The Cat Cake – and a Steak, Too

Hello, hello, hello.

I was gone all last week, and this is why:

Cat Cake

Presenting The Cat Cake, jewel-tone cascading blossoms and all.

It’s 6″, 7″ and 8″ round tiers on top of a 10″ square tier of French vanilla cake with white chocolate ganache, covered in fondant.  The blossoms are made of gum paste.

Here’s a better look at the topper:

Cat Topper

The cats are modeled after the happy couple’s own pets, and I’m not at all displeased with how they came out.  They are made from Wilton Shape ‘N’ Amaze edible modeling dough.  It was my first time working with it, and it held up much better than fondant but I think I’m going to try my hand at modeling chocolate for sculpting 3D figures in the future.

There was also a groom’s cake (which used to be a uniquely Southern tradition):

Steak Cake

The groom is not only the son of our beef farmer, he also works for our butchers.  He asked if I could make a cake that looked like a big steak – if only all requests were that easy. This cake was red velvet, filled with a cream cheese buttercream and covered with a dark chocolate ganache and then with fondant.

The thing I liked most about making this cake was the opportunity to hand paint the top of the steak (like the cats, the cutting board is air brushed).  I’ll tell you, it gives me a huge appreciation for people who do this and do it well – it’s not the easiest medium, but I am fascinated with the process now.

A word about fondant: I’ve used Wilton products in the past.  Their traditional fondant is more or less easy to work with, but tastes like plastic.  Their new stuff tastes much better, but is a nightmare to work with.  I’ve worked a little with homemade marshmallow fondant, and while it tastes great, it tends to dry out very quickly; if you’re not very experienced working with fondant it will start to develop what they call “elephant skin” before you’ve got your cakes covered.  This time I ordered this fondant, and all I can say is “SCORE!”  SO easy to work with – while it sets up beautifully, it stays nice and pliable for quite some time so you can take your time.  It also tastes every bit as good as the homemade marshmallow fondant and is reasonably priced.

As with every cake I do, I look back and think of a million things I could have done to make them better, but the bride and groom were pleased so that’s about all I can ask for.  I learn something every time I work with these new mediums and techniques and I’m just loving it, even if my hands ached and ached all day yesterday.

I’d also like to take this time to say “Thank you” to Beloved, who not only made sure I had the time to do all this by taking over dinner and other chores, but also cut the dowels to the correct size to stabilize the tiers and constructed the boxes that allowed us to transport the cakes practically worry-free.  Thank you so much dear, not only for the loving help during this process, but everything you do for me every day.  I don’t express that nearly often enough.

The Scarf Battle

Recently, Beloved asked me to make him a winter scarf (he believes in being proactive).  After he picked out the yarn he wanted, I searched for a suitable pattern; I didn’t want anything frilly.

A week later, I had this:

Beloved's Scarf

You can find the pattern here – it’s super easy, just alternating rows of half-double crochet and bobble stitch. I used a size J/6 mm hook and 3 skeins of I Love This Yarn Firecracker, from the “Colors” collection.  It turned out somewhat wider than I anticipated (both the hook and yarn I used were larger than called for in the pattern), but I’m not at all displeased with the finished piece.

Nor am I the only one who likes it; Darling Daughter took one look at the scarf and said, “That’s WAY too pretty for Dad.”

I posted the photo on Facebook and tagged Beloved, saying “Darling Daughter says this is too pretty for you, dear; I’ll have to keep an eye on it until you come home or you’ll never get it.”  (He’s out of town on business this week.)  DD, who is, shall we say, mischievous, commented on the post:

You know, my neck is awfully chilly. If only there were something fabulous laying around to keep it warm….

The Purloined Neckcloth

Don’t worry, I made her give it back.  For now.

You have to admit – it does match her scrubs really well.

Random Tuesday Spring Fever

Stacy

You know, it’s been ages since I’ve participated in Random Tuesday Thoughts, so why the heck not?  Tomorrow, I shall endeavor to have a recipe for you that involves sea scallops and Meyer lemons.

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On a whim, early last week, Beloved and I booked a cabin at Hocking Hills State Park.  We drove down Friday morning and came back yesterday afternoon.  It was wonderful – peaceful, with beautiful and sunny, if a tad chilly, weather.  We purchased what turned out to be a pretty large set of dominoes and set about teaching ourselves a couple of games.  There were marathon sessions of Chicken Foot when we weren’t in the hot tub or taking lovely strolls to see sights like this:

Waterfall
Click the image to enlarge

Unfortunately, our hopes of having no cell phone reception were dashed.  The kids found us anyway.

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The cabin was equipped with satellite television and had both The Food Network and The Cooking Channel.  At one point over the weekend, while playing dominoes, I watched Alton Brown make cottage cheese.  I am SO doing that this weekend – I love the stuff.  Always have.

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And while we’re at it, let us be eternally grateful that there is not a Tim Horton’s in Podunk, Ohio.

*stands up*

Hello, my name is Jan and I am powerless over honey crullers.

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It proceeded to rain all day yesterday and when we got home, I was loathe to put away my new camera so I ventured outside and took this photo:

CrocusClick the image to enlarge

The crocus are coming up, and I can’t tell you how absurdly pleased and excited this made me.  Or maybe I can, since I spent 10 minutes hunched over this, attempting to protect my camera with a lawn and leaf bag. I’m sure the neighbors were amused, if not bemused.

