This short film was shot entirely on a mobile phone. So cool!
Oh, you thought that the birthday was over, did you? Well, in the infamous words of "Mad Dog" Tannen, you thought wrong!
No, no. We're talking about a guy whose birthday became infamously known as "birthday week" as a child. So I guess now that he's 30, "extended birthday weekend" is a more reasonable way to celebrate. There was a specific request for white cake with white frosting. After doing some fairly extensive research, I found two things: 1) there were no white cake with white frosting recipes from any reliable sources and 2) I didn't feel like spending all day making up for the gaping hole in the white/white cake universe. So I did what people don't normally admit to (particularly people who maintain baking blogs): I use a box. I've found that using a boxed cake and a small package of pudding mix is a good quick fix. Less exciting for me, but a nice alternative when you just want a quick cake. The cake, combined with a basic buttercream frosting (from a recipe that called for a whole 1/2 cup of milk!), made for a slightly dowdy, if not delicious cake.
So I'm sure you've all been waiting with baited breath to hear about birthday Extravaganza 2011! Wait. What's that? You haven't been? Oh, I didn't tell you about that? Oh, sorry.
If you read a couple days ago about my baking disasters, then you know my brother's birthday had something to do with it. Well. This weekend was all about family celebrations: one for my brother's 30th birthday and the other for my cousin's 11th birthday. Two birthdays. High stakes. For today's party I got to be a spectator, but for brother's birthday yesterday, it was dessert central. Now when you're a guy who doesn't really drink, dessert is important. So, per his request I made cheesecake. And since I got rave reviews for it back in February, I made some strawberry cupcakes.
So here's how it all went down:
So I've been baking for a little while now. Ok, probably more than a little while if you count the years since college graduation (in which I began making fancy desserts) and the times during college (in which I survived by living off of chocolate chip cookies - and had the dress size to prove it) and the time before that, when my mom taught me the proper technique basics (separating wet and dry, not over mixing, not using melted butter or - the horror! - margarine). Which probably means that, at this point, major kitchen disasters are one of those distant memories. Yes, every time I walk into the kitchen it should be a serene, Zen-like experience where everything comes out clean and beautiful and perfect. Just like all those blogs around the internet with the most perfect looking baked goods you've ever seen in your life, all photographed in a fairy-nymph forest, awash in natural lighting.
Well, should is probably the optimal word here. Because sometimes (and definitely more than I would like) things go terribly wrong. Sometimes I'm very tired when I start to bake. Sometimes I do things like misread the directions and cream the butter and eggs without adding the sugar first. Sometimes I have to throw out a half a pound's worth of butter and two eggs because I didn't just listen to the inner voice that told me, "well that's an odd technique." Sometimes I add too much batter to the cupcake pan and they overflow in my tiny oven. Sometimes I make cheesecake and the water bath leaks into the fortress of aluminum foil that I surrounded it with, which, like most walls, didn't do a darn thing in protecting my precious (and very expensive) cheesecake from outside, water invaders.
Sometimes, even now, disasters happen in the kitchen.
And here's the thing: life's like that. Sometimes you're tired and things go wrong. Sometimes in the middle of it all, you can't possible imagine how things will ever be ok again - how they will ever work out. But then you keep going. You improvise. You start over again on some things and salvage others. You take notes about what you did wrong. Then you go to bed and wake up the next morning and survey the damage. And usually, almost always, everything is fine. The cupcakes - which taste delicious - get a little frosting ban-aid, the cheesecake, it turns out, isn't destroyed. The butter and eggs were a small sacrifice. You figured a few things out and grew a bit from it all; you realize, of course, that things are going to be just fine.
Generally speaking, baking is a reprieve for me; a time when I'm in control and comfortable - when I can feed myself and others. Despite the fact that I poured boiling water over my cheesecake just before putting it in (note: boiling tea kettles spurt water) and having the water leak through the aluminum foil from the water bath, the desserts I'm working on for my brother's birthday survived with minimal damage. And so did I.
The cheesecake and cupcakes I have been working on are not done yet, so check back for pictures and a review some time after Saturday. Also, the cupcakes actually came out perfect this time around, but they have overflowed in the past. Oops! Live and learn.
I can't pronounce Yosemite without repeating the word in my head as "Yose-might." It's probably from coming here as a kid in one of the more idyllic aspects of my life when, for a few days or a week my family - my parents, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins - would spend some time camping, hiking, hanging out, sitting around the camp firiand generally spending time together. These camping trips are now a part of family lore: when Jillian sprained her ankle coming down the mist trail, mom's 'before' picture captured at Mirror Lake by Uncle Dick, when the bear ripped the window off our mini van because dad and Uncle Dick forgot a package of bacon in a cooler. Even though we can't make these trips happen anymore, we still treasure these times together and the park represents those good times we had together.
This weekend, my brother, dad and I spent some time in the Valley. Here are some images of Yosemite: