they’re all growed up

lately, my posts have been a bit sporadic and i apologize to all of you who follow this blog.  you may recall me mentioning my book-the actual purpose for starting this blog (once it was finished, i moved on to pies) and the publication of that book.  well, it’s out there and doing well.  it is fun to look it up on amazon and see the ranking-i frequently find it in the top 3 for pies along with martha stewart’s pie book.  curious?   look here and scroll down to see the ranking.  some of the media events for the book have made my schedule a little tight and that is only part of the reason for my late posts.

the real reason i have not been keeping up is that suddenly, my nest is empty.  we have two wonderful daughters and this past summer, both of them graduated; one from college and one from high school.  it has been a summer full of family and parties and i have enjoyed every minute and every opportunity to see extended family from out of state.  there was tons of food and lots of baking and plenty of good wine to wash it down.  but now that our first has moved and settled in atlanta, our second is preparing to fly west; she leaves today.  and as every parent will tell you, you work so hard to get them ready for all that life will throw at them but when the time comes, letting them field the balls is the hardest thing you will ever do.  so with a little motherly worry, i will let her go.  the good thing is that she won’t be totally on her own, she will be with her grandparents.

on our last day together (until she comes home again in about 8 weeks), we did things that she likes to do.  her favorite thing-eat cupcakes!  we went to the cupcake collection and had our fill.

the cupcake collection

the cupcake collection is located in the germantown neighborhood of north nashville in an old victorian house that has been renovated to accommodate a busy bakery.  the staff is friendly and will answer your questions cheerfully.  best part-the cupcakes are only $1.50 each.  let that sink in a minute.  i fully expected to pay about $3 each and was a bit surprised.  then i realized that is why we waited in line-people come from all around the area to buy them at this price.  but the best part is that they are actually baked from scratch-music to a pastry chefs ears!!!  i’ve been to several cupcake shops and one used mixes-they were awful, one used tall towers of frosting to make the cupcakes seem gigantic and they were nothing special.  so when i tasted these-i was totally impressed and completely sold.  from now on, when it’s cupcakes, it’s the cupcake collection or make them myself!

my daughter and the loot-she picked out 6 different flavors to try

and i hadn’t even gotten the car out of park before she dove in and ate her cookies and cream cupcake.  at one point, she let out the familiar “no way!”  when i inquired, she told me the middle was filled with frosting too-what more does a teenage girl need?

so having fed her dessert first, i then took her to lunch and then home to bake a pie.  yes a pie.  last week, our older daughter was home and i baked a pie with her as well.  so my next two posts will be about baking pies with my daughters. for now, here’s more about the fabulous cupcakes.

so, i know what i like-carrot cake.  i very rarely get a piece of it so when i saw the cupcakes, i had to have one.  we also came home with a wedding cake, chocolate, red velvet and strawberry.

as you can see, they use real ingredients-those are carrots and raisins.  and what looked like not enough frosting was actually more than i needed-but don’t think for a minute that i didn’t enjoy the freshly mixed cream cheese frosting…so if you’re in the neighborhood, check them out and if not, make some and share them with your kids(if you have them).  trust me time flies and before you know it, you will be watching them fly away…

knee deep in cookies

the “flood of 2010” (the new marketing moniker for our weather event), is being upstaged by a renegade band of cookies and cookie monsters at my house. it all started with a song. no it didn’t or, oh never mind-it all has begun to blend…so far, this has been my favorite group of recipes to work on. i am sure that i could eat my weight in cookies. this said, it was easy to concoct cookie recipes for the cafe and my sweet tooth. the hard part was not stuffing myself full of them.

from the top left on the dark plate, going clockwise: blondies, strawberry jam bars, magic bars,
oatmeal peach, chocolate cherry cha chas, snickerdoodles, wicked brownies and in the center-lemon bars.

