Friday, February 25, 2011

Rainy Day Rum Cakes

Rain, rain, go away.  And that goes for you too, snow.

It was a drizzly, gross day here in Middletown.  We're counting down the days until Spring Break, dreaming of beaches and better weather.  Unfortunately, I won't be going anywhere warm this break, so I really don't have any tropical vacation to look forward to in order to pull me out of the rainy day blues.  I do, however, have a birthday cake to make.

My friend Ericka turned 21 this week, so you know what that means- a boozy birthday cake!  My solution to combining a birthday, pre-Spring Break excitement, and rainy day blues?  Mini tropical rum cakes, of course!

Before I tell you about the cakes, I need to tell a little anecdote about the rum.  I usually don't drink, and I just turned 21 two weeks ago, so my experience with buying alcohol is very limited.  My first experience in a liquor store was buying a bunch of wine for my birthday party, and my second was today.  I walked up to the counter, placed my hands on the counter, and very shyly said to the two men behind the counter, "Ok, so I've never bought rum before, but I need it to make a cake" and then smiled and waited for a response.  The two men laughed, asked me a bunch of questions about the kind of cake, and then argued about which one they should sell me.  They eventually settled on a small bottle of white rum, (even though the recipe calls for dark), and told me their names and that I could feel free to bring them a piece of it.  Little do they know, I'll be showing up with two little cakes tomorrow.

Anyway, back to the cake.  I enlisted the assistance of my friend and fellow baking queen, Annika, to help me out on this one.  (We also just needed an excuse to catch up).  I adapted the cakes from this recipe.  My changes: For the cake batter, I added two rings of canned pineapple that I pureed in my food processor, and then 1/3 cup flour to compensate for the added moisture.  It gave the cake a fluffier texture with just a little more of that tropical flavor I was going for.  For the rum syrup, I substituted the water for canned pineapple juice, and added about 1/4 cup shredded coconut.  I'm not sure if it was because I used white rum instead of dark rum, but you can definitely taste it in these cakes.  If I were to make them again, I might add coconut to the cake batter and add more sugar to the rum syrup.

Ingredients and mini bundt pans
The fluffiest cake batter I've ever seen!
The little cakes had a really beautiful color and didn't rise too awkwardly
Pouring the rum syrup
Warning: it may look cute, but this baby is LOADED with rum

Love and cookies,

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Remembering You - Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake

Two years ago today, I lost my best friend, Kurtis, to suicide.  In the past two years, not one day has gone by where he hasn't crossed my mind.  Sometimes they're happy memories, sometimes they make me sad.  This week, I've been kind of an emotional train wreck.  Knowing that today would be especially hard, I decided to take the day off of classes to reflect.

When I decided to use my time to bake something in honor of Kurt's memory, there was no question what that something would be.  Back in high school, he used to bake gourmet cheesecakes for a restaurant to make some extra cash.  I never had the opportunity to try one of his creations, but I heard all about them during our nightly phone calls. 

I unfortunately don't have his famous recipe, so I adapted one from the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book and added a few of his secret touches that I remember.
My new glass-bottom spring form pan!
My food processor decided not to work today.  I got out some frustration by pounding the graham crackers, but now I have a very lumpy crust
The not-so-therapeutic side of baking: a sink full of dishes
Raspberry Lemon Cheesecake with a shooting star for my shooting star

Kurtis, wherever you are out there, please know that you are dearly loved and sorely missed.  Forever and always, best friend.

Let the Baking Begin

Hi, my name is Hannah.  I am 21 years old and a junior at Wesleyan University, double-majoring in Psychology and Iberian Studies.

I have two main passions in life.  The first is helping people.  The second is baking.  This blog will be about using the second to get me to where I need to be to achieve the first. 

Let me state the obvious for a second: college is hard.  We sit through classes we don't like, listen to lectures that put us to sleep, and then don't sleep enough at night in order to finish papers and study for exams.  Weekends aren't used to rest, but rather to catch up with friends, party, and if you're a nerd like me, get ahead on the work for the coming week.

All this can really ware down a person's physical and mental stamina.  As a psych major, I am extra aware of what this is doing to my emotional state (aka, breaking it down entirely).

One day, as I was baking the cake below for my friend Annika's birthday, I had an epiphany.  I can use baking as a therapeutic tool.  The one thing I really like doing is baking.  When I'm upset I pick up my apron.  When I'm procrastinating, I read food blogs.  There is just something magical about opening up a cookbook, improvising a little with what you have in the cupboard, and then pulling your creation out of the oven.  And let's not forget the best part: eating it!  Even if I fail, (and I often do in my attempts to veganize things), I enjoy the process itself and chalk it up as a learning experience.

The cake that started it all
This blog is the documentation of my baking therapy for whatever the next year-and-a-half at Wesleyan throws at me.  It is a collection of my attempts to stay sane until graduation.  I hope you enjoy, and maybe even feel a little inspired yourself.

This is Suzie, my 1960s Sunbeam mixer, aka: my therapist