Monday, November 7, 2011

Bragging rights

This post features a cake that I did not make, though I feel I had a little something to do with it...

I celebrated (yes, actually celebrated) a really big birthday this summer. Let's just say it ended in 0, and did not start with a 1, 2, or 3. My wonderful husband took me away for a relaxing, amazing spa vacation, and while we were gone, the kids prepared a great birthday surprise. Ayelet baked and Shana decorated this beautiful cake, and I wanted to share my amazement at their skill. Gorgeous, right?! And so delicious.

Yummy chocolate cake, with a LOT of frosting and some really beautiful flowers. And Shana even learned from me to take pictures of anything that might be interesting.

Thus, the artist's pallete, filled with drying gumpaste gerber daisies, becomes a work of art...

Just schepping a little...


Life Lessons in Unlikely Spots

Joy the Baker, you rock. I love reading food blogs - really baking blogs, but I don't absolutely discriminate. I mean, I like food. A lot. I really like things that taste good. I am all about flavors. I eat too much, but not indiscriminately. I will not waste my time on something that doesn't sing to me. There is, however, a lot of singing, thus the problem. But I digress.

I really enjoy Joy's blog. And I am not the only one. She is uber-popular, one of those blogs that everyone knows. My style is not the same as hers, my life is not the same as hers, even my tastes run a little less alcoholic. And naturally, adding a little bacon to everything is a non-starter. But I enjoy reading and learning from her. And today's post that gives advice to bloggers just sang to me, and I didn't even need to eat anything. I walked into the post expecting to get some great and useful tips about blogging, and instead found some really insightful life lessons. Who'd a thunk. And here's what I learned:

1. You have to love what you do. I've said it before, but it bears repeating - for everyone. I know that if my baking turns into drudgery, I will walk away. Not the kind of "Oh, I don't feel like doing this tonight" feeling that we all have once in a while, but the soul-sucking dread that comes with a job that you really, really hate going to. Haven't we all been there before? Never again, I say.

2. Be kind to yourself. It's okay to treat yourself nicely, even just treat yourself. That's a hard one for me (I know some people who would disagree, but that's a whole different story), but I am trying to find a balance with that.

3. This is my favorite: "Work hard to make it look easy…. and just be ok with the fact that it’s totally not easy." The first part is kind of how I have always liked to do things. The second part is genius. When people see things I do and tell me I make it look effortless - it has actually happened - first I feel happy. Then I get annoyed. Nothing is effortless, and often the most hard work goes into things that seem simple. Just because I don't always show the strain doesn't mean there wasn't any. But I have to live with knowing that sometimes no one else will realize that. I know what I have done, and how hard I work, and that should be enough. Unless I am going to start playing the "sprinkle flour all over my face and apron before I serve the Rice Krispy treats" card, I need to just say that this is work. And it wouldn't be called work if it was easy - it would be called vacation. There would be a chocolate on my pillow, and continental breakfast waiting for me every morning. But shockingly, there just ain't. I am just going to go with Joy's conclusion: "I made sacrifices and I created time and… now I just sleep less." And I can live with that.

Thanks, Joy! You made my day, and gave me a lot to think about.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Summer remnants

With apologies to all those who have been waiting a looooong time to see their cakes here, I am attempting to get some of this summer's neglected items posted.

First - an anniversary cake to celebrate a very special milestone
Two layers of vanilla cake, filled with chocolate ganache, covered in chocolate buttercream to celebrate 50 years together.

Next, a birthday cake in the stripes and dots motif.

Two layers of chocolate chip cake, filled with chocolate fudge,

then covered in vanilla buttercream and fondant dots and stripes in brown and shades of blue - very striking for a 40th birthday.

And a cake for a birthday girl who loves arts and crafts.

Toppers included tools of the trade, such as gumpaste scissors,

an artist's palette with a brush and watercolor paints, plus a bottle of white glue, also gumpaste.

The sides of the cake, including the number 11, were covered in paint splatters, evidence of lots of creativity and hard work. Happy birthday, Shoshana!

Hope you are having a sweet week!


