September 20, 2020

Hot Air Balloon Onesie Cookie Favor


My dear friend Jesse is having her first baby this autumn and I was thrilled to make the favors for her socially-distanced baby shower.  Three years ago I made Jesse's wedding cake and cookie favors so I feel especially honored to play a part in another important milestone in her life. 


The onesie cookies I created were designed to complement the invitation, which featured the cutest hot air balloons for the "Oh, the places she'll go!" travel theme.  Jesse's girlfriends who planned the baby shower did such a fantastic job and everything looked beautiful.  Every detail was thought out, from the suitcase lunch boxes to the wicker hot air balloons filled with stuffed animals. 

I cannot wait to meet the little one in the coming months.  I predict she will be spoiled rotten, as she should be!!

Congratulations Jesse & Tyler!

September 10, 2020

Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Frosting


September is my birthday month (along with seven other friends/family!) so I thought I'd make the quintessential cake to celebrate us Virgos.  When I was a kid my mom normally made us a yellow cake with chocolate frosting.   As a busy mother raising six children she used a boxed cake mix and pre-made frosting and we adored it!  Those memories are part of the reason why I think I still love cake mixes to this day.   There's no shame in getting a little help from Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines, but when I saw that Cook's Illustrated's Sep/Oct 2020 issue featured a recipe for Yellow Sheet Cake with Chocolate Frosting I had to try the "from scratch" version of the birthday classic.

Granted, there are more ingredients required than the standard eggs, oil and water you would use with a boxed mix, but I think you'll find it's worth it.   There are quite a few eggs (4 whole + 2 yolks!) along with buttermilk in the batter which yields a rich and moist cake.  The batter is made using the reverse creaming method where the cake flour, leaveners and sugar are mixed first, then the fats (butter and oil) are added and finally the liquid and eggs are mixed in.  This technique minimizes gluten development which results in a super tender crumb.  


After having a slice I have to say this is probably one of the best homemade cake recipes I've ever tasted.  There's absolutely no pretense with this cake and that's what I love about it.  Makes me so nostalgic for my childhood; those were the days!

Sending a September birthday shout out to Len, Will, Satya, Nicholas, Maria, Brian and Cheri!

September 7, 2020

New England Lobster Rolls

Lobster rolls were never something I thought to make at home; they had that "restaurant-only" vibe to them I guess.   That all changed when I discovered that Trader Joe's was selling New England style hot dog buns.  The characteristic split-top is mandatory for an authentic New England Lobster Roll.  While this type of bun is ubiquitous on the East Coast, out here in California it's a rarity.   Even better, Trader Joe's buns were made with brioche dough so the bread was going to be extra rich and buttery!   With the proper bread vessel in hand there really was no excuse for me to not make lobster rolls, especially to close out the summer over Labor Day Weekend.


If you've had lobster rolls before you know they're definitely an indulgence.  One small roll can easily go for $25 and there's no guarantee you'll get a decent amount of meat.   By making the rolls at home I was able to pay less than half that cost and tailor it to my taste.

I've never cooked live lobsters before but it's super easy.  All you need is a big pot and boiling, salted water.  The only scary part was putting the live creatures into the boiling water!


For my rolls I went with this mayonnaise based recipe from A Family Feast.  I've had lobster rolls that were basically just lobster meat and melted butter, and that's not a bad thing!, but I just prefer a touch of mayonnaise and some chopped vegetables.  It goes without saying that the split-top bun must be pan fried on both sides with butter.  That's the signature of a truly delicious lobster roll.    

I invited my sister over for dinner and she raved about the lobster rolls.  That's a good sign in my family because compliments aren't handed out so easily.  Will I be making more lobster rolls in the future?  Definitely!  Now if only the price of fresh lobster would go down a bit.

September 4, 2020

Crème Fraîche Poundcake

I bought a carton of crème fraîche as an impulse buy on a recent Costco outing but I had no clue what I was going to use it for.  As fate would have it the NY Times recently published a recipe for Crème Fraîche Poundcake.  It's like the baking gods were in my brain!

Crème fraîche is similar to sour cream but I find it's more stable and less water than it's American cousin.  It adds a really delicious tang to the poundcake, most especially in the glaze topping.  I found the cake to be even more delicious the day after it was made so it's a great make-ahead recipe.  

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