“Mabel, that crazy woman across the street is lying in her flower beds, in the rain, with a plastic bag over her head.”

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And that’s all I’ve got for today.  You can wake up now, and go visit Stacy to see what other Randomness is going on.

Spring Has Sprung. Sort Of.

Ah, Spring – you capricious flirt.  You give us warm, beautiful days, allowing us to hope that this horrible winter will really end, then turn around and do this:

March in Ohio

Yes, that is just so WRONG.

Despite only blogging once last week (and losing readers because lentils are apparently of the devil), I’m really ready to start blogging on a regular basis once more.  I also think the whole thing is about to morph again, as our focus is once again shifting.

No, other than incorporating properly prepared legumes and grains back into our diet (with the occasional sugary-but-homemade treat), our diet isn’t really changing – the main focus is, and always will be, grass-fed/pastured meats and eggs, full fat grass-fed dairy, organic, local fruits and vegetables and healthful fats.  But we’re well-accustomed to eating this way now, and are becoming interested in other things.

Being empty nesters (and, unfortunately, dogless) has recently given us some very unaccustomed spare time.  For me, this means trying my hand at things like homemade yogurt and sourdough starters as well as taking up old hobbies from my youth, such as crochet and cross stitch.  Recently, I’ve completed two afghans and am almost finished with a white cotton spread for our bed.  I’ve started a cross stitch sampler with a Senility Prayer (“Grant me the senility to forget people I don’t like, the good fortune to run into those I do like, and the eyesight to tell the difference”) and find myself eying patterns with skulls and crossbones that say “Don’t Make Me Poison Your Food” for the kitchen.

Hey, I never claimed I was a normal old lady.

Beloved has once again turned his attention to seed trays and grow lights – we have a veritable mini-farm in the living room (and that’s just mostly herbs and a couple of tomato plants, with a couple of other things thrown in to mix it up) – as well as the garden out back.  He ripped out half the trees in our once shady back yard, and there are four additional raised beds, quite a bit larger than the others, to complement the two original in-ground and five raised beds he added last year.  One of the now treeless areas is now sporting three of these:

Take A Wild Guess

I don’t think I’m allowed to tell you what this is (I believe there will be a detailed post on the planning, construction and use in the very near future), so I’ll let you speculate about it in the comments section.

I will, again, be canning and freezing much of the fruits of our labor, as well as those from the CSA, and will probably talk quite a bit more about that this summer.  Other tentative plans include re-purposing an older model refrigerator into a curing cabinet for homemade charcuterie and freaking out the neighbors with a bat house and a beehive.

So, basically, we’ve become suburban homesteaders.

It’ll keep us off the streets.

There’s No Place Like Gnome

When we bought our house in 2005, we needed a large place – we had three kids at home and two who came to visit as frequently as I could manage. The living arrangements have changed (several times) over the last 9 years, what with adult children yo-yos, but the house has been a good one.  Especially since our bedroom is on the first floor and we rarely have to venture upstairs, something I avoid if at all possible.

I don’t even want to know what the bathroom up there looks like.

By the time it was just The Young One left at home, Beloved began to grouse that we should have bought a much smaller place, despite the fact that I frequently reminded him that at least two of the kids would have killed each other had they been forced into closer quarters, and that all that empty space upstairs, to say nothing of the basement, gave us plenty of room for them all to spread out when they do come to visit, such as when TYO graduated from high school.

These days, however, My Better Half has begun to change his tune and has decided that we should keep the house until we’re ready to retire, which is at least 15 years away.  It’s too convenient to our office, too close to Jolly and The G Man, only 40 minutes away from The Young One’s college campus and within reasonable driving distance to all of our farmers.

Of course, the fact that there are 9 vegetable gardens, and more coming this year, in the back yard might have something to do with his about-face.

Beloved has always been an avid gardener.  Our back yard in Texas was beautifully landscaped, and the first thing we did when we moved to Ohio was plant flowers.  It didn’t take us long to begin an herb garden and dig a couple of 8′ x 4′ plots in the back for a few tomato and pepper plants (those plots are now dedicated to our annual crops: rhubarb, asparagus and strawberries).  When we went local/sustainable and joined a CSA, he decided to see what we  could grow ourselves and before I knew it we had not one, but two, compost bins in the back yard, seeds sprouting in our living room, buckets of manure in our trunk, 5 raised beds (he built two more before the weather became bitterly cold this year) and complicated diagrams about what to plant, when to plant, and where to plant.

My husband is nothing if not thorough.

At any rate, at one point during this awful winter – what we now call a Cold, Gray Bucket of Suck – Beloved sighed over the fact there’s so much he wants to do but can’t, and idly mentioned, “We need a gnome.”

“A gnome?”

“Yeah, a garden gnome.  It’d be cute.”

Well, you don’t have to ask me twice – for his birthday in January, he received these from ThinkGeek.com:

Zombie Garden Gnomes

Click image to enlarge

Garden Statuary

Click image to enlarge

Apparently I’m nothing if not thorough, myself.

And a little twisted, too.