Thursday, September 4, 2008

Hurrah for no cake-cutting fees!!

Let's all give a round of applause for restaurants (usually small, independently owned establishments) that don't charge cake-cutting fees!!! It's such a convenience for people like myself who love celebrating friends' birthdays with homemade cakes, but enjoy having birthday dessert and the hoopla surrounding it dining out.
It was Cassie's birthday this past week and the entire gang came down to LA in honor of the bithday girl -- not that they don't try to find any excuse to come visit. Clearly I bake regularly, but I also try to stick to a pretty healthy diet: lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. That all gets thrown out the window when these girls come into town though. When we get together, we eat, and we eat A LOT. They need to get their fix of whatever they can't find in the Bay Area, and I get to enjoy everything I don't normally allow myself.
This particular trip included Honey's Kettle fried chicken and soft, buttery biscuits, Japanese fusion izakaya, an Italian breakfast sandwich and pear pancakes at The Kitchen, a quick Intelligentsia stop, pad see ew and crispy pork with green beans at Ord Noodle, crostinis and salami from Joan's on Third, the oozy goodness of the chicken mushroom panini at Il Tramezzino, dinner at Palate Food + Wine in Glendale, a light breakfast of soft scrambled vegetarian hen eggs with wild mushrooms at LA Mill, the Cuban Reuben for brunch at The Foundry, mussels and garlic mops and cornbread at Village Idiot, the bo ssam and seafood pancake at Kowaboo, and, of course,
After an exhausting week and too little free time, I managed to whip up a banana cake that has been a crowd pleaser in the past. It's unfailingly moist and infused with delicious banana flavor. Not too much adornment, but cream cheese frosting, and maybe some toasted pecans are all you need. It's so simple to whip together and the biggest issue is just planning ahead so that your bananas will be good to go when it comes time to bake. And by good to go, I mean black. To the point where your better judgment would have you throw them out instead of attracting fruit flies. Another alternative is to troll different markets, asking for really ripe bananas and quite frequently, they'll have them in the back, quarantined from "blemish-free" bananas. Waiting until this stage makes ALL the difference.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Pecan Pie Cupcakes

August flew by with all sorts of goings-on. People moving out, moving in, 24 hour trips to Vegas, more people moving out, moving in, hosting 4 people with only 4 semi-comfortable areas to sleep in, including my own bed...and, still, birthdays must be celebrated. Sigh.
I do love to bake for friends' birthdays, but sometimes there's just so much going on that it's the last thing I want to do. Lucky for them, I still pull myself up by my boot straps and try to whip up something that would appeal to his/her tastes. For Rodney's birthday, I wasn't quite sure what he would prefer because he's such a fan of everything. Oatmeal raising cookies, cakes, chocolate chip cookies, NUTS (I think it's great that he's not adverse to nuts like so many people these days!) and given too many choices, I can never make a decision. I ended up settling on Pecan Pie Cupcakes from the wonderful Bake or Break blog.
Because the reviews had described the cake as more muffin-like, I tried to employ some normal cupcake techniques to lighten up the cake a bit (although judging from the end result, I should modified the recipe even more!) I creamed softened butter and the brown sugar instead of using melted butter. I was also making full-sized cupcakes so I doubled the quantities from the recipe.
I haven't made the original recipe, so I'm not quite certain how similar or different they are, but I feel it was still a pretty dense cake. Maybe it was because it's chock full of pecans?
I tried a new salted caramel frosting because I didn't want to fuss with the entire caramel making process this time as I did for cousin Lib's birthday -- time was of the essence!! This recipe was quite easy to make, but a little more buttery than I would like. The mouthfeel of the last salted caramel frosting was definitely more agreeable. Alas, these sacrifices are what you make in the lurch! Thankfully, the combination of the cake and the frosting was a hit. Some people quite enjoyed the buttery quality of both the cake and frosting, so I lucked out. I probably won't be making this exact recipe again, but it is definitely a solid flavor combination that one should try.