Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Ain't No Foolin' Around (+ a Gluten-Free Birthday Cake Recipe)

Monday was my birthday.

Which means I did what any reasonable person did: I fantasized about cake for months.

Full disclosure: if I weren't gluten-free, I probably would have ordered a fancy-smancy cake for myself from some fancy-smancy bakery. But, heh, as good as Kansas City is with the gluten-free, it's not that good.

Good thing I like to bake.

(Oh yeah, me. Not Aaron. You heard that right.)

Criteria for a only-girl-in-the-house's birthday cake: it must be pink; and multiple layers; and good.

Aaron got home from his business trip late Sunday night (lucky man), and then home after 8pm on my birthday (not-so-lucky-man) (I will not discuss the projectile vomiting Emerson did around 7pm, after I gave him the tiniest smidge of buttercream frosting) (oops), so cake was served late.

Gluten-free Vanilla Birthday Cake with Vanilla-Cherry & Chocolate Buttercreams

Vanilla Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons xantham gum
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 3/4 cups gluten-free flour mix*

Preheat the oven to 350; butter and line two 9 inch circle cake pans (or if you have a smaller size, whatever) with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer (or large bowl), cream butter and sugar until fluffy, scrape down the sides. Add the eggs one-by-one, vanilla, and milk: once you add the milk it will look like cottage cheese and this is totally fine, don't worry. (Welcome to gluten-free baking!)

Scrape down the sides, and sprinkle in the salt, baking powder, xantham gum, and corn starch; scrape down the sides again (dude, I know). In small batches, sprinkle in the gluten-free flour until fully incorporated. Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides, and incorporate any remaining bits by hand. Divide the batter between the two cake pans and bake 20 - 25 minutes, or until slightly golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

*I prefer to use King Arthur's All Purpose Gluten-free Flour mix (and I only wish I could be paid for saying such a thing)

Cherry-Vanilla Buttercream
(I made a 3/4 batch for this cake, a full batch would have made for a prettier cake)

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 to 8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup half & half or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon (or more!) of maraschino cherry syrup

In a large bowl (preferably of a standing mixer), beat butter until light and fluffy, two or three minutes. Scrape the bowl, add one cup of powdered sugar and salt, and mix. Add vanilla and cherry syrup to half & half or cream, and slowly add to butter/sugar mixture. It will look awful, it's okay. Trust me.

On low, slowly add 1/4 cup scoops of powdered sugar; add more sugar and mix until desired consistency. If the frosting looks watery, add more sugar. Transfer to another bowl, if you are making the chocolate buttercream afterwards.

Note: If you want it pink without the cherry, do it how you like it! But if you are adding syrup be sure to use at least half & half or heavy cream, not milk, because milk + syrup = too much water, not enough fat. (I found the cherry syrup in the local grocery with - of all things - maple syrups.)

Chocolate Buttercream
(I made a half-batch of this for my birthday cake)

1 pound semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled (I use Ghiradelli brand)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup hot water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 to 3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk together cocoa powder and hot water, set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and one cup powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, salt and cocoa-water mixture. Slowly add melted chocolate chips.

Slowly add more powdered sugar until it's at a consistency and sweetness you like. You can also put the mixture in the fridge and beat occasionally.

If you beat the mixture a little, you will have a dark, dense, rich chocolate frosting (like in photos). If you over beat you will have a light, fluffy, whipped chocolate mixture. Make it how you like it.

You ready for cake? Let's finish!

Split the two 9-inch cakes in two width-wise, to end up with four cakes. Put the top of one cake upside-down on your platter, surround with strips of parchment paper (unless you like the frosting-everywhere look; in which case, go on with your bad self!).

Put some cherry-vanilla buttercream in a frosting bag (or do what I did, put some in a plastic bag and snip a corner off), and outline the outside of the cake with the pink frosting (this prevents chocolate buttercream from seeping out the sides). Spread chocolate frosting in the center. Place the other half of the cake on top of the frostings, smush down. Repeat the layers, then frost the outside in the cherry-vanilla buttercream.

Then have your children decorate with sprinkles.

Then you go have yourself some birthday cake too.

(Both Griffin and Aaron have birthdays in February and they are already plotting what they want.)
(Hold me.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Like a Boss

I always get a little slap happy (confession: a lot slap happy) when Aaron works his crazy-ass schedule and, especially, when he travels.

We're on day nine of a not-yet-time-determined trip.

Which explains why I sing this all day (alert: not safe for work, not safe to play around the kids - but you can get by with the first 30 seconds to get the gist) .

make breakfast LIKE A BOSS

feed the dog LIKE A BOSS

do the laundry LIKE A BOSS

send emails LIKE A BOSS

scrape the van LIKE A BOSS

drop off kids LIKE A BOSS

do some shoppin' LIKE A BOSS

forget apples LIKE A BOSS

make some coffee LIKE A BOSS

update files LIKE A BOSS

sort spreadsheets LIKE A BOSS

make a sippy LIKE A BOSS

change a diaper LIKE A BOSS

wash my hands LIKE A BOSS

go up the stairs LIKE A BOSS

trip on the last step LIKE A BOSS

See? I can go on and on.

edit photos LIKE A BOSS

answer the phone LIKE A BOSS

build a fort LIKE A BOSS

wash peppers LIKE A BOSS

slice peppers LIKE A BOSS

eat pepper slices LIKE A BOSS

Oy. See? Out. of. my. damn. mind.

publish this post LIKE A BOSS

Thursday, January 05, 2012

To the End, Always the End

Sitting at the table, with pieces of broken gluten-free pretzels...

"Mine, mine, mine. Ky-wee. Mine. Ky-wee."

There's no question where Kylie the not-really-a-puppy-but-we-still-call-her-a-puppy's weight gain is coming from.

(We won't discuss where my weight gain is coming from.)


Tuesday, January 03, 2012

It Sounds Like a Whisper

Happy new year to you.

I keep flipping between excited and nervous for a new year. I feel it in my bones, this year will be different (and hey, maybe in part that will mean conquering some of the hoarding tendencies in this house) (I sure do hope so).

We have a lot of changing already happening, none within our control. It's becoming a strap-on-your-shoes-and-do-some-ass-kicking moment. I feel like I kick enough ass as it is, thanks, but apparently more needs to be tackled. So tackle it I (and we) will.

But in the between, I'm looking to the light, to the hope for happiness and ultimately the best outcome for my family. To three smiling little faces who wrestle and scream and run in the house, who chase the dog and tickle each other and join me in my crazy kitchen dance parties.

It's an adventure, this crazy little life.