my version of the seven layer bars, also known as hello dollies. coconut, walnuts, chocolate chips and white chocolate chips mixed into sweetened condensed milk and slathered on top of a cookie crumb crust. in this case, the crumbs are home made biscotti crumbs. why, cause that’s how we do it at the cafe!
jesse gave me his mama’s wicked brownie recipe and i tweeked it a bit, sorry mama…these didn’t last long at the house
strawberry jam bars are so easy to make that even carol fay would make them at home to give as gifts. (i say that because she did not like to bake at all-except the biscuits!) oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans in a crumbly crust with our home made strawberry preserves. these make frequent appearances at the cafe
what do you do when someone has a baking mishap with 10# of granola? you make peanut butter cookies then add granola and chocolate chips-what more could you possibly need?
and if cookies weren’t enough, i made some dr. pepper cupcakes with chocolate frosting.
my kitchen table and all of the various boxes, tins and containers holding the cookies and cupcakes. i don’t mind being knee deep in cookies, at least i can’t drown.

the party’s over for tipsy cakes

the end was in sight; only one more test run on the chocolate tipsy cakes and i could finally scratch them off the list. i had had just about all i could stand of drunken cakes in my kitchen and i was looking forward to sobriety. then i realized that i was all out of booze and i would have to head out to the local liquor store. that seems like an easy fix. the only hitch, it was 7 am and i’m thinking it was a little early to shop for booze. i cleaned the house instead. at precisely 10, i ventured out to the store for the bottle of bourbon i needed.
if you ever need to purchase booze in the morning, be prepared to be scrutinized. and if you think it’s funny to refer to that bottle of bourbon as the breakfast of champions, don’t be surprised if the man behind the counter looks at you with doubt in his eyes. and another thing you may want to remember, explaining that you just want to bake a cake with it won’t change that look much either. so there you have it, my trip to the store for booze and my lame attempt at comedy with the man behind the counter. the fact that i told him that i didn’t need anything real high end since i was baking with it was just fuel for the fire. when i finally asked him how many ounces were in the bottle, i knew i was pushing my luck but it may have been what saved me. i actually started calculating tablespoons and ounces and i think he finally believed me, kinda, sorta, maybe-maybe not. he did ring me up and take my card so i got out of there while the getting was still good!
the last batch of the troublesome little buggers. suffice it to say, we have all climbed on the wagon and are now behaving ourselves.
coconut-you either love it or hate it. i like it, a lot. and these crispy/chewy confections are like heaven! coconut chews, mmmmmmmm
so thanks to our first lady, victory gardens are all the rage. well, i have had a large garden for a while now and making a cake that features things i grow in my garden is logical. for the first test, i baked the victory garden cupcakes as a bundt. it has lots of carrots, zucchini, apples and walnuts. and for those of you that are curious, i will have zucchini in the garden, carrots are a possibility and if we are lucky this year, our apple tree will produce a few fruits and finding walnuts is as simple as walking through the neighborhood to find a tree.
the final run on the victory garden cupcakes, as actual cupcakes no less. for this occasion, i pulled a few of my favorite mugs out to take the place of a cake stand. don’t you just love thrift stores? i never know what i will find.

mmm, strawberries…

you know that spring has sprung when you see strawberries on sale in the grocery store. this is especially true around easter. i have moved on from cakes to cupcakes this week and first up is strawberry. strawberry cake is a traditional offering in the south. many birthday and wedding cakes are flavored with strawberry but not many use the real deal-fresh strawberry puree. this recipe does! i gathered up my scoops, my favorite tool for making muffins, cookies and cupcakes, and started scooping out the batter.

if you go to the grocery store, you can find the little paper cups in a couple sizes and sometimes in different colors or foil. i wanted the little mini cup liners and all they had were decorated with swirls in green. for the two other sizes, standard muffin and giant, i used plain white paper.

out of the oven and on the rack to cool, these will get dressed with a strawberry buttercream. another wonderful recipe that uses fresh strawberry puree. it is so easy to make and it tastes so much better when compared to the sludge sold in the plastic tubs in the baking aisle.
a nice long whipping time allows lots of air to be incorporated and makes the frosting nice and light. (i’m ignoring the snickers, what you do on your time is your business-me, i prefer to beat the hell out of a bowl of frosting…)
by using a piping bag, the frosting job is a quick and easy one that anyone can do-yes even you with a little practice.
lots of pretty little cupcakes in different sizes all from one bowl of batter and one batch of frosting.