Category Archives: Photos

Craigslist Adventures: Vintage Scuffmarks.

“Vintage Scuffing”

vintage scuffing

Is that right? Is vintage scuffing more expensive than regular scuffing?

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A Cake for Texas

Last month a coworker of mine announced plans to move to Texas. This coworker was the friendliest and most helpful of all the people at my new job. Though I had only known her for a few weeks when she announced her plans to leave I wanted to do something nice for her.

As you know by now, making elaborate cakes is a bit of a hobby of mine. I combined my hobby with my desire to do something nice. Making elaborate cakes is a good outlet for my creative side, which is mostly useless in my job.

I sketched out a design for the cake – the seal of Texas. I also decided to take this opportunity to use marzipan in addition to fondant.

I made a yellow cake with brown sugar icing, which is quite a delicious combination. The fondant, as always, was a bit heavy, and I wasn’t very impressed with the flavor of marzipan.

As always, I forgot to take photos of the process. This is the top of the cake, but I did add a bit more to the design before I was done.

For some reason the seal of the state of Texas has an olive branch and an oak branch.

This is a photo of the top of the cake after I finished. You can see there are olives, leaves and acorns along the edge of the cake.

This is also a final image of the cake. My coworker really liked it.

I’m always a little amazed by how difficult it is to get a photo that gives a real impression of a cake.

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Italian Flag and Colosseum Cake

We’re doing something I like to call the Faux-lympics at work. We’ve been divided into teams of 5-ish. Some people are excited. Others couldn’t care less. I’m definitely leaning toward the latter, but I still found it in me to do this. Probably because making elaborate cakes is fun…

Early in the process. At this point I’ve place the side of the Colosseum and stenciled it using cocoa powder and crisco and some good old plain printer paper!

I made a Colosseum cake. We’re team Italy. I’m Team Lazy, so instead of figuring out what to do on top, I decided to drape an Italian flag (edible, of course!) on top of the Colosseum. Seriously, what else do you do?

The cake is part of our “logo” design. Basically my plan is to wow with the cake, then feed the judges thereby winning the gold medal in logo design. Regardless, I got to play with fondant and I’ll get to eat some cake. Is there a downside?

A few more intermediate steps:

Before I added the flag, from the side. A little hint for elaborate cakes: always have a plan. I like to make a colored sketch.

Another angle. I’m still working on making my cakes look perfect. I probably need to use different frosting, but I’m also focused on taste when I choose frosting. Here I used a brown sugar frosting. Yummmm.

 

Here I’ve added the flag, which was tough. After coloring fondant, it can become a bit sticky. I wanted to make the flag and drape it, but I ended up draping it in pieces, color by color.

I wanted to incorporate the Olympic a bit, so I made a gold medal to put on top of everything.

Almost done. I just had a few finishing details after this.

Final product:

The Colosseum has 4 levels, but the 4th level is no longer complete. I made a four layer cake, but cut off half the 4th level (part of which became the gold medal).

Italy!

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Fresh Strawberry Tart With Pastry Cream

I went to my sister’s house to grill and have a picnic this weekend, and I decided to make a dessert using the delicious strawberries in my fridge (actually I bought more strawberries because I love eating fruit). The New Best Recipe has a recipe for a fresh fruit tart with a variation specifically for strawberries, and that’s what I decided to make.

The tart has three parts – the crust, the pastry cream, and the fruit. Turns out it’s a lot more work than I expected!

The crust is made of sweet pastry dough, a more cookie-like counterpart to its cousin, American pie dough. