I’m finally getting caught up, yay! I am also finished with the birthday cake and cupcakes and all of the other-cakes that I have been overwhelmed with the last few days… voluntarily overwhelmed, but still :) My stomach needs to take the next couple of days off from sugar and butter to recover I think.
Since my birthday was on Wednesday and D.’s birthday was on Saturday, we decided to have a combined birthday party / housewarming at D.’s new place. One of my best friends offered to bake my birthday cake. I requested my all-time favorite birthday cake flavor: yellow cake with chocolate icing… you know, the Betty Crocker/Duncan Hines mix and store bought icing. Somehow nothing says “birthday” to me like yellow cake with chocolate icing. I guess it is because that is what I remember my mom making when I was little (she didn’t get into the fancy red velvet cakes until I was in high school). My friend is not really a baker, and she admitted to me that it kind of stresses her out. So I guess the fact that the box-cake is my favorite birthday cake worked out. She did a great job, and made a huge cake (2 layers of 13×9… I think I ate half of it myself over the last 3 days… my stomach isn’t very happy about that right now).
I got to concentrate on making cupcakes for D.’s half of the birthday party. I couldn’t decide which flavor to make. I narrowed it down, sort of, and decided I was going to do 3 different kinds of cupcakes. In the end, I settled for 2 because of time constraints and a brief moment of sanity in which I realized 2 cupcakes + a full-size (extra large actually) birthday cake was more than enough cake for a party of fewer than 20 people.
I had it in my head that I wanted to make a lemon meringue cupcake. I didn’t have a recipe, just some ideas. But after shuffling ingredients between my place and D.’s house, I forgot a few things. So no lemon curd filling and no meringue topping. Instead, I made lemon cupcakes similar to the strawberry cupcakes I made last week (using white cake mix and lemon Jello… the logic was that the strawberry cupcakes were awesome so making the same mix but with lemon Jello should be great too). I added lemon zest to the batter and extra lemon jello to try to make it more lemony but the cake itself never got as lemony as I would have liked.So I made the glaze super-extra-lemony. I had about 1 cup of cream cheese frosting left from the strawberry cupcakes in the refrigerator, so I heated it briefly (20-30 seconds) in the microwave and added lots of lemon juice. The glaze was not as impressive as toasted meringue peaks, but in the end the lemon cupcakes were pretty good. I think I can improve on it next time, but for a first attempt they were good.
The second flavor of cupcake I made for D. was the Zinful Devil’s Food from the Iron Cupcake challenge I did last month. He told me it was one of his favorites of the treats I’ve made in the last few months. He really loves lemon so the glaze on the lemon cupcakes made him happy. He also said he loved the chocolate cupcakes though… I’m just happy he enjoyed them both. Everyone else at the party were kind of split, the division was between people who love lemon vs people who love chocolate.. the ones who love both seemed to give a slight nod to the chocolate and I think that is because the lemon could have been a little better (although I’m pretty sure I am my cupcake’s toughest critic).
I was inspired by Bakerella’s Easy and Easier Valentine Treats to also make some little heart treats and so I bought (for the first time) Oreo Cakesters. To be honest, I was really disappointed with the flavor and texture of the cakesters. They were not as chocolatey as I would have liked and somehow the cake was no cakey… I am feeling at this moment that I must sound like I’m really very picky. But honestly, I’m pretty easy-going. And anyway, I devised a solution to my cakester problem: I had plenty of ganache lying around when I made the chocolate cupcakes, so I dipped the cakester hearts in chocolate ganache and they were much improved. The cakesters disappeared really fast at the party, and everyone asked me about them as if I had done something incredible, but they were so easy to make (small heart cookie cutter + cakester + chocolate ganache… proves my theory that everything can be improved by dipping it in chocolate ). The party was fun and ended as most of our parties seem to end…. with everyone taking turns on the Wii playing Rock Band.
On Saturday, I was adamant with D. that Valentine’s Day did not start until that evening because it was his birthday and he needed to be spoiled. So I cooked him the breakfast he had requested: homemade biscuits and sweet potato hash (I used sweet Italian sausage instead of chicken or ham this time. I can’t decide which meat I like best in this “hash”. They have all been good and imparted their own special characteristics to the dish. D. likes the ham and the sausage best but couldn’t pick 1 favorite. I call this “hash” because I really don’t know what else to call it. haha). My biscuits were a little overdone because D.’s oven runs hot… I really need to get an oven thermometer for that oven (I think it cooks about 5 minutes faster than my oven).
After breakfast, I showered D. with presents, and then he went to spend a little time with his boys. The four of us had lunch at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, Cafe Yulong (they make their noodles fresh everyday… so good). And then D. and I took a nap because we were both exhausted. I felt like I could’ve slept for a good 4 hours but made myself get up after 1.5 hours because I knew I would have had trouble sleeping later that night. Anyway, D. was happy with his birthday and that made me feel good (It was very important to me that he get to really have a birthday separate from Valentine’s Day even though his birthday is Valentine’s Day because in the end, his birthday means more… )
After such an eventful week, we decided to have a quiet evening with a simple meal as our Valentine’s Day. The original plan we devised last week, was that we would cook a really nice meal together, but after the big lunch and all of the goodies from the last few days, and add in the tired-factor, we were both ready to just eat simply. We had leftover cheese and salami from the party the night before, and picked a fresh, still warm baguette from Whole Foods, and so we created a little chaucuterie board and opened a nice bottle of wine (of which I had only about 1 glass because I still have not completely made up with Wine after my night of overindulgence which ended with the queasy wine belly — not sick, just queasy… but enough to put me off wine for a little while). We ended the meal by sharing a couple of Neo Cocoa truffles I had picked up at the Santa Cruz Chocolate Festival last Sunday (it’s been such a busy-packed week I cannot believe that was just a week ago, well 8 days technically but still… it feels like at least 2 weeks to me).
The quiet night of movie-watching and relaxing next to the fire with my Valentine was the perfect ending to a fantastic birthday-week :)