Sunday, November 20, 2011

Finally Friends

I have known Benny since freshman year at Wes.  We have several mutual friends, and I've met him on several occasions.  I always thought he was a really wonderful person, it's just too bad he could never remember who I was.

Well, when my friend, Annie, and I ventured off to Amsterdam, she asked if it would be OK if we met up with Benny and his friends, who were coincidentally visiting the city at the same time from their various study abroad adventures.  Maybe it was the fact that we met (again) on another continent, or maybe it was because we met in an amazing pancake house, but Benny finally remembered me.  He recognized me on campus last semester, and now, this semester, we are not only in the same class, but are partners for a research project.  Benny is always a very positive guy, and whenever I'm upset, I know that our project meetings will cheer me up.  I decided to make him a birthday cake to celebrate the fact that we are finally friends, and to thank him for all the smiles he's brought me this semester.  I decided to make the cake with flavors that honor the place we finally met, a random pancake house in Amsterdam.

The pancake house where it all began.  Here is Benny, ready to drink the maple syrup.

Cinnamon Butter Cake w/ Maple Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans
Recipe adapted from here

Friday, November 18, 2011

Crazy Camping Cake

Today is my housemate's birthday.  Even though Ariel really doesn't like making a big deal out of birthdays, you know my rule.  Everyone needs a birthday cake.  That said, my other housemate, Chandra, and I set off to make a cake that was true to who Ariel is.

We frequently make fun of Ariel for her weird combinations of foods, her love of gritty textured foods, and complete inability to follow a recipe.  But of course all our teasing comes from a place of love.  Chandra and I decided to make a semi-healthy and kind-of gluten-free cake for Ariel, because that's how she normally eats.  Because she never follows a recipe, we decided not to either.  We used a few basic zucchini bread recipes for ratio guidelines, but other than that we just threw a bunch of crap together.  We came up with:

Zucchini, Banana, Raspberry, Walnut, Raisin and Chocolate Chunk Cake w/ Cream Cheese Frosting (Aka- Ariel's Camping Cake)
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup chick pea flour
1/2 cup hazelnut flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp all-spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 medium ripe banana (mashed)
1 1/2 cups shredded zuchinni
1 cup oil
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 tsps vanilla
2 Tbs raspberry jam
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Handful frozen raspberries

Chandra's 4 types of flour
The mastermind at work
Whisk together all dry ingredients except sugar.
In a separate bowl, whisk together oil and sugar.
Add beaten eggs and vanilla.  Whisk together.
Whisk in zuchinni, banana, and raspberry jam.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients and fold in until combined.
Bake in your pans of choice at 350°F for approximately 25-30 minutes.
Ok, so we made the cakes (with some help from my friend, Shannon -thanks!) and hid them in Chandra's room.  Chandra began making the frosting and then Ariel came home.  Chandra used the excuse that she was baking ahead for a potluck on Saturday, and Ariel actually bought it.  She got suspicious, however, when she saw the cake pan and whisks in the sink (oops!  I had to run to Zumba and didn't have time to wash them!)  Chandra and I started frosting after Ariel went to sleep, but of course she wakes up 100 times in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, and she caught us.  I did some quick thinking with a Halloween candy bowl and managed to cover the cake itself, but she caught us with frosting in hand...

Conceptually, the cake was kind of a disaster.  The recipe Chandra used for the cream cheese frosting was incredibly wet, and did not make for a pretty cake.  We eventually decided to stack all the little ones on top, cover them in frosting, and then hide the frosting with other things.  We threw some more chopped walnuts and chocolate shavings all over the cake to make it prettier.  Then Chandra came up with the brilliant idea to make an origami tent.  (Ariel is very outdoorsie and loves camping and hiking).  We liked the idea so much that we decided to decorate the whole cake as a camping theme, which worked well since the stacking of the small bundt cakes made it look like a mountain.

The lake with fish
The pecan bear
Trees and bear line, complete with backpack
The fire pit
Birthday tent
The final product
Our other housemate, Ross, decided to wake Ariel up to show her the cake at 1am when we finished it by telling her that a squirrel had broken into the kitchen and killed Chandra at 1am.  She was really groggy and confused, but I think she really liked her surprise mountainy-camping cake that tastes like gritty zucchini-banana bread.  It's definitely the strangest cake I've ever made, but I think it fits my dear friend and housemate very well.

