Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baby Shower: Safari Style

It's that time of year when we do lots of showers. This was the first one of the season, for my good friend who is having a boy. I haven't done a boy baby shower in a long time, so I had to come up with food that was a bit more "manly." Okay, so it's not really man food since all the guests are women, but even still, it was fun to mix it up a bit.

We chose a safari theme, and so we used lots of cute animals (provided by my amazing sis-in-law) as table decor. Of course, we used the kind of animals that babies eat, not the kind that eat babies.Here's a view of the buffet line. Go ahead. Help yourself.Here's a view from the other side. I tried to decorate with baskets and tan/sage green for a color scheme. We served fresh homemade rolls with honey butter or garlic butter,chicken skewers in either a barbecue or Jamaican jerk sauce,a savory ham cheesecake served with crackers, fruit skewers flavored in a simple syrup and lime zest (thanks to another amazing sis-in-law), a fabulous green salad, zebra and tiger brownies, and white chocolate and orange flavored cake balls.

Delightful. Delectable. Delicious. Oh, how I love baby showers and all the yummy food. These showers are a lot of work, and yes, I probably should just buy everything ready-made at Costco. But, I love trying new recipes, and I hope these recipes are new for the guests as well.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

You may remember that I took a cake decorating class a little while back. The sole purpose of this class was to learn how to make cute cakes for my children's birthday parties.

Sadly, I must report that one class was not enough, because my most recent cakes so did not turn out as I expected. Then again, maybe the problem is that the creative genius in my head far outpaces what my hands can actually create. I have grand visions of how I think my cake might turnout, and it comes out mediocre at best. Oh well, at least my little girl liked her birthday cakes.

The Good
First, I made a cake for my sister's birthday. This one actually turned out quite well, if I do say so myself. She requested Better-Than-Whatever-Cake. (Yes, this cake has other names.) I myself call it Skor Cake since I don't think it even tastes all that great. Chocolate. Love it! Caramel. Love it! There must just be something about the caramel. It tastes like can, and I just can't get past that.

Since I had instructions to make this cake, I figured I might as well play with it a bit. Instead of a boring old 9x13 flat cake, I baked it in two 8-inch round pans. (Thanks, Audrey, for the inspiration on that one.)

I mixed the sweetened condensed milk and caramel like the recipe instructed, but I halved the milk, hoping it would taste less like can. I also let the caramel sit with the cake overnight, still in the cake pans.

When it came to get the cake out, it was a cinch since I used parchment paper to line the bottom of the pans. So, I had two perfectly round, rich, and caramel-soaked layers. That wasn't enough. I cut each layer in two, width-wise, making four total layers. The inside layers of the cake were put together with a whipped chocolate ganache, and then the whole cake was covered with whipped topping.

I only put the crushed Skor bars on the sides of the cake for visual effect, and then I used some melted chocolate chips and butter to write the words on the cake.

The Bad
For my daughter's birthday, I knew one cake wouldn't be enough. Chocolate was of course the answer, and I can usually turn out a pretty good cake. Too bad it was dry! I don't even know what happened. I tried to salvage it with lots of ganache, but even that turned out a little off. I was left with a slightly misshapen, dry, unexciting cake.

As a last ditch effort, I used the white chocolate to make it look like a spider's web. At least the focus shifted to the spider and not the actual cake.

Don't worry, I still helped myself to this bad cake.

The Ugly
This cake was supposed to be the big deal--the themed cake for the party. Somehow, I hoped it would turn out better.

First off, I tried to color the fondant using food coloring. I was going for brown, but what I got was peach. I knew it would be tricky to get the color just right, but I didn't want to buy the actual brown color. (Hello. If I want something to look brown, I'll just use chocolate, thank you very much.)

So, I ended up with the peach fondant, but luckily it was mostly covered by the crushed graham cracker crumbs. I had trouble getting it to stick to the fondant, even though I brushed the whole cake with sticky sugar water. The first layer of crumbs looked great, but I tried to add another layer. Not great.

Finally, after being a bit discouraged about how it turned out. I let it sit overnight without getting a picture of it. The next morning, I came down to find that my daughter had already been downstairs and left her mark on the cake--a series of finger poke holes in the side. Gah! It was already ugly enough.

Surprisingly, a lot of people liked this cake. The inside was a funfetti cake with rainbow chip frosting (a yummy alternative to chocolate). I thought everyone would just peel off the fondant layer with the crumbs in it, but I think most people ate it. (Yes, it is edible. The fondant is just marshmallows.) I guess it must have been a good flavor combination.

In summary, I have a lot more learning to do. Maybe I'll get it down by the time the kids are grown. At least it always turns out better than store-bought cake (unless we're talking about Costco's American Chocolate Cake.)