Category: birthdays

Happy 6th birthday, Cupcake Rehab.

Happy 6th birthday, Cupcake Rehab!

Wow. I’m a terrible, terrible blogger. It almost completely slipped my mind that my blogiversary was coming up, & I almost let it go by without a word. Isn’t that awful? It’s pretty awful. It’s like a mom forgetting her kid’s birthday. Or a wife forgetting her wedding anniversary. And if you don’t understand those comparisons- you’re definitely NOT a blogger. All the work that goes into this. Six years of doing this blog… the least I can do is mention it’s birthday!

So I made a giant cupcake & lit some candles. Isn’t that what everyone does for their blog’s birthday?

Well… I do.

Every year, I make it a point to thank all the people who have helped me with Cupcake Rehab since the beginning. It may sound cheesy to you, but I appreciate a thank you for being there for someone, so I always a make a point to do the same for others: thank you Jay & thanks to my parents who made baking requests that challenge me & who have eaten more than their fair share of treats (I know, what torture!). Thanks to my friends who have promoted my blog as if it was their own. Thanks to those who sponsor me & provide items for reviews & giveaways throughout the previous; like Yoyo, Sourpuss Clothing, the Washington State Stone Fruit Commission, Milton’s Craft Bakers, Duchy Originals, etc. And of course… my readers! You’re the reason I’m still going after 6 years! Despite Google changing things in favor of big business & despite blog hits going down across the board because of it, you’ve been there from the jump & I love you for it. And those of you who haven’t & who are new? I love you too. Anyone who reads my posts, repins my stuff on Pinterest, comments on the Facebook page, or answers me on Twitter- you’re all amazing. I love you. I appreciate each & every one of you, whether you read the blog regularly or just popped in once for a recipe. I swear I do.

Things around here have changed so much since that first post! My photography has gotten much better, thanks in (major) part to Canon’s EOS Rebel t4i. My writing has definitely improved, as has my recipe-writing. Also? I’ve expanded my repertoire so much; it used to be cupcakes 24/7, now it’s canning, cooking, candy-making, etc. I’ve enjoyed it all so very much, I can’t even tell you. I’ve grown so much, & in some ways a lot of you have grown with me. I love that I can look back at those old posts. I can cringe, or laugh, or maybe even get misty-eyed. It’s like having a big ol’ journal slash recipe book out there for the whole world to read.

SIX YEARS of recipes, laughs, questions, failures, successes, giveaways, reviews, and deliciousness. And some sadness. But mostly happiness. Filling our bellies & making lemonade out of lemons. Birthdays, deaths, engagements, celebrations, holidays. Six years of life at it’s most lived. Because really, isn’t the kitchen the heart of any home?

Let’s keep it going, eh?

I’m not ready to leave yet!

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It’s my birthday & I’ll make cupcakes if I want to.

HOLY FRIGGIN’ BALLS. Tomorrow I turn 32 years old! HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?! And more importantly, who the hell is in charge here, because somewhere along the line, I got shafted. Time went too quickly, and I’d like to file a complaint.

Hello? Anyone?

Me, as a baby.

How things change. Not so very long ago, I was wearing pink Osh Kosh overalls & making scrunchy faces at people. Actually, scratch that; I still do those things, except I only have regular ol’ blue denim H&M overalls now, not pink. Jay will tell you (& my family will attest to the fact)… I still make that face. Frequently. And my bangs still separate like that no matter what I do.

Some things don’t change. Nevermind.

Anyway… uh… cupcakes.

Happy 32nd birthday to me- funfetti cupcakes!

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The “Life List.”

News flash: 32 days from today, I will turn 32 years old.

This is a big deal, mainly because I don’t feel anywhere close to 32. I know my grandma used to say that she didn’t feel her age, and when she looked in the mirror she was surprised to see her mother looking back at her. I’ve heard other people say that as well, including my own mother at times. And of course, I know the whole “time flies” bit already. But now the past few years I’ve been feeling all of this myself, and it’s bizarre. I can’t even blame it on my age, or even on the fact that I’m facing the looming prospect of marriage, which is kind of the ultimate in “grown-up”-ness…. because it’s been coming for a while.

Me.

Do I look 32? Because I literally feel, at the absolute oldest, maybe 21. Okay… so that photo is from back in May, but still. I wake up some mornings and still feel like a 16 year old kid. Other mornings I wake up and I feel so completely disconnected from the fact I’m actually in my 30′s that the concept of it is almost shocking. As if it just can’t be. Like there’s some mistake or miscalculation. Maybe I graduated from high school at age 8 or something? Maybe I was really born in 1991? Can that be? Because I cannot actually be in my 30′s. It’s just impossible. No way time can go by that fast, can it?

Just two weeks ago, I painted my nails with a multicolored glitter nail polish & there was a Candy Land band-aid on my finger (covering a cherry jam-inflicted) wound. That’s not very grown-up, is it?

Actually I can’t say that I give a shit whether or not it’s grown-up.