The birthday girl and her cake
Happy Birthday, Ariel!  We love you!

Love and cookies,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Presents

I know I said last time that I was starting to put my life back together after the Snowpocalypse, but I'm slowly finding out that it's a rather slow process.  Things just don't feel the same after the lights came back on.  I still have an inordinate amount of school work to do, a bunch of exams are coming up, I have to plan my schedule for my last semester at Wes, and the boyfriend and I broke up.

On Saturday, I was in quite the funk, so much so that I laid in a motionless, unresponsive heap on the middle of my living room floor for a good 30 minutes.  I was searching for a reason to bake, so I decided to make something for an animal welfare club bake sale.  (I've been on their list serve since sophomore year, and have never done anything with them, but I was desperate for an excuse to bake).  I've been eying this mini pumpkin cheesecake recipe for quite some time now, and made it with the clients at the RVS outpatient wellness center on Wednesday.  They turned out OK, but I really wanted to try them again in my own kitchen.

My friend and baking partner in crime, Annika, came over to assist with the process, and to catch up on our lives.  Even though we forgot to add the sugar because we were too busy venting about boys, and had to swirl it in each individual cup with toothpicks, I think they turned out well.  It was also an incredibly therapeutic experience that both Annika and I desperately needed.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes w/ Gingersnap Crusts
Recipe adapted from the Yummy Mummy Kitchen.

1 bag ginger snap cookies
4 eggs
2 8 oz packages cream cheese, room temperature
2 8 oz packages low-fat cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar 
1 1/2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp nutmeg

Ingredients (missing brown sugar)
Beat cream cheese until soft and fluffy.  Add all other ingredients and beat until smooth.
Line muffin pans with liners, place one ginger snap at the bottom of each, and fill cups 2/3 the way full with batter.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of brown sugar on top of each and swirl in with a toothpick.
If desired, top with caramel sauce.
Bake at 300°F for 20 minutes.  Cool in pans on wire racks.  Refrigerate at least 3 hours before serving.  (Makes about 40 mini cheesecakes).

About an hour after they came out of the oven, I received an email saying that the bake sale was cancelled due to a shortage of bakers.  Just my luck, right?  I decided to share the love and gave them away to my co-workers and our Middletown neighbors to celebrate the fact that we all survived the Black Out.  Well, in my case I guess it's still to-be-determined if I survived it or not...

Happy cheesecake baking!

Love and cookies,

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Surviving the Snowpocalypse

I'm sorry it's been so long since my last post.  Post-Fall Break school work really came to bite me, and as soon as I thought things were getting easier, the Snowpocalypse came.  The senior houses at Wes, along with most of the state of Connecticut, have been without heat or power since Saturday night.  Good news: I have gotten a substantial amount of school work done, submitted my last grad school application, and central campus finally has electricity and hot food.
Bad news: My house is FREEZING, I've been eating nothing but cereal and yogurt for 4 days, and it's so cold that it's hard to concentrate on my school work.

Before we lost power for forever, I did do some substantial baking.  Unfortunately, I have limited time with heat and internet, so I am not going to write in-depth steps to all the recipes.  I will, however, give you the links to the recipes I used.  I promise that as soon as I get an oven again I will do more baking and blog it.  For now, bear with me, as I am bearing with the unbearable cold.

Apple & Honey Gallette
Made at the very end of Fall Break for my brother's birthday.
Recipe taken from here.  I added Chai, and instead of apricot preserves, I used honey and cinnamon.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Made with the clients at CT River Valley Services
Recipe copied from here.

Halloween Smorgasbord
Sugar cookies, Reeses Pieces Brownies, and Sweet & Spicy Halloween Chex Mix
Made with my wonderful housemates for our Halloween party before the storm hit.

If you'd like to see some pictures of the Snowpocalypse, see my post for the Wesleyan Admissions Blog.

I hope everyone is safe and warm where they are.
Love and cookies,