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The Feng Shui of Baking a Cake

23 Aug

Dear Zoe,

You remember that look you gave me over skype the other day, when I told you I was learning about feng shui?  Well, get over yourself.  And just to annoy you further, here is a post about a cake I made, analyzed using feng shui principles.

xoxo, The Dark Turtle (Emma)

Ok, this post isn’t really about feng shui.  But it is about the color red, and I will mention that I mad this cake in the part of my kitchen that represents fame & reputation, which is associated with this very color.  I’d like to think that making this cake was a chi cure for my aspirations as of late, but that has yet to be proven successful.

Seeing red.

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Melons in the Midwest

18 Jul


Dear Emma,

Honeydew melons remind me of you and of childhood. They flash me back to Stringtown Grocery with its gas-lamps and Amish ladies selling peaches, apricots, Muscatine melons and honeydews in bulk. Then rattling home in the “way-back” over country gravel roads, pretending that we were driving the car backwards while dust filtered in through the cracks in the van.

Our friendship, which spans the whole of both of our lives, is so engrained in my own history that I can’t help but be reminded of it all the time. Especially while standing at the grocery mulling over melons.

xoxo, Zoe

I worked briefly at a French restaurant in Milwaukee. During my two-month tenure of 10 shifts a week, I would wake up every morning, fling myself out of bed and immediately fall over. My feet were tingling stumps, an odd combination of numb, swollen and on pins and needles.

The evening kitchen was manned by a chef, a true Frenchman with a growling accent, a cloudy disposition, and an allergy to any politesse. The female servers were salopes and his male kitchen help had an equally endearing nickname (dumbfu*k). Though I made less money, I preferred working lunch shifts because the Frenchman was at home in bed.

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Happy Wedding my friends!

3 Jul


Dear Nina and Becky,

I am supposed to write a blog about making your wedding cake, and somehow it seems like this is a harder task than making the cake itself.

The original theme I settled on for this post was, “Sweet tooth satisfied yet?” as it lent itself naturally to baking metaphors to describe your love ratification. Unfortunately, my first attempt was full of words like, tender, sweet, and moist (as in my eyes were the whole dang weekend…). My sentences came out (dare I say it?) well, gooey.

It is absolutely true. Your ceremony was tenderly sweet. There was not a dry eye in the house, and I know I was not the only one full to the brim with tender, sweet, gooey love while watching you together. xoxo Zoe

I realize now, that the self-doubting tone I took in my previous cake posts here, here, and honestly here too, was not the best way for me to put my friends at ease about their wedding cake. I’m a big baby whiner, but I always had complete faith that the cake would work out in the end.

Yes there were a few surprises along the way. Yes, my super duper awesome baking strips and frosting knife stood me up and decided to party at the post office instead. Yes, I did leave all of my recipes at home. Yes, the pans were 2 inches deep instead of the 1 inch I had prepared for, so all of my recipe calculations were wrong anyway, and also yes, being stubborn and anxious I did overfill the first cake pan (to the brim!), causing a sickly sweet, smokey mess in the oven.

But no matter because Cape Cod is a magical wonderland. It is the kind of place where you can use a stealth canoe to sneak up on your friends and spring upon them with yelps and ukuleles. Continue reading

Summer Solstice with Sally (and Brunhilde) = Savory Satisfaction

21 Jun

Dear Emma,

Your cherry-rhubarb preserves look incredible – what a perfect favor for your guests!  When Nina and I had our love-ratification party, we gave everyone seed bombs – little packages of three clay-and-dirt balls with seeds inside which you can throw anywhere and flowers will sprout.  Unfortunately, we forgot to explain this to anyone, which is how my poor cousin Suzie ended up trying to eat one!  Yours look much more self-explanatory.  Looking forward to hearing all about your adventures in party planning.

Love and luck!


About one week from today last year, and the year before that, and the one before it, I get a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach that summer is passing and I haven’t been paying enough attention.