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Nitzan's Bat Mitzvah, Shabbat Edition

Returning to where we were several months ago, here is the second half of Nitzan's bat mitzvah - Shabbat. In addition to cookie platters and lemon macarons for dessert for the Shabbat meals, we provided the family and guests with lemon and chocolate mousse cups,

Chocolate cream filled chocolate cupcakes, topped with fondant basketball toppers,

vanilla cream filled vanilla cupcakes topped with buttercream rosettes,

and chocolate cake pops, drizzled with orange tinted white chocolate, to fit the floral/basketball theme.

It was a beautiful Shabbat, filled with family and friends, and wonderful memories for Nitzan and the whole family. We were privileged to be a small part of it! Mazal tov!


Happy New Year!

It has been a while. Blogging has not afforded me the outlet it once did. But I am taking the blog back. And maybe, just maybe, I will post more often. But no promises. I very much want to avoid the pitfall that so many people fall into online, whether on social network sites, email groups, or blogs: Never forget that you can not control who does or does not read your work. Too many people seem to forget that their outlet is someone else's light reading.

So let's keep it light!

Yom tov here was great, despite the three day nature of the chag. We were fortunate enough to be invited out for the first four !!! meals. They were all really enjoyable, wonderful company, great food, a terrific way to start the year. Many thanks to our generous and thoughtful hosts. We hosted company for the last two meals (can't count seuda shlishit, because we were too full for anything more than a little challah and salad), and it was also great - we are so fortunate to have found such good friends here and to be able to spend chag with them. Davening was also very moving and meaningful for me, so it was a very good yom tov.

Baking wise, we had a LOT of orders for this Rosh Hashana, so many in fact, that I had no time to take pictures of any of the trays. I try to incorporate some of the simanim in the flavors, so the menu included honey sugar cookies, apple crumble bars, apple blondies, carrot cake sandwiches, and chocolate sandwich cookies filled with a pomegranate-raspberry-chocolate ganache. Not that anyone is going to say the "yehi ratzons" over the cookies, but the thought is there. Larger trays, 36 and 48 piece sizes, also had chewy chocolate chip cookies, because who doesn't like chocolate chip?! Every tray was topped with a decorated apple shaped sugar cookie, with "Shana Tova" written on it. Overall, very festive and fun, and well-received. We also did a bunch of custom sugar cookies, in various holiday designs. The actual cookies for RH were even cuter than the ones below, but for a small idea of what went out, here is a photo of samples from a couple of weeks before the chag.

May we be inscribed for a happy, healthy New Year!


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Nitzan's Bat Mitzvah, Part I

Sometimes you are lucky enough to have good neighbors. Sometimes you are even luckier, when those neighbors turn out to be good friends. We have been fortunate in that respect in every home we have lived in. And when you have a chance to show your appreciation for that good fortune, even better.

Our neighbor Nitzan recently celebrated her bat mitzvah. I had the privilege of preparing dessert for her Shabbat celebration, as well as the centerpieces for her party. The theme of the celebration? Uniquely perfect for Nitzan: flowers and basketballs.

Here is the story of the centerpieces:

In the construction phase - preparing all of the cookies on sticks, before adding detail. Hand detailed centers were added to the blue flowers and to purple ones as well, a perfect match for the paper goods.

Then we added detail to make it all perfect - the basketball cookies said Nitzan's name.
Tulip cookies on a stick rounded out the flowers.
Finally, we started to assemble the cookie bouquet centerpieces.

Nitzan's family finished assembly at the hall, adding the mylar shreds, and the cookie bouquet centerpieces were complete.

Next time, an array of Shabbat desserts. Mazal tov to Nitzan!


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Very Personal

One thing that is a lot of fun about catering jobs over Shabbat cookie platters is the opportunity to personalize. Color schemes are a common request - matching the desserts to the linens and/or paper goods and centerpieces. For Yoni and Meira's Sheva Brachot, the colors were purple and light green. Half of the cupcakes, chocolate or vanilla cake filled with chocolate cream and topped with rich chocolate buttercream, received flowers as their decorations. But to get even a bit more personal, for the other half of the cupcakes, filled with vanilla cream and topped with vanilla buttercream, we took decoration to the next level, with medallions with messages and designs to reflect the occasion. Hearts, large and small, and "Mazal Tov" and the names of the Chattan and Kallah adorned the cupcakes.
Mazal tov!! Wishing Meira and Yoni a lifetime of happiness.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dog days are on their way