Anyway, inspired by AB CHAO’s Life List, I decided to make one. As in, things I’d like to do/have happen at some point in my life, as of right now at (almost) age 32. I’m of the opinion that this list doesn’t have to be a “bucket list” (I hate that phrase) nor does it have to contain things that are incredibly important, nor do I have to explain any of them to anyone other than myself. It does NOT have to consist of things that are achievements. It does NOT have to be about work, or family, or anything. Just stuff that you want to do. I see so many people make these over the top lists of things they feel they need to accomplish… and so much of it involves making more money, or having better things than others do, having the biggest house or nicest car, etc. That’s not what this is about. This isn’t about impressing anyone or making anyone else feel inadequate. This isn’t about changing yourself.

And there’s no “Achieve world peace” or “Get the Nobel Peace Prize” stuff here; I’ll save that for the Miss America pageant.

My "Life List." What's on yours?

  1. Vote for a female presidential candidate (not just in a primary- but an actual election, and not a Vice President).
  2. Open my own bakery/coffee shop.
  3. Attend the Met Gala.
  4. Plant & successfully grow an edible fruit tree in my yard, probably apple. I love me some apples & they do great in NY.
  5. Own a brownstone in downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn, or a home built prior to 1940. The older the better, in fact!
  6. Travel all over Europe, with no specific time frame or monetary restraints.
  7. Buy a car from a cooler decade to drive around on weekends. For example; A Studebaker from the 1920′s, or Ford pickup truck from the 1930′s… hell, I’d settle for a ’50′s Buick or Chevy, or even a 1960 Chevy Delivery sedan. Old cars > new. All day, everyday.
  8. Get my driver’s license so I can drive my awesome 1920′s car around on weekends like Daisy Buchanan (hopefully sans killing anyone).
  9. See a favorite band perform in another country (not Canada, doesn’t count… too close!).
  10. Have pink hair one more time.
  11. Buy a farm. Literally.
  12. Grow enough tomatoes in one season to make a few jars of homemade sauce, with NO store bought ingredients.
  13. Complete the family tree, equally, so that one side isn’t traced back to 1300 and the other is still stuck at 1830.
  14. Win more than $500 on a lottery ticket (okay, so I know this is a matter of luck & has nothing to do with me, but still).
  15. Learn Gaelic, French & German.
  16. Write (& publish) a book.
  17. Replace all the jadeite pieces of my grandmother’s that I broke.
  18. Learn to sew on a real sewing machine.
  19. Fix up my mom’s vintage blue 1967 Columbia Thunderbolt bicycle with new chains, new white wall tires & a basket on the front.
  20. Learn to clean, de-bone & cook fish perfectly.
  21. Hire Chrisie to paint a portrait of Indy in a stately, dignified pose. Like this!
  22. Finally make a t-shirt quilt.
  23. To be one of those super organized people with an actual home office.
  24. Make my own usable pottery- dishes, bowls, etc.
  25. Learn how to Marcel wave my hair.
  26. Make a jelly roll without the cake “cracking.”
  27. Get back into watercolor painting.
  28. Learn how to really work the shit out of my camera like a pro.
  29. Buy a working antique gramophone/phonograph.
  30. Start to do yoga.
  31. Make macarons that are perfect on the first try.
  32. Finally get those tattoos I have all drawn up.

I’m sure I’ll think of more as soon as I stop writing this post, but I thought I ought to confine it to 32, you know, 32 being the big number and all. C’est la vie. I think I’ll revisit this post in one year & see how much I’ve done.

What would be on your life list?

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream.

‎”Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal.” —Voltaire‎

Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey.

One can only imagine what Voltaire would say about this ice cream in particular: a double whammy of both chocolate and chocolate-flavored whiskey from the Kings County Distillery, made for my favorite guy’s 32nd birthday. Yup, that’s right. Jay turns the big 3-2 today! Just so you know- he’s older than I am (by a whopping 2 months & 7 days, but let’s not get into that). See the thing is, usually I ask him what he wants me to bake for him for his birthday (as I do with everyone), then I bake it and give it to him on the actual day. But this year, Jay’s been on tour for over a week and he’s got a show tonight too. So tomorrow is his only day off and then Saturday it’s back to work. I decided to make something that would keep well and only get better with age (like Jay!).

What better than whiskey ice cream?

Chocolate whiskey ice cream. Made with two types of chocolate and chocolate "flavored" whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

I mean, the man’s been on tour for a week drinking probably nothing but bourbon & whiskey. Why not just keep the streak going?

Not to mention the fact that I believe it’s officially ice cream time. Memorial Day is next week, and the weather was a partly cloudy yet humid 75° F when I made this batch. To me, that means it’s the start of ice cream season. The whiskey I used for this is, like I said, from Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, NY. It has actual bits of dark chocolate floating around in it. It’s pretty strong, in my opinion it’s not a terrific “sipping whiskey,” more so one that’s best suited for mixing or baking. However it also has a strong chocolate aftertaste that makes this ice cream super special. But a regular whiskey or bourbon works just fine, too. And I can just imagine using that cherry bourbon chocolate sauce on this… lawdamercy. But the topping I used was pretty spectacular (keep reading for that).

