Keep Swinging, Cupcake (Or I’m Coping)

I leave for Michigan in three days. During the seven days I’ll spend with my family we’ll say goodbye to my 31-year old stepbrother and celebrate my grandmother’s 87th.

I’m making cupcakes for both occasions. Carrot for Noah’s memorial. And lemon for my grandma’s birthday.

I have to admit it took me a long time to pick out the appropriate cupcake liners this morning. After basically swapping life stories with sweet Ben at Sur la Table, I selected these for Noah.

Fall cupcake liners from Sur la Table on Dogs Dishes and Decor

They seemed right somehow.

Then I did the thing I’ve been saying I’d do.

One way to cope with grief. Dogs Dishes and Decor

I went to the batting cages. By myself.

And I absolutely ripped about 60 softballs all over the Burbank Bat Cade. I can’t bring Noah back. I can’t ask for one more day so I’d have a chance to tell him I loved him. But I can keep swinging at life.

I can bake him cupcakes and hope he’s looking down from heaven smiling his big smile as he watches us eat them.

And maybe when I’m back? I’ll take up boxing…

‘cuz I’m gonna go one more round.

#love

Peter Pan Party Aftermath Post 8 (Or the Best Chocolate Cake Ever)

So now that I’ve complained ceaselessly about my glazed lime cake mess, it’s time to change gears and talk about the chocolate stout cake I baked for my birthday.

Because this cake?

Makes me happy. (Also, this cake is pretty hard to screw up.)

It’s made with beer and sour cream which might sound disgusting, but TRUST ME when I say it’s just moist and amazing even though I don’t really care all that much about chocolate in the first place.

The cake didn’t come out as pretty this time as it has in the past for me but I was in a major hurry – and a very bad mood from the lime cake mess.

This cake is a little ugly, but it is goooood. (I needed to saw a little off of one side with a serrated knife to make it level. I thought the frosting would fix it. It didn’t.)

And just so you  know I’m not lying about being able to bake a prettier version, here’s actual photographic evidence.

See? This is cuter. Note: the little nonpareil man is doing yoga. (Oh, and, ignore my crazy eyes; I was trying not to blink.)

If I had it to do all over again, I would actually make the cake a day or two ahead of time because it stays incredibly moist (and tasty) for a few days. This is something to consider if you’re planning a party and don’t have a lot of time for baking on the actual day of the party.

To get the skull and crossbones on the top, I put cream cheese frosting in a pastry bag and squeezed it into the cookie cutter. (I then leveled the frosting design with a butter knife.) I refrigerated the cake for a bit and then removed the cookie cutter prior to serving the cake.

I dusted the cake with a bit of powdered sugar and it looked soooo cute, but then the powdered sugar got all sucked into the frosting and just made it look like the cake was sweating. (This might have had something to do with the fact that it was like 110 in the valley and even though we had A/C in my friend’s guest house, it was still sorta hot in thurrr. Or because chocolate eats sugar — kinda like paper covers rock. I don’t know.)

Here’s the recipe. I HIGHLY recommend making this big stouty, chocolatey beast.

And if you want to decorate it, keep in mind that the chocolate frosting will bleed like mad and discolor the decorations. I had to add a second layer of nonpareils to the yoga man cake right before serving because many of them had discolored. (That’s part of the reason I used a ton of cream cheese frosting to make the skull and crossbones on top of the birthday cake.)

Ooo, and if you want to make skull and crossbones cookies (or replicate the design on the top of this cake), the cookie cutter is $1 at Sur la Table.

$1.

At Sur la Table.

I mean what’s actually $1 at Sur la Table other than the sales tax on a pastry brush?

My Evening of Epic Fails (Or I Screw Up My First Attempt at Cake Pops)

“I don’t think people understand what you’re saying when you say Albus.” My mother said as she sipped her sauvignon blanc.

“Well, that’s why I introduce him as Albus Dumbledore,” I replied.

“Not everyone knows who that is.”

“Of course they do. Albus is a mighty wizard!” I exclaimed indignantly. “Besides, it’s Latin for ‘white.’ I like Latin.” (I did NOT like Latin when I was translating the entire Aeneid into English, but this is not important now.)

“I think they think you’re saying Elvis.”

This from the woman who named me Anika? I’ve been called everything from Anita to Shaniqua over the years, and I’ve been correcting people on the pronunciation of my name since Kindergarten, so she hardly has a foot to stand on when it comes to weird names for offspring – human or dog.

“Well, I nearly named him Chappy Sinclair, but I changed my mind at the last minute.”

By look on her face, it was clear this name would not have met with her standards either. (She does not appreciate Iron Eagle any more than Harry Potter, apparently.)

She’s actually right that people have called my dog everything from “Alvin” to “Elvis,” but I had no intention of conceding this. The little girl downstairs squeals, “Elbis!” every time she sees him. (Even this hybrid is probably toddler for Elvis.)

I should also mention that she doesn’t approve of Woodley’s name either. She thinks it’s confusing I named a fluffy female after a 265-pound linebacker. She’s probably not wrong.

She may have given me a hard time about my dogs’ names, but she did buy me this fabulous pink cake pop pan from Sur La Table, so there’s that.

My fancy new cake pop pan, courtesy of my mother.

I must say, my first attempt at using my new toy was even more disastrous than my attempts at dog-naming.

I was hoping to make Hedwig-like owls that looked like this:

See these perfect owls from Bakerella? Yeah, mine looked nothing like them.

I didn’t even get to the decorating part, because I ended up with THIS mess.

Albus is ignoring the Chernobyl-like disaster in the foreground and heading straight for the un-sullied cake pops on the counter. Even my dog doesn’t think the others are edible.

I think my first mistake was using a strawberry cake mix for the cake pops, as it was not nearly dense enough. (I’m starting to believe “cake” is a bit of a misnomer and the base of these balls is really more of a cake/cookie lovechild.) My next mistake was purchasing Ghirardelli white chocolate chips to coat my cake-y creations. Despite adding shortening to make the melted mess thinner, it was just too thick and sticky to properly coat the crumbly cake.

Desperate to find another coating substance, I scoured the internet this morning and discovered another option on Bakerella. It turns out it was hidden within another one of my pins. (Oops. I probably should have READ the post first instead of simply pinning the photo at first sight.) Bakerella suggests using Merckens Candy Coating for the pops. I guess I’ll be looking for a new cake pop recipe and then dipping those in Merckens next time.

I’m not really sure what to do with my cake pop rejects. I’m leaning toward feeding them to the squirrels downstairs even if they are the sworn enemies of my poorly named dogs.

Oh, and don’t get me started on what went wrong with THIS watermelon shark carving last night….

This Jedi-eating watermelon monster was supposed to be a shark. Alas, my Shun Sumo Santoku knife was just too big for the finer details.

Have you tried making cake pops? Did you make an epic mess like me?