I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly everything in my life revolves around wedding. I find all the different parts hard to keep track of, especially that big looming figure known as the Budget, but as long as I keep hacking away at different parts, I know I’ll eventually cleave a path through this maze of dresses, flowers, tea lights, stationery, and so so so much more.
While I manage to compartmentalize the wedding talk, only indulging in it in short spurts (although my sister gets the brunt of it), I did think it would be fitting to begin a discussion on… the wedding cake. Because I plan on making my own! This explains the uncharacteristically bright photo above.
Any of you who have spent any time at all reading any wedding blogs will surely be familiar with that sensation of one’s brain becoming scrambled/brainwashed by the extreme girliness and frilliness of their content. Recurring themes: lace, pom poms, rose petals, long tables festooned with flowers, peach, blush and pink, macarons, lace, mason jars, headless shots of the bride holding the bouquet, more lace, and toppling multi-tiered cakes.
I, for one, am not a fan of fondant. What exactly is it anyway? And is it really edible? I’m only half joking.
While I’m not an extremely crafty person, I’m convinced that the day will be all the better if I involve myself in it in a tangible sense. This applies strongly to some areas, the wedding cake being one of them. I don’t think I’ve ever considered outsourcing the making of the wedding cake, partly because I’ve had way too many slices of cake-gone-wrong, and partly because I’ve got a secret weapon: my sister. (She’s a star.) While it would be lovely if every aspect of the wedding were made with love, I at least have control over the cake.
The problem is that I don’t have a whole lot of cake-baking experience. Nearly none, actually. I’ve made one other layer cake in my life, and it came out… homely-looking. This cake came out homely-looking as well, but I’d prefer to go with the euphemism “rustic.” It is a little prettier, but its surface gently undulates, like the ocean on a calm day. Nice imagery when describing the scenery, but not ideal when applied to a cake. Also, upon closer inspection, the observer will realize that the vanilla-bean-like flecks are actually stray crumbs that got mixed with the icing. Note to self: buy an icing spatula and stop using one’s bread knife to spread icing.
Anyway, as you can see, I have a lot to learn about the art of cake-making. But I also have seven months to master the art, and I’m not going to stress it. An unprepossessing self-made cake has its own merits.
In this case, its parts: a wonderfully moist devil’s food cake, the recipe I got from the Tartine Bakery cookbook, and a luscious Swiss meringue buttercream. I decided my first forays into cake-making had to begin with the likeliest cake combination we would end up choosing, and probably, quite simply, my favorite cake combination of all. For what could be more satisfying than a moist slice of chocolate cake swathed in Swiss meringue buttercream? To me, nothing. To Chris, a moist slice of chocolate cake swathed in ganache, but we’re not going to go there because our cake has to be white-colored, dangit!
I chose this particular cake recipe because in the description beforehand, Elisabeth Prueitt mentioned that one of her bakery managers used the recipe for her wedding cake. That means it passes the tests in both sturdiness and the ability to stay fresh-tasting after sitting out for awhile.
In addition, the frosting is my absolute favorite. Swiss meringue buttercream looks beautiful patted onto a cake, and it tastes phenomenal: soft, light, very delicately sweet. My only issue with it is that it turns sort of stale after awhile, and tastes more buttery than sweet. Also, it turned slightly yellow after sitting out, but I very well could’ve done something wrong. Does anyone have any ideas on why this happened and how to correct this?
So, cake number one turned out okay. But other flavors await, and I hope to get better at decorating!
I know absolutely nothing about football, nothing!, except that the 49ers made it to the Superbowl this year, and that, alone, is cause for celebration! Whoo hooooo!!!
Sorry, I get a little carried away when my home team is beating everyone else’s butt. But seriously though, I have never watched a football game in my life. Really. (People always sound so surprised when I tell them this.) I don’t understand the point (not in a philosophical team-sport sense; I really don’t know how points are scored), and it’s not fast-paced enough to grip me. Also, and this is going to sound really shallow, football player bodies are just not attractive to me, at all.
I have, however, been to Superbowl parties, and they are always the same: beer guzzling (kegs!), out-of-control testosterone levels, and tables loaded with man-food. Burp. Excuse me.
I’m gussying it up this year, dammit, and here’s how: French cheese puffs, a.k.a. gougères.
I realize gougères lie in the realm of snobbish foods and are therefore completely and utterly not suited for football-watching. But once shed of their French-sounding name and associations with champagne and other high-falutin’ wines, they are not precious at all, this iteration especially. We’re talking cheese, we’re talking meat (MEAT), we’re talking a buttery carb-y matrix to hold it all together.
Plus, they’re really good. Fresh out of the oven, there’s nothing I like better than splitting one of these puffs open with a fork, watching the steam escape, and biting into the still soft and gooey dough.
I would choose a gougère over a 5-foot-long sub (are these for real?) any day.
Take that, men.
Of course, I’m not exactly sure where I’ll be celebrating the Superbowl this year. I suspect a few of us will gather at Finnerty’s in the East Village, the one and only Bay Area bar where I wish I’d watched the World Series a few months ago. I really don’t care about the outcome of the game. I just love the opportunity to surround myself with the Bay Area vibe.
If there’s anything I am paranoid about, it’s catching a cold. For a long time, a friend kept passing on to me horrible mutant colds that her niece passed on to her from daycare. Which I would then pass on to Chris. It was a vicious cycle.
I finally wisened up to the fact. I mean, after the third time, as I lay splayed out across the couch half-delirious and shivering, Chris in the next room in pretty much the same condition, I had to admit the obvious: my friend was a germ magnet.
But I didn’t have to be! And it started with establishing defensive measures: washing my hands as soon as I got home and washing my hands before eating, for instance. I also started wiping down handles and doorknobs, holding my breath after someone around me sneezed, and cancelling plans with potentially sick friends.
And if Chris shows any symptoms of anything, he’s banished from my presence. “Get out of here!” I’ll say, after his fourth sneeze in a row. (I sneeze in three’s myself, so anything up to that point is generally okay.)
I’m not a terrible partner, honest. You just can’t fathom how many times Chris and I have transmitted colds to each other.
“I might be sick!” I warn him when he leans down to kiss me.
“Oh, who cares?” he’ll say, believing himself invincible for that one moment. The next thing he knows, he’s sick. And glaring daggers at me from his position on the couch, swaddled in blankets and surrounded by used tissues (which I remove with tweezers. Just kidding.)
So imagine my reaction when Chris informed me on Saturday morning that he thought he might be getting sick. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I said sympathetically, as I slowly sidled away from him. Later, after he failed to put into action Sick Protocol (i.e. distancing himself from me), I got mad and yelled at him for being inconsiderate.
Afterwards, I felt bad. So I made him some soup.
It was a wise decision, I think, because soup is a magical cure-all to all ailments: the cold, hangovers, physical cold. Especially when harissa, the most magical of condiments, is mixed in. It imparts the perfect amount of heat to clear sinuses, warm up internal organs (or so I imagine), and cause the sweat glands to kick into action. The stuff is good for colds.
As for taste, I was a bit dubious about this soup initially. With only, what, four ingredients, you wouldn’t imagine that there’d be much complexity. Sure, carrots have a distinctive flavor, but is it enough to act as the backbone to this recipe? The vegetable for which this soup is named after? Why yes, they are, but only if you use good-quality chicken stock, and the aforementioned harissa. With them, you’ve got a possibly-sick, soup-despising man slurping the stuff up like it’s liquefied pizza (his favorite food). That is the sign of a successful recipe. Another sign: the man’s not sick after all. You see? Soup cures everything. Correction: spicy carrot soup cures everything.