Monday, May 11, 2009

Zombie Cakes, Resurrected

I hosted a friend's baby shower this past weekend, and I decided to show off my novice baking skills by baking her a cake from scratch. After spending way too much time deciding on what to bake, exactly, I found two recipes that seemed perfect for my giant cupcake pan--a white cake and nearly-professional buttercream icing.

So, at 7 p.m., I began baking.

I made two of these tops because, as it turns out, "non-stick" pans aren't truly non-stick. Having a crumbled cake did give me a chance to taste the goods before presentation, so it wasn't all bad. Jim said I could served the broken bits as "Baby Vomit," on par for the theme. (He was immediately banished from the kitchen for that comment.)

While the second top was baking, I started frosting the bottom half, trying to keep it together since it had broken when removed from the pan.

Then, on a whim, I decided to layer it with strawberries. I made the sauce, slathered it on the bottom half of the cake, and then watched in horror as it bled down the sides. I was nearly frantic. How does one present a bloody mushroom cake to a pregnant woman?

Quickly, I tossed on the almost-cool top and iced it with a color I had just mixed together.

As you can see, it was dreadful. At this point, I wondered how much it would cost to convince the baker to make a cake the morning of the party...but I kept at it, icing it more, making a new batch of icing, getting the piping done, and then I resurrected the zombie cake:

It looked like a circus tent, and less like a mushroom, which made me happy. Plus, I had some cute little cupcakes. I put it in the fridge, went to bed (it was 1 a.m. at this point), and dreamed of bleeding cakes. (Totally unsuitable for baby showers, btw.) When I was awakened by Monster Child #1 at 5:30 a.m., I ran downstairs and fully expected the cake to have fallen apart, or the strawberries to have leaked the bottom, but it was perfectly fine. And tasty, too. It was just too cute and I was so proud of myself.

Next time, though, I'm making a cake with just regular circular pans. None of this giant cupcake with strawberry layer mess. And I'm going to make it chocolate.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

San Diego and Hostess Cupcakes

I just went to San Diego so I could see my friend do this:

And eat some of this:

And here I am, with some of my critique group friends:

That's Kirsten, me holding a wiggly and bald-spotted Henry, Cindy, and Eveie

I am such a jet-setter. Gosh. ;-)

Seriously, though, I did just get back from a weekend San Diego in which I brought along baby Henry to my friend and critique group partner Cindy Pon's first-ever book launch. Her first novel, SILVER PHOENIX, came out a week ago--hurry, go buy it--read it--and join me in waiting for the sequel and the inevitable blockbuster soon to follow.

The flight out was a little bit of a pain considering I had a baby on my lap and was squished in the middle seat, but my neighbors were all wonderful. My first neighbor was a woman on her way home from Iraq. Thank God. She helped me out quite a lot in entertaining Henry.

My friend Kirsten, an absolutely fantastic novelist who will soon be getting a great agent, I am sure, played the Perfect Hostess for both Henry and me. She had all the baby gear, which made things super easy. Also, she brought me a tray of tea, milk, honey, and fresh strawberries to munch and sip while I got dressed on Saturday morning, plus she took care of the baby at the same time. I am forever spoiled. And now I will feel subpar if I don't treat my future guests as wonderfully as she did! I felt like a princess all weekend.

One of the unexpected* benefits of going out to San Diego was being there in person for a critique group meeting. I've been away for a year and a half, and it's been hard. Email critiques just aren't as good, you know? And I don't do critiques as thoroughly and as well as when I am going to be there for the actual meeting. Anyway, remember the 20+ pages I wrote last weekend? Well, they read them all and gave me awesome guidance. Plus they made me feel good, like the pages aren't half bad and were totally readable, even if it's a first draft and had lots of holes. They set me on my way and now I've got FOCUS. *sigh* I lurve my critique group.

I felt like I was hanging out with someone famous on Sunday when Kirsten, her husband, her adorable and smart kid, and I and Henry went to La Jolla to hang out with Cindy and her two adorable and smart kids. We had lunch and then played in the sand on the beach**. It was a gorgeous San Diego day that I will surely be missing when I'm holed up in my home come The Long Winter in Syracuse.

The flight home was easy because Henry slept the whole time (Was that my One Good Flight?). I picked up my first adult novel in years and years, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, and read half of it. So far, I'm loving it.

Now I must dash off-line and clean my home. I love my husband***. He took care of Elizabeth all weekend, and the house was pretty clean when I got home, but after a day of Exhausted Mommyhood, it's messy already.

* Ok, so it wasn't unexpected. I totally knew they'd help me out. They always do.
** Henry didn't play so much as ate the sand.
*** Did I mention he went to get me a Hostess Cupcake because I was craving one? He, who made lettuce, steamed broccoli, raw carrots, and sweet potatoes for dinner? (Seriously, that's what we ate. And it was surprisingly filling. Except for leaving me with a craving for gooey, chocolate-y, cream-filled cupcake.)

Oh, and those pics? I lifted them from Cindy's blog.