For today is that dependable day when the sun seems like it might spend the night. It’s still bright at 8:00 and by 9:00 twilight is still lingering and all the little children are giving their parents a hard time because the sun is still up and the big children are still outside yelling and running around and why can’t I?

Today is the summer solstice.

And so, in the desperation to cling to summer like there is no summer tomorrow, Nina and I sacrificed most of a perfectly good work day to create the ultimate homage to the longest day of the year: BBQ.

And not just BBQ…

also strawberry shortcake!

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Eggs-treme Cooking Part I: Angel Food Cake

23 Apr

Dear PvPF Sisters of Mercy,

Please kindly save me from my own tendencies toward self-destruction via blind ambition.

Faithfully Yours,


A is for Angel

Soooo.  I’m pretty good at back-bending.  I’ve always been pretty naturally flexible, but I swear that’s my only physical ability.  Everything else I pretty much suck at.  One day in a yoga workshop my teacher asked me to demonstrate a simple back bend for the class.  I sprang from my belly into Locust pose, and everyone oo’ed and ah’ed, as my teacher explained the connection between physical posture and personality.  He said that my natural back-bending ability indicated that I am a person with high ambition.  Wha?!?   I’m not sure how a person who sleeps upwards of 1o-11 hours per night and feels accomplished if she leaves the house can be considered ambitious.  Regardless, I may be overly modest in this case–as I now prepare to describe my incredible feat of recently devouring 12 whole eggs in a single bound of deliciousness. Continue reading

A Crumby Start…

11 Apr

Dear Nina and Becky,

Here is my dark confession.  I guess I’m looking for someone to blame right now.  I feel something happening inside me right now and even if  the rest of humanity does not understand, no one can convince me that I’ve made it up.  Like a monkey who’s bored in the zoo and starts throwing his feces at the voyeurs, I just want to throw my blame somewhere!  WOW.  I’m not sure where that simile came from, but I’m blaming it on my sugar high, and that, my friends, I am blaming on you.  But I loves you both anywayz.  XOXO, Zoe

In order to teach myself to bake a decent cake for the Nina and Bec’s wedding; I’ve been using every excuse in the book to bake a cake.  Roommate/Bestie’s birthday?  Yes, let’s bake a cake.  Rommate’s coworker-who-I’ve-never-met’s birthday?  Yes, let’s bake a cake.  Guy on the street talking to the tree says it’s his birthday?  Well, why not?  Let’s bake a cake!

So the ladies have requested a strawberry cake; something white and fluffy with fresh little tangy berry-jewels dotting the layers.  It’s a beautiful idea, but this party-pooper veto’d it, when she instead imagined a soggy, strawberry-soaked Leaning Tower of Pisa wedding cake.  I suggested that we instead try the beautiful Pink Lady Cake from Smitten Kitchen.

The cake looked so delightfully pink, and with strawberry essence and cream cheese frosting absolutely nothing could go wrong!  Oops.  This wasn’t the biggest cake disaster – (no one complained about having to eat it, except me after my 3rd piece).  Then again, something just didn’t go all the way right.

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Nueva Yorkie, Bunnies and Sugar

3 Mar

Dear Nina and Becky,

You know that I’m excited for your wedding, right?  Like super, “pee-my-pants” kind of excited, where I’m going to be hopping from one foot to the other in anticipation for the next…ooooh, three months.  I’d like to reiterate what I also expressed to you over Skype. Mainly that I am equally “pee-my-pants” terrified for your wedding, because you geniuses asked me to make a wedding cake for you.  Take a look at the photos below, and take this opportunity to second guess yourselves.  Xoxo,  Zoe

Radioactive Rainbow of Sugar

So last weekend I made a last-minute trip to New York.  With four three-day weekends within the span of two months, it was practically a requirement that I get out of town and with my options limited to places with free lodging and Chinatown transport, New York it was.  Plus, there are some real quality people who live there and a shot adrenaline and sometimes good shot of three-day old urine fumes is just what the doctor ordered.  Continue reading