It's getting hot. I mean really hot. Life is heating up, too. Shana graduated from high school! Then, three weeks later, she finished all her tests and actually completed high school. Hmm... Ayelet celebrated her fifteenth birthday, and later went to the wedding of one of her teachers - Dani and Shana had both enjoyed that experience in the States, but when they were much younger. Ayelet and her friends were old enough to be a real part of the celebration, dancing up a storm and singing with the kallah before the badeken. Dani finished the school year, and is now attending gemara "camp" until the end of the month. He is still in the throes of bar mitzvah partying, with many events still to come. And poor, poor Lola. She still has school for another day, and boy is she peeved about it. But come 11:45 tomorrow, she too will be done with the school year, and my nerves will be totally fried. And I am getting old. I will hit the big 4-0 shortly, but I am oddly okay with that. My life is in a good place, my family is in a good place; really no legitimate gripes. What I am not okay with? My eyes getting old, my hair getting old, my joints getting old. I am hoping for some real psychic rejuvenation this summer, and some time outside the kitchen, though not too much. But be careful what you wish for...

To celebrate Ayelet's birthday, Shana, who is becoming severely underpaid as my unpaid intern/indentured servant, was allowed to go crazy on cake decorating. The canvas? Vanilla cake with chocolate fudge filling and iced smooth in white vanilla buttercream.

And then Shana went to town with flowers in teal and mint, accented with yellow.
She used large sunflower/daisy cutters, and small blossoms.
She even did the funky style lettering on her own. We may have to open a branch in the big city next year, when she is living away from home!

Happy Birthday Ayelet - hope this year is as sweet as can be! And since the summer has begun, let's hope we can all keep our cool...

Imma (Dvora)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Sugar Cookies Make Everything More Fun

It's true; they really do. Proof?

For starters, this Rosh Chodesh treat platter is more fun with a Chodesh Tov message, on a sefer Torah in honor of the month of Sivan.
This anniversary platter is a celebration in sugar - decorated sugar cookies tell beloved parents how much their children care. The cookies underneath will get eaten, but I have a feeling (past experience) that the sugar cookies will be cherished for a long time to come.
All of these cookies were in the shape of a sefer Torah, to celebrate a chanukat habayit and hachnasat sefer Torah at a new shul in a nearby city. The linzer cookies, thin mint sandwiches, lemon curd sandwiches, and sugar cookie ganache sandwiches are all enhanced by the Torah shape, while the closed scroll sugar cookies feature a metallic gold keter Torah - a little bling for a good cause.


Ninety Years Young

You are never too old for a fun birthday cake. Case in point, this young at heart grandmother - can you guess how old she is?

Okay, maybe that picture (and the title of this post) was too much of a hint. But yes, this is a ninetieth birthday cake.
Pretty darned impressive - no traditional flowers and bows for this bobie (one of the many spelling variations for the Yiddish term for grandmother - sure glad I double checked the spelling with the client!). She got stripes and polka dots in yellow and shades of purple, on a background of lilac buttercream.

The cake inside was two layers of moist chocolate cake, filled with fluffy vanilla cream. Almost like a devil dog. But with the added bonus of frosting on top.

Hope this was a wonderful birthday! Ad meah v'esrim in health and happiness.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Not Good-bye, but See You Later - L'hitraot!

When a family comes here for the year, often it extends to two, three, four years, or maybe just forever. But sometimes a year is just that; a wonderful year of experiences and adventures, then a return to the old life. For one such family, dear friends were made, friends who wanted to make sure that the good times were not soon forgotten, perhaps in the hopes that a return visit would be sooner rather than later. What better way to let them know that they would be missed, than with a cake?! I had a good time making the components for this cake - it involved a combination of cutting, molding, and painting, so I was really feeling creatively challenged, and satisfied.

The top of the cake was graced with the logo for our fine yishuv, and the message "L'hitraot" - "we will see each other," or "Til we meet again."What is Israel without the national snack, falafel? And you can't forget the beautiful beaches, especially since many, many months of the year are beach weather.And of course, there is the Kotel, and the flag - two unforgettable symbols.The inside of the cake was chocolate chip cake with chocolate filling - all in all, a truly memorable way to end a terrific year.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Check out the new logo!

