Pantry Cake

I am one of those people that always has the grandest of intentions when it comes to celebrations, however birthdays have the funniest way of sneaking up on me. Not to make excuses, but the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  In addition to the hectic life of a construction estimator in a down economy (Did I mention that is an estimator’s busiest time?), I am also planning and coordinating a large wedding that will take place this weekend. Needless to say, my brain has been quite the melting pot recently.
Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder and I were grabbing a bite to eat for dinner when it hit me: “Oh my goodness, tomorrow is Dana’s birthday!” Now, for those of you that don’t know my sweet friend Dana, she is one of those people that always (and I mean always) puts others before herself and she is the queen of baking around the office. I wanted her to have an extra special birthday, but what could I possibly pull together at 9:30 at night? Hence…
The Pantry Cake
Pantry Cake is a clever little name I gave this type of cake because all of the ingredients to make and decorate the cake were previously residing in my pantry. It was a fun, adventurous experiment, I had no idea what the cake would look like until I was finished.

I had one box of Pillsbury Yellow Butter Cake mix and enough powdered sugar on hand to whip up some homemade buttercream icing. I only had red and teal gel food coloring on hand, so I opted for the teal gel and ended up with a fresh and funky turquoise icing. I had a tub of chocolate store-bought icing and decided to use that between the two cake layers for a little bit of ‘birthday surprise’ once the cake was cut.
Now the search began for decorative elements. I had half a bag of milk chocolate chips, so decided to pop those little cuties on the sides. It gave the cake a polka-dot look and nothing says ‘fun’ like a polka-dot! To give it just a dab of sparkle, I sprinkled some iridescent sugar crystals on the top. They also gave the cake a nice little ‘crunch’.
Once I wrapped up all the decorating I made my way to bed. As a side note, why is it when women lay down their brains wake up? I have some of my most genius ideas while trying to get to sleep. I decided I should add a whimsical flower bouquet popping out of the cake. I had some turquoise and red flowers leftover from decorations for my sister’s birthday party. Those flowers were just begging to be used again. (Mental note to grab those in the morning.) All I needed to do was make one personalized flower and the cake would be complete.
Photos by: KHJ

Needless to say, Dana (and many others at the office) loved her Pantry Birthday Cake. Her excitement and genuine thrill upon seeing the cake made the late-night kitchen rendezvous totally worth it. It’s funny to think this precious little cake was hiding in my pantry all this time. Wonder what’s hiding in yours?

Posted 4/15/10, Topic: Blog

You Crack Me Up

I know Easter is over, but I just have to share with you this neat idea for Easter eggs. My sweet friend Shea sent me a link to the Barefoot Kitchen Witch blog, which featured some wild and wacky eggs. I just had to try them.
She has wonderful step-by-step directions on her blog. Basically you hard boil the eggs and gently roll them on a towel to crack their shells. Then submerse the eggs into a mixture of water and dissolved gel food coloring.  Let them soak for a good while (her site said 7 hours, I let mine sit over night in the fridge) and let the peeling begin.
Discovering the beautiful patterns on the inside was the best part. We sat outside and peeled away, comparing eggs and showing off really cool ones.  The egg you see below was actually dyed in ‘burgundy’ food coloring. I almost chose to not use that color for fear that it would look to dark or brown. As you can see, it turned out a blazing fuschia, one of my favorite results.
Photos by: KHJ + CMJ
Needless to say, we had some psychedelic deviled eggs later that night.  If I had it to do over again, I would add just a little more food coloring to each egg bath.  I would like the colors to be a little richer.
Hope your Easter was everything it’s cracked up to be!

Posted 4/6/10, Topic: Blog

some bunny loves you

There is something that I have probably known for the better part of my life, but didn’t really piece together until this year: Easter definitely has the best candy of all the holidays! 
In the lead you have the oh-so-famous, little round eggs of goodness: Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs.  From the day they put these suckers on the shelf my mouth starts watering.  These are by far my Mom’s favorite candy. She is a peanut butter fanatic. Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder also has a soft spot for anything concocted with peanut butter.  Here’s to you King of the Easter Candies!
Coming in a close second is the ooey gooey Cadbury Cream Eggs.  I have to admit these are not on the top of my list, but Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder is a big fan. I remember the commercials for Cadbury Eggs growing up, there was always this cute little bunny wiggling his nose and clucking like a chicken. “Nobody knows Easter better than him”.
Always a favorite is the Reese’s Pieces candies in the carrot packaging. These always look so cute in Easter baskets.
Okay, okay…cut the Easter Bunny some slack. How can you take pictures of all this chocolate and not sneak a little treat? Mmmmm, delish!
This year, instead of the traditional Easter grass, I found something new and definitely more fun: Edible Easter Grass! Yeah, you heard me right, grass in all flavors. I chose strawberry and green apple.
Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder and I like to keep it playful, so of course all of this stuff is for his Easter Basket. It is not all tooth-rotting, sugary sweets, I threw in some adorable argyle dress socks and cheerful green and white gingham boxers. (Have to make the basket a wee bit practical.)  
I hid the basket in a cooler full of crushed ice. When he went to the cooler to grab some ice…Ta-Da!  I just love seeing him light up, I guess that is why I always try to do fun little things for him.  It keeps things fresh and interesting. Will we still do silly little things like this when we are 90? I hope so.
Photos by: KHJ

Posted 4/6/10, Topic: Blog

When life hands you lemons

make a Lemon Velvet Tart!

We had a fabulous early Easter lunch this past weekend. We baked a ham (for the first time), sauteed fresh green beans, made my sister’s sweet potato souffle and my mom’s broccoli and rice casserole.  To smooth out the palette, we decided to try a new recipe for a Lemon Velvet Tart.
This recipe is a twist on the traditional lemon meringue pie. Basically you add melted white chocolate and cream cheese to the traditional lemon curd filling and for a little bit of fun…lemonheads! Did somebody say delicious?
Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder took charge of the beautiful swirled candy toppings. This was the first time we had experimented with candied toppings. It was a little tricky, but now that we have tackled the task I am sure we will experiment with it more in the future. It really took the dessert up a notch. 
The delicate candied topping reminds me of a whimsical birds nest and provides a gentle ‘crunch’ to this velvety smooth dessert.

There is a little bit of a back story to the gorgeous pie. If you ever decide to make it, read the directions all the way through! We started the pie around 9am in hopes of having it with our late afternoon lunch. After mixing the ingredients for the lemon curd, we noticed that the curd has to chill in the fridge for 3 hours! Ok, not that big of deal, it could still be ready by noon. Then I skipped ahead to read the directions for the cream cheese and white chocolate addition…chill for an additional 4 hours! Ha! Needless to say, the pie was not ready in time for lunch. We pulled it out of the fridge just as the sun was setting.
Now wipe that drool off your chin and have a Happy Easter!

Posted 4/2/10, Topic: Blog

Threads of the Past: Part I

“Love is a fabric which never fades” – Anonymous
I’ve had a very special project in the works for quite some time. I have been working with a bride to design custom fabric flowers for her wedding day. These aren’t just any fabric flowers, the bride chose to incorporate beautiful pieces of fabric from both her mom and grandmother’s wedding dress.
Prior to snipping and clipping away at these very special fabrics, I wanted to document their stand-alone beauty. To do this I called in the help of some very talented photographers, my dear sweet husband and my oh-so-talented sister.
I always enjoy looking at their work and their interpretations of light. I love the way the light dances within the fabric threads, you can just feel the warmth and the history.
The first three photos were taken by my husband, Chris (a.k.a. Mr. Blue Eyed Yonder). He is great at capturing photos in their true light, maximizing the subjects natural beauty.
The last three photos were taken by my sister, Katie. She loves to let the light play with the lens, often yielding warm, dream-like photos.
Stay tuned…I’ll be back soon with the second half of this project. More history, more stories and yes, more pictures.

Posted 3/30/10, Topic: Blog

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