream or half and half
Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed. Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn your mixer on the lowest speed (so the sugar doesn’t blow everywhere) until the sugar has been incorporated with the butter. Increase mixer speed to medium and add vanilla extract, salt, and 2 tablespoons of milk/cream and beat for 3 minutes. If your frosting needs a more stiff consistency, add more sugar. If your frosting needs to be thinned out, add remaining more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.