Makin’ Other People’s Stuff

Several weeks ago, Marv made the observation that we never had a wedding cake. I really couldn’t believe that he didn’t remember the cake that he made, considering I clearly remember looking up to see the top layers slowly gaining speed as they slid off their base. Doing the whole wedding reception ourselves had seemed like a good idea. (We tend to do things like this.) For some reason, we also wanted to have it where we lived, in an illegal loft space in ghetto central, with bullet holes through the windows, prostitutes on the street and whatnot. We even briefly considered having a bbq out on the roof but there was no telling who or what would be wandering through the alley so we decided to have Sunday brunch inside. (Prostitutes, pushers and pimps generally sleep in on Sundays. Preachers have somewhere else to be. The street would be relatively hassle free for our people.)

Yep, this sign was in the alley. It is my all time favorite handmade sign. (This one is a close second.)

Regardless of our highly questionable logic, we did have the skills to pull this off. Marv had recently retired (at age 27) from being a chef. At his last cooking job he worked 80 – 100 hour weeks for almost a year at a bakery/cafe and had proven that he could cook brunch in his sleep – with a crazy woman screaming at him if need be. But not this crazy woman. I was running around getting everything else but food done. Oh, and it was 105°f out. I was having problems just wearing clothes, therefore generating more heat by screaming was absolutely out of the question.

Marv was a rock. Not only did he crank out a half dozen different kinds of muffins, several salads and sandwiches (on bread he baked, of course) but he also took on making a flourless almond cake he was going to make for a wedding while at the bakery. The wedding got called off, so he never made it and when we decided to do the reception ourselves, he said he wanted to make the cake that got away. My response was, “Dude, you’re doing the baking, make what you want.” Little did I know that chocolate ganache + 105°f = very slidey cake.

The cake got caught before sliding off completely, Marv slammed a knife into the center of it so that it wouldn’t go anywhere else and then I started forcing people to eat it. (It was really tasty, but it was just far to hot to eat anything.) And 13 years later, Marv has forgotten the whole thing. When reminded, all he said was, “That was a chocolate cake. Wedding cakes are supposed to be white.”

Fine, my love, I’ll bake you a cake. I’m not a cake person, though. I like pie. So, I wandered around the internet trying to find a recipe for a white cake that didn’t look horrible to me. I found a recipe for an Italian Wedding Cake It was packed with coconut and pecans in a nice buttermilk batter. Before making it I decided that even if I didn’t enjoy it I could enjoy decorating it, something I’ve never tried before. (Oh, and it was quite good.)

Ta da! It’s a decorated cake!  (I’m the penguin on the right.)

I found making these little curly qs very relaxing.

The other stuff I’ve been making of late is from the Minnesota Cooks website. The way I designed that website was to have photo collages on the left side which also work as the navigation. The problem is that this year, there weren’t many photos of the food available for me, which means that 1/3rd of the navigation is missing. I’m trying to fill in the navigation which means following some recipes.

For me, recipes are a guideline at best a hindrance at worst. On the other hand, I’ve also pretty much taught myself how to cook by following recipes and then trying to figure out what went right, what went wrong and why. So, when faced with the project of making completely random items, from totally disparate sources which have basically not been tested or edited there was a wide open door for something unexpected.

Jim Kyndberg’s Citrus Pound Cake with Blueberry Compote marched right through that door. Not only was it absolutely gorgeous, but the combination and density of flavors was really damn good. The cake itself was really light and airy with a lovely citrus flavor that didn’t hit you over the head. I highly recommend it.

I did modify the blueberry compote slightly, it was so close to the one I make that I just did it my way. The changes are very slight, I just substituted pomegranate balsamic vinegar for the port. And the only other, ever so slight change was that rather than crème frâiche I used crema agria (we had some in the frige.) Since I knew just how strong a concoction the compote is, I was startled by how well it complimented and contrasted with the lightness of the cake. I was a seriously happy cooker.

The second recipe that was unexpected was Lisa Durkee’s Rhubarb Raisin Walnut Scones. I’ve had enough experience working with recipes that use whole wheat flour with yogurt that I know what a delicate balance it is and genuinely expected these scones to be awful. Happily, they were good.

They were moist, flavorful and healthy without taking the health bit too far. Because of the way she used butter to treat the flour at the start, they even stayed moist for several days. The only thing that I changed was that I added in an extra egg to help them coagulate and stay moist. (I’m a little paranoid.) Good as they were, if I make them again, I would: a) use more rhubarb, b) scoop out 1/2 – 1 c of batter to make little rounds (they were way too big), and c) sprinkle the tops with brown sugar rather than white.

One nice thing about the recipe was that it has suggestions for changing the ingredients for what’s in season.

The last recipe I’m going to mention is Lenny Russo’s Mushroom Bisque with Garlic Chive Sour Cream it was really good, however, I modified the recipe a bit. I knew the recipe the way it was would be too rich for me, my stomach gets pissed off at such things, so I eliminated the the cooking butter for the potatoes and exchanged most of the cream for milk. Before serving I stirred in a 1/4 c of cream. It was a very nice soup. I wish I could say how it compares to the actual recipe – but I can’t. Sorry!


3 thoughts on “Makin’ Other People’s Stuff

  1. i’m not much of a cake person either (i always prefer the icing), but i would never push away a slab of either of the ones you’ve made here. the scones ain’t too shabby, either. 🙂

    i’ve missed your gorgeous photography!

  2. I was googling for recipes online when I came across your blog. I ended up not finding what I was looking for but I don’t mind. not at all. My god…what am amazing portfolio! and such beautiful food photography!

  3. Grace – Thank you so much! (I wouldn’t push it away either, that cake was good.)

    Christine – That’s so good to hear. Thank you so much for the support! It really means a lot to me. Thanks!

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