If you look up - not to the sky, but to the top of this page - you will see the lovely logo redesign that my daughter made for me. I love that incorporates the original flower/bee concept, but with cookies that I am known for. She also included a version of the cupcake painting she made for my kitchen. Love it! Shana did an unbelievable job of drawing on the computer; her new tablet-pen plug in has made her very happy. I hope you will all enjoy the new view, and if you are ever in need of some freelance design, you will call on her! Thanks for looking!

Sleep is overrated

I guess Lag B'Omer isn't just a night for bonfires and barbeques. It is an all clear signal to start the simcha season. And what simcha does not need dessert? So it has been a very hectic couple of weeks, and not yet slowing down. I am about to throw several pictures at you to illustrate the very first part of the holiday rush - I hope you don't mind!
Let's start with an easy one, a sheva brachot.
The hostess served a variety of cookies, including heart-shaped thin mint sandwiches, chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies, ginger crinkles, chocolate-caramel filled sugar cookie sandwiches, and linzer cookies. They also serveda lot of lemon squares.

Another sheva brachot held on the same night was a giant step to the formal. Having had no wedding cake at the wedding, the parents of the bride wanted a very wedding-like cake. We went with an all white decoration of various flowers and a monogram on a cake of alternating chocolate and vanilla layers. Shana had a great time working onthe sugar flowers while we all pretended we were working in Carlo's bake shop.

The sides were decorated with Swiss dots (I don't know what makes them Swiss, but hey, I will just throw around the terminology) and a bead border on top and bottom.

Another fun cake was this l'chaim cake,

a tall, 4 layer white cake, filled with alternating layers of lemon curd (world's most perfect food, I could wax rhapsodic on its merits for hours, but I digress) and buttercream, covered with more buttercream and fondant blossoms.

Next post will continue with more tempting photos; til then, let's all try to get some sleep!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Can cheaters ever prosper?

You all have probably read my theory on cutting corners by now - if you haven't, and it is a whole lotta words, here's a synopsis: I don't like it. I don't like pre-made components in my baking, but let's face it: we all have to sleep sometime. Last Shabbat was Ayelet's (English) 15th birthday, and though her birthday Shabbat celebration with friends will take place for her Hebrew birthday, she still needed - if not deserved - an acknowledgement of the event. This was not the time or place for a fancy birthday cake, but a Boston cream pie would suffice nicely, thank you very much.(We all share a nostalgic fondness for Dunkin Donuts Boston creams, whether or not we actually liked them in the flesh. The idea is what counts here.) My cake recipe, while requiring the whipping of the egg whites, comes together rather quickly (some other time I will tell you why I feel obligated to hand whip the meringue here, as soon as I come up with a valid, non-crazy reason). But pastry cream on Friday afternoon after a nearly-no-sleep Thursday night was not happening. Enter the mysteriously shelf-stable pareve vanilla cream I happened to have in the pantry. Make a little ganache, and voila! You have a really yummy dessert with a minimum of fuss, not to mention a 15 year old who is reasonably happy and even grateful for her b-day dessert. But if you are looking for a picture, you will have to try Google. I can either make cake or take pictures. They ain't both happening!

But as a consolation prize, I will offer you a few pictures.

A six inch birthday cake for a very lucky daddy. Chocolate chip cake, chocolate filling, light blue vanilla buttercream, fondant stripes and polka dots in shades of blue.The six inch is such a cute size, perfect for a small family celebration, or as a tier on top of a larger cake, or even to crown a cupcake tower.Shabbat platters, some with special touches, also kept me busy. This was for the Shabban Kallah in anticipation of the marriage of Edit and Lior.A similar assortment graced the kiddush table of the Sheva brachot for Yoni and Suzy. I was feeling all kinds of Cake Boss-y, and chose a cke design I really liked, then translated it into cookie.Here is a close-up of the wedding cake cookie. Mazal tov!

This week's assortment looked pretty darned good too! Glazed lemon cookie,s oatmeal fudge bars, chai shortbread sandwiches, cherry chocolate chunk cookies, and cinnamon squares.

So in short, while I may have cheated a little on the birthday girl's cake, I think we all prospered. Lots of cookies and cakes got baked and decorated, we enjoyed our shortcut cake, and Ayelet knew she was being celebrated. I guess ordering sushi for seuda shlishit didn't hurt either. And sometimes it's okay to let someone else take a little of the burden whether it's the sushi guy, the pre-made filling, or anything else, as long as you are honest about it.


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