This should probably be called ‘triple chocolate whiskey’ ice cream since there’s two types of chocolate PLUS chocolate whiskey. Call it whatever you want. Either way, it’s amazing.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream made with two kinds of chocolate PLUS chocolate 'flavored' whiskey from Kings Co. Distillery.

Triple chocolate ice cream: the creamiest ice cream you'll ever make. Or eat. Made with Kings Co. Distillery's chocolate whiskey.I love the way the light reflected & made a halo around the bowls. Even Mother Nature loves this ice cream!

CHOCOLATE CHOCOLATE WHISKEY ICE CREAM

Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup Kings County Distillery chocolate flavored whiskey
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces chopped semisweet chocolate
  • 2 ounces chopped dark chocolate

Directions:

  1. Whisk together egg yolks, whiskey and 1/4 cup sugar in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large saucepan, whisk together cream, vanilla, chocolate and 1/4 cup of sugar. Simmer over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Temper egg yolk mixture by slowly adding hot cream mixture to the egg yolk mixture, with a ladle, a little at a time. Once egg yolk mixture is thoroughly warmed add to the saucepan with the warm cream mixture. Stir until thickened and remove from the heat.
  3. Strain mixture into a bowl over ice. Place the bowl into the refrigerator for at least 45 minutes. Spin in an ice cream maker for 25 minutes… it probably won’t get much firmer, but this helps “churn” it. Add to a freezer-safe container & freeze for 12-24 hours so it gets firm.

Peanut butter whipped cream!

For an extra special treat, for my peanut butter lover… I made some peanut butter whipped cream to top it with. I know. I know. Don’t even say anything. There’s nothing you CAN say, it’s ridiculous. If you use a creamy peanut butter, yours will look smoother. Mine was crunchy.

Oh. I almost forgot: there are chocolate sprinkles too. Can’t have a birthday without sprinkles.

PEANUT BUTTER WHIPPED CREAM (from Yes, I Want Cake)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter (chunky peanut butter works also, I used it)
  • 1 tablespoon confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it’s almost but not quite “stiff.”
  2. Add the peanut butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat for another minute & serve.

Triple chocolate WHISKEY ice cream. Two types of chocolate and chocolate whiskey come together to make the creamiest, smoothest, most chocolatey ice cream ever. Oh, and there's peanut butter whipped cream to go with it.

Yeah. Not much to say about that. Well, other than WHOA. This is literally the softest, most creamy ice cream I ever made. It’s super decadent, fudgy & delicious. But it also has a little whiskey bite. Not much, mind you, just enough. However… it melts fast! So be careful. Only take it out right when you’re gonna serve it. It does NOT have to sit out & soften. In my experience, it’s ready to go right out of the freezer. Of course, if you freeze it for weeks, it might get a bit harder, but it still isn’t going to take long to “defrost” enough to serve. I also wouldn’t serve it in cones, it’s far too creamy.

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream. Dark chocolate & semisweet chocolate combine with chocolate whiskey to make a smooth, creamy, rich ice cream that you'll LOVE. Add some peanut butter whipped cream & chocolate sprinkles to complete the experience.

On that note I’ll end this by saying…

Happy birthday Jay! And many more…

Chocolate chocolate whiskey ice cream with peanut butter whipped cream!

Psst.. .the tiki mug giveaway is still going strong. You’ve got until May 27th at 11:59 p.m. to enter. So go!

Sources & credits: Arcoroc French made smoky-clear glass bowls; vintage, Le Creuset mini coccottes in “Twilight” (white shown).

Five years of sugar, flour, butter & shenanigans.

WOW. I honestly can’t believe I’ve had this blog for 5 years.

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FIVE YEARS. Of blogging, 3-5 times a week. Roughly 636 posts.

3,000 comments.

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More recipes than I can count.

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That equals a lot of words. A lot of recipes, yes. But a LOT of words.

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But I often have a lot to say. And not always just about baking. To quote Bobby Brown, (who, admittedly, frequents a very different kind of rehab than my site) that’s my prerogative. Which, speaking of, brings me to something I’ve thought about a few times since becoming a blogger (again) back in 2007.

I consider myself to be a pretty good blogger. I’m not one of the most popular bloggers EVER, I don’t get rich off of this by any means. But that isn’t why I’m here. I’m here because it’s fun & I enjoy it. I try to post often, I make sure the recipes are workable to the best of my ability, I bust my ass to come up with creative stuff & good content, I don’t do a lot of needless “paid posts”,  I’m not uber controversial (well not usually), etc. However I do rule with an iron fist around here.

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If you’ll indulge me a quick tangent, most bloggers at some point or another, incur the wrath of a crazy internet troll and end up with a mean rant or two, or at the very worst- an entire horrendous thread of vile comments ( to those not in the blogosphere: a “thread” is also known as not just one, but a continuous slew of comments). It’s occurred to me a few times that I’ve never incurred such wrath; save for one time when a psycho bitch went racist on me because the United States of America elected a half-black president in 2008. Because apparently, that was all my fault (?). I love a good debate, and I love people to give their opinions and ideas here. Just as long as it’s respectful. If you want to act crazy and let the world wide web read it- go ahead. Start your own blog, they’re free. I bet there’s tons of trolls that would love to read it. Just don’t bring it here and we’re cool. And recently a blog I’m a big fan of, Hot Pink Apron, had a similar situation featuring a mindless idiot & an offensive comment. Why do people feel the need to do that? I don’t know. I just know I’m lucky I haven’t had to deal with a lot of it.

So yes, I’m incredibly lucky: I have not only excellent spam filters, but more importantly, excellent readers. So on today, the FIFTH birthday of Cupcake Rehab, as I eat these beautiful vanilla blogiversary cupcakes (this recipe)… topped off with a delicious dark chocolate/sour cream frosting made with Supreme Dark Lindt chocolate (this recipe)… and pink sprinkles, of course…

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But anyway, I’m getting distracted. Where I was going with this was that as I eat these I want to say…

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Thanks to you all.

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You’ve been awesome, you’ve been great, you’ve been the best readers anyone could ask for. Back in 2007, when I started a little blog on WordPress.com, I never thought it be anything more than a fun little diversion that my friends would read. I had no idea it would become what it has. I’m both grateful and awed. You’ve all grown with me, from my silly first posts and my awful pictures, to what the blog is now, which is (I hope) a far better version of that. And I hope it continues to grow and evolve as I do. I also hope you’ll all still be following me, reading my posts, and traveling the strange journey of life with me. I love that people have embraced the fact that I gave my mixers little monikers; Lola & He Who Must Not Be Named. I love that other people started naming theirs, too! I love seeing my photos pinned & re-pinned on Pinterest. I love seeing people pin my blog logo & say “My favorite blog!” I love that so much, you have no idea. I love that people e-mail me and ask me questions about cookies.I love that I get Facebook comments like, “Hi, I’m obsessed with your blog!” I love that you guys buy t-shirts & mugs that say Cupcake Rehab!

It makes me so incredibly happy. Happy to know you’re enjoying all the work I put in.

I know, this is starting to sound like a cheesy speech at the Oscars, but really, I mean it.

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People think blogging is easy. They think it’s a way to make a quick fortune, that they’ll get tons of hits & comments right away, that everyone will LOVE what they write because their friends tell them they’re funny, etc. It’s not like that at all. It’s a lot of work to make a blog not only beautiful but worth reading. It takes time, patience, knowledge of HTML/CSS, the ability to take good photos (and edit them). It takes a sense of humor and most of all the ability to draw people in. But it is anything but easy. Is it worth it? Sure. But I didn’t get into this for money or internet fame or anything. My stars aligned in such a way that I somehow became pretty popular & had a few awesome opportunities given to me because of that. But can I retire at 31 with all the dough I’ve made? No. And that isn’t the point. Anyone who’s in it for that is a fool. I’d do this no matter what the result, because I enjoy it. I genuinely enjoy every single aspect; from the creation, to the photos, to the readers, the PHP and CSS coding, even the battles with database connection errors & MySQL. I enjoy it all.

Especially the food.

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And that won’t stop. As long as I’m able to, I’ll still be here blogging. So I really hope you’ll still be here reading. From me & from Lola… thanks for hangin’ in there with us for five years, or five minutes, whatever! However long it is you’ve been a reader- thank you, thank you, thank you.

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Here’s to another 5 years!

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Cherry-bomb cupcakes for Julia’s birthday.

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good & loaded & whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon Appetit.”
-Julia Child

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I think every food blogger in the universe has been inspired by the book and the ensuing movie Julie & Julia; or at the very least thought, “Wow… that could happen to me!” But we love it not just because it’s a fabulous blogger-makes-good story, but because it involves Julia. The unflappable and beloved Julia Child, she herself who is an example of the very same path most of us food bloggers have taken: non-cook morphs into cook (or baker) and writes about it. And then- success! However, with bloggers, if we’re lucky we get one one-thousandth (or one one-millionth) of the readers that over the years have bought, read and attempted to execute recipes from Julia’s books. Julia was a pioneer in many ways, and her life was fascinating. Her relationship with her husband Paul reminds me a lot of my relationship with Jay; he was un-endingly supportive and encouraging of her in all her exploits & possible craziness. Of course he & I are not quite Julia & Paul Child clones- I doubt Julia ever had a mohawk and Paul was certainly never a cop nor was he in a death metal band- but seriously. Jay has humored me in all of my blogging lunacy, and it can also be said that without him there might not even BE a blog. And without Paul, there would have been no Mastering the Art of French Cooking. So yes, at this point it may seem cliche to love her and be a big fan of hers, but I can’t deny that I spent a large portion of my childhood watching the show Julia had on PBS with Jacques Pépin: Cooking at Home (as well as watching The Galloping Gourmet, the Frugal Gourmet & Yan Can Cook… remember those dudes!?). I always loved Julia, even before I knew who she was & how important she was. And whenever we were at my aunt & uncle’s house for dinner, my Uncle Pat used to do a hilarious impression of her while he cooked.

Well, today would’ve been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.

Child was born Julia Carolyn McWilliams in Pasadena, California, the daughter of John McWilliams, Jr., a Princeton University graduate and prominent land manager, and his wife, the former Julia Carolyn (“Caro”) Weston, a paper-company heiress whose father, Byron Curtis Weston, served as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. The eldest[3] of three children, she had a brother, John III (1914–2002), and a sister, Dorothy Dean (1917–2006).[4]

Child attended Westridge School, Polytechnic School from fourth grade to ninth grade, then The Katherine Branson School in Ross, California, which was at the time a boarding school. At six feet, two inches (1.88 m) tall, Child played tennis, golf, and basketball as a child and continued to play sports while attending Smith College, from which she graduated in 1934 with a major in English.[1] A press release issued by Smith in 2004 states that her major was history.[5]

Following her graduation from college, Child moved to New York City, where she worked as a copywriter for the advertising department of upscale home-furnishing firm W. & J. Sloane. Returning to California in 1937, she spent the next four years writing for local publications, working in advertising, and volunteering with the Junior League of Pasadena[6].

Child repeatedly recalled her first meal in Rouen as a culinary revelation; once, she described the meal of oysters, sole meunière, and fine wine to The New York Times as “an opening up of the soul and spirit for me.” In Paris, she attended the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and later studied privately with Max Bugnard and other master chefs.[15] She joined the women’s cooking club Cercle des Gourmettes, through which she met Simone Beck, who was writing a French cookbook for Americans with her friend Louisette Bertholle. Beck proposed that Child work with them, to make the book appeal to Americans.

In 1951, Child, Beck, and Bertholle began to teach cooking to American women in Child’s Paris kitchen, calling their informal school L’école des trois gourmandes (The School of the Three Food Lovers). For the next decade, as the Childs moved around Europe and finally to Cambridge, Massachusetts, the three researched and repeatedly tested recipes. Child translated the French into English, making the recipes detailed, interesting, and practical.

In 1963, the Childs built a home near the Provence town of Plascassier in the hills above Cannes on property belonging to co-author Simone Beck and her husband, Jean Fischbacher. The Childs named it “La Pitchoune“, a Provençal word meaning “the little one” but over time the property was often affectionately referred to simply as “La Peetch”.[16]

PBS announced an interactive celebration called Cook For Julia about a month ago, and I really wanted to participate. So I popped ‘Julie & Julia’ in the DVD player, flipped through Mastering the Art of French Cooking and got to work! ‘Cause see, I was debating doing a version of Julia’s cherry clafoutis, just with “drunken cherries” instead. That’s when I decided (as I often do) to go against the grain. And not just recreate a Julia recipe as they suggested, because everyone will be doing that… but instead, I made Julia some birthday cupcakes. That is, after all, what I do best. Cupcakes. For people in my family, every year, they get a batch of birthday cupcakes, and Julia should get the family treatment. Not only that but what better ingredient to use in a birthday cupcake than alcohol? Or even better… alcohol-soaked fruit?

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Remember my bourbon cherries? Well the one month waiting period is up! And those little bourbon cherries are ready (and in turn, the cherry-infused bourbon is ready, too, but that’s another post).

I was thinking, what can I make with this stuff? I mean… a drink is obvious. Using the bourbon to make a glaze is obvious. And to plop one of these cherries in a cold glass of Coke is obvious, too. But I wanted to do something a little different. And after all, Julia loved to cook with liquor, and she even put it in the food sometimes. *wink*

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So I decided to make cupcakes with those drunken little cherries instead of using them in a clafoutis! By the way, if you remember a while back (on my birthday, actually) I mentioned that those vanilla cupcakes were my new favorite- well, this is them. They’re moist with a great vanilla flavor and they aren’t cornbread-y.

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CHERRY-BOMB CUPCAKES FOR JULIA

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 12 brandy-infused cherries (stems, pits & all- you can also use regular fresh Bing cherries, but if you do, substitute 1 teaspoon of the vanilla extract in the recipe with either Kirsch, brandy or bourbon)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt and baking powder. Stir with a whisk lightly to incorporate. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the butter and sugar. Using the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  4. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Slowly add the vanilla (and/or Kirsch), milk and sour cream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed. With the mixer on medium speed, gradually mix in the flour mixture.
  5. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 full. Push a cherry into each, keeping stem end up. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Let cool 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Cakes can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature overnight.

Make sure, before serving, to tell everyone they still have the pits in them! No broken teeth for Julia’s birthday, k? It’s easiest to eat these with a spoon, that way you can eat around the pits… which brings me to what I served them with…

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I served them with a some whipped cream in a jar, ’cause it just seemed like the right thing to do. It seemed like a delicious, fun, offbeat kinda way of topping these off, and just the kinda thing Julia would’ve approved of. It’s really cool, actually, and if you keep shaking it, you’ll get butter. Which also seemed incredibly appropriate for Julia.

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We all know that long before Paula Deen, Julia Child was the Queen of Butter.

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All you have to do is take a clean, empty 8-oz. jar. Fill it with 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and two drops of pure vanilla extract. Close the jar tightly and shake! Seriously. Shake it. For anywhere from 2-3 minutes, vigorously. If you keep going, like I said, you’ll get butter. Then you can refrigerate it, add a little salt and shmear it on some toast. But if you wanna keep it at the whipped cream, be sure to check it after 3 minutes of shaking.

It has an amazing fresh taste. If you like your whipped cream on the sweeter side, add 1 full teaspoon of sugar.

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They’re definitely an adult cupcake, not for children. You can definitely taste the bourbon, however it’s not overwhelming or overpowering at all. It just gives the cake and the cherry an extra added oomph. And the whipped cream on the side is just perfection. And as a matter of fact, it’s excellent to make at a dinner or a party. It would be so much fun to have your guests help you make it! Make the cupcakes, set them out, and then fill the jar with the ingredients. Then just pass it around, letting each person shake it. Then… voilà! Fresh whipped cream! And of course serving the entire kit & kaboodle with a cocktail made from the cherry bourbon is a must. Taking a swig or two while baking is probably even more of a must.

So that’s the end of my little tribute. I hope it’s something Julia would’ve been proud of. I can’t help but think that she would be… although seeing how she wasn’t a fan of Julie Powell (and her sometimes irreverent attitude) I don’t know if she’d much like me or my little blog. But it doesn’t matter. Because I have nothing but the utmost love and respect for her and all she did to pave the way for food freaks like me to feel comfortable talking about our dinners with such passion, our desserts with such gusto and our butter with such adoration.

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Regardless of how she would feel about me, Happy 100th Birthday, Julia!

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I love you, and as evidenced by this celebration, I think we all still love you. Bon Appetit!

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Follow more bloggers as they #cookforJulia at the Twitter hashtag!

31 years.

As of 8:09 p.m. this evening, July 30th, that’s (officially) how old I am.

Boy- did that shit go fast.

I know kids never believe it, and if they did they wouldn’t be kids. But jeez. It really flew by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes I wonder where exactly the past 15 years went, because there are literally times I wake up and can’t imagine how it can be possible that I’m not 16 anymore. But I’m not. Thankfully. Not that those weren’t good times. They were. And I loved being young & stupid. But I never want to see another Regents exam book again in my life.

Kids today- you have it easy. I’m sure my parents thought that when I was a kid, and their parents thought that about them, and so on. But you spoiled brats really do. You guys get cell phones when you’re like, 8 years old. And most of the time they’e smartphones. I didn’t get a smartphone until I was 30! I was thinking the other day about  various birthdays I’ve had. I thought of my 17th birthday, and how I desperately wanted to buy a particular CD (it was Pinhead Gunpowder, “Carry The Banner”, if you must know) and I could not find it anywhere. I had to call 4 different “Record Stores” and finally found a Tower Records that had it like 6 towns away. There was no iTunes. There was no Napster (not yet, anyway) and there certainly weren’t any Bit Torrents. I had to call stores (on a landline phone! No cell phone!) and then go and find the actual Compact Disc in that store, and buy it with cash, face to face with a salesperson. And then listen to it on my Discman! Is your mind blown yet, little one?

Not to mention the fact that I had to physically go to a library after school and read encyclopedias and microfiche to do research for projects. There wasn’t really internet like there is today until my sophomore year in High School. And even then, it was mainly dial-up, and it didn’t matter what website you were in the middle of printing or getting information from… when your aunt called, your ass got booted. “Goodbye!”

At any rate, 31 may be young, but I’ve seen enough changes in those 31 years to realize that life really moves at breakneck speed. And like Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss something.” I don’t plan on missing anything. Not one single crumb.

As I do every year, no matter what, I made myself some cupcakes. It’s just something I like to do. I make 4-6 cupcakes just for me (although I usually end up eating maybe two tops & inevitably sharing the rest), in flavors I like and in fancy liners with pretty candles or pretty toppers. No matter how many cakes or cupcakes other people get for me or make for me…. I always make myself some cupcakes. It’s just a little gift I give myself. I make things for other people all year long, why not make something just for me?

I made my favorite cupcakes: vanilla cupcakes with a thick, sweet vanilla buttercream that tastes just like old fashioned bakery buttercream. You know the kind. The kind that Carrie & Miranda talk about in Sex & the City when they’re talking about the cake at Brady’s Christening party. Fat, thick, sweet and white. Reminiscent of childhood birthday parties & cakes from your local family owned bakery. The beautiful black & white striped liners & the mini-quins are from sweet estelle’s baking supply and the black & white candles are just from my local supermarket. You know how much I love black & white… but I had to add a little color. It is my birthday, after all. Even if your heart is cold & black, on your birthday you have to have some colored sprinkles, amirite?

They were magnificent. The cupcake recipe is my new favorite vanilla cupcake, made with sour cream, however you’ll have to wait for that one, ’cause I’m evil. But here’s the frosting recipe.

THICK BAKERY “BUTTERCREAM”

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 – 1/2 pound confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 – 4 tablespoons milk

Directions:

  1. Cream the butter and shortening in a medium bowl until smooth and fluffy. Beat in half the sugar, then add half the milk. Combine.
  2. Add vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. If not thick enough, add more sugar. If too thick, add more milk.

I’ll be back in a few days with some new recipes. Until then, tide yourselves over with looking at those awesome cupcake photos above. And speaking of photos- I got a new camera for my birthday: a Canon EOS Rebel t4i. So after the next couple of posts (I have a bit of a recipe back-up issue; I’m desperately trying to write ‘em all up!) you can expect my blog photo quality to go up exponentially. As soon as I figure out all the cool shit it can do *wink*

There’s an old poem, mainly used to teach children the days of the week, that lists characteristics of children born on each day. I was born on a Thursday, and according to the poem: “Thursday’s child has far to go.” I think it’s true- I do have far to go. Anyway, I hope that it’s true. I don’t mind the journey.

Birthday pie.

The best thing about summer is fresh squeezed, ice cold lemonade.

Okay so maybe there are lots of “best things” about summer. The beach, the sun, vacations, my freckles coming out, flip flops, the luxury of laying on a blanket in the grass & reading, barbecues, fireworks, me running through a sprinkler like a 5-year-old, etc. But lemonade has to be one of ‘em. Ice cold lemonade with slices of fresh lemon in it. Actually… anything lemon reminds me of summer. Something about those bright yellow slightly oblong orbs sitting in a bowl that reminds me of sunshine. And versatile, too; pop a slice or two in some plain homemade iced black tea, a glass of Pellegrino, seltzer or even just ice water, and it changes everything. Serve some wedges with grilled shrimp or fish, or sprinkle some zest over pasta tossed with ricotta cheese & olive oil as a quick meal. And don’t throw out a  leftover lemon (once you’ve used the zest and juiced it)- cut it up and use it mixed in a spray bottle with regular white vinegar as a great household cleaner. You can even freeze lemons. Needless to say, there are always plenty of them around here.

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It might have been because of that fact that for my mother’s birthday (which was yesterday), instead of a traditional birthday cake or even cupcakes, she requested lemon meringue pie. I never made it before, but I had made that pineapple pie, and it was a similar concept. I was still nervous about it but I kept thinking of that pineapple pie, and how good it came out. That and, let’s face it, meringue loves me. Well, meringue loves Lola, that is. Anyway, it turned out really good (my mother agreed with the author’s statement that it is indeed the best lemon meringue pie ever). I used the recipe from my “go-to pie book”; Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Pinner. Why is that my go-to pie book? Because nobody, NOBODY, makes pies like Southern women, that’s why. If they can’t do it, no one can. Same goes for cobblers, crumbles, fried chicken and biscuits. Mmm, biscuits.

Anyway… my mom’s birthday.

Yeah. So when it came to making the pie, I was nervous as hell, truth be told. I had all sorts of visions of my meringue not setting and my pie filling being like soup. Especially with my pecan pie failure still looming in the back of my brain, and the weather we’ve been having which is basically hazy, hot & humid. But I knew I could trust that cookbook. If the weather was on my side, and I did everything right, I knew the book would see me through.

I have a sort of love affair with Southern things. Let’s get one thing straight first: I’m a 100% certified (and bona fide) city girl, and an even bigger bona fide Northerner. I had a great-great-great-grandfather who fought for the Union in the Civil War. I do not think “the south will rise again”- at least not in the way most people who say that phrase actually mean. But that said, I love a lot about Southern life, or country living. As much as I love urban living, and apartments in Brooklyn with uber cute balconies or terraces or even fire escapes for container gardens and exposed brick walls, I dream just as much about living in a house like Sookie Stackhouse’s on True Blood. Maybe even a smidge more so. I mean- yes, it’s fictional. But have you seen that kitchen?! It’s huge! And it has a farmhouse sink. Be still my heart. So yeah, I dream about big country houses with wrap-around porches, kitchens with lots of windows and room for all my jars and baked goods and lots of yard space for gardening. Or I dream about living down there and having my own version of the Whistle Stop Cafe from Fried Green Tomatoes, but with more baked goods and less racist assholes frequenting the joint. I love old country music, not the new drivel like Taylor Swift or Kellie Pickler or Rascal Flatts- the REAL shit, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, The Carter Family, etc. I love Paula Deen, and her accent. I love sweet tea. I love pecan pie, shoo fly pie and coconut custard pie. I also love fried chicken, fried pickles, and… well… in reality, I love fried anything. But I could never fully leave the city, or stop living close enough to it to take it in whenever I want. I guess maybe my ultimate dream would be to have the city home and the country home, and divide my time. That way, I’d get the best of both worlds, and I could always pack up and flee to one when the other got to be too much for me. Flee to the country when I want to make pies with fresh berries or take it easy on my wrap around porch, smell fresh cut grass, drink lemonade from a Mason jar, and listen to crickets… and then flee back to the city when I miss the museums, fashion, nightlife, tall buildings, concrete and sounds of the traffic. The country can get way too quiet for me. I get antsy if I don’t hear sirens, car alarms or horns honking all night.

Enough dreaming. What’s with me today? This post is about pie, & my mother’s birthday… not me & my future dream homes. This ain’t HGTV, it’s Food Network. Sheesh.

The pie was a success, despite my initial freaking out. I’m going to give you the recipe for the pie here, but not the crust. That’s pretty simple to find, though, and you probably already have one. The pie is time consuming, with a lot of steps, but worth it. Trust me. Lemon meringue pies are impressive pies. Even if it’s not visually perfect, you’ll impress everyone if you make one.

LEMON MERINGUE PIE (from Sweets: Soul Food Desserts & Memories by Patty Pinner)

Ingredients:

Filling:
  • 1 baked 9″-inch pie crust
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
Meringue:
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 3 egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Prepare the pastry for a 9″-inch single pie crust. Bake it in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the crust is set. Remove the crust from the oven and set it aside.
  3. Make the filling: add the cornstarch, sugar, flour and salt to a large, heavy saucepan. Gradually whisk in the water, and cook over medium heat. Whisking constantly, cook until the mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Boil while stirring vigorously for 3-8 minutes; it’ll turn “clear and uncloudy” in appearance. Take the saucepan off the heat.
  4. Place the egg yolks in a bowl and, using a fork, beat them well. Gradually stir half of the sugar mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan with the rest of the sugar mixture and return to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the temperature to low, cooking and stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
  5. Stir in butter, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix well. Pour the filling into the prepared and baked pie crust. Set aside. Leave oven on.
  6. Prepare the meringue: blend 2 of the tablespoons sugar with the cornstarch and cold water in a medium saucepan. Stir it until the cornstarch dissolves, then add the boiling water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until the mixture is thick and clear. Take off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  7. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy. Adding them one at a time, add the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar. When those are done, add the pinch of salt and vanilla. Beat at high speed for 2 to 3 minutes, then continue to beat until they form stiff and glossy peaks.
  8. Spread the meringue over the lemon filling to the edges of the pie crust, covering the filling completely. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the meringue is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

Alright so… the pie came out great. My crust-making is still kinda shitty, but you know what? I don’t really care. I’ve come to the realization that it doesn’t really matter. Maybe the rustic, rough look is better. It all ends up in the same place, right? And the thing I was most worried about, nobody even noticed. Not one person said, “This pie tastes great, but boy, you don’t know how to fold a pie crust for shit, Marilla.” So why do I stress it? I don’t know. Same reason I used to have wastepaper baskets overflowing with drawings I didn’t deem worthy of finishing. I need to stop, even though all I see when looking at some things are my mistakes. Big, glaring mistakes. *sigh* It’s hard being a perfectionist.

But my meringue- as you can see- turned out beautifully. As always. My meringue is always rockin’, it seems. As a matter of fact, I think my meringue could redeem any failure. I could put a big dollop of meringue on just about any baking mistake and it would automatically become wonderful. Not that this pie was a failure! I’m just saying. A heaping pile of meringue makes everything even better.

I served it up with some Davidson’s Hibiscus Flower iced tea, which was amazing (remember it from this post?) and of course, a pink candle! Happy birthday, mom, thank you for everything you’ve done for me for the past 30 (almost 31- eek) years. I love you! I hope you had a fantastical birthday… and enjoy the rest of your pie.


30 on the 30th.

Today, right this minute, I am out of my twenties. Although, if you’re a stickler, then I have until 8:09 p.m. this evening to officially make that statement. Either way, I am no longer closer to 14 than I am to 40 (although admittedly it’s been a few years since I was).

I wish I was the age I am in that picture above, to be honest; but then again, don’t we all? I dig that Cabbage Patch Kids crown & lavender dress. Plus my hair color was fabulous- and natural! But we can’t go back, only forward. And as much of a gorgeous little thing as I was, I’d hate to have to do all that shit over again. SAT’s, math tests, high school, zits, the awkward stages, learning to tie my shoes, my 11th grade thesis paper, learning to write in script, long division, etc. Eh. Maybe I’ll stay 30. Maybe? As if I was given a choice!

So 30 it is. Three decades gone in the blink of an eye. I’m beginning to understand all that “grown-up” claptrap about “too soon old, too late wise” or “enjoy this now, it’ll be over before you know it” or “this is the best time of your life, but you won’t realize it until it’s too late.” Life really does fly by.

It’s a somber birthday for me this year. But any birthday you’re here to have is a good one, right? I’m thankful for that, for Jay, and my family, and my friends, and my pets, and all my blog readers/followers… I love you all. And no matter how sad I am or hard I have it I know there are a lot who have it worse. So no more pity party. Not today, anyway.

Happy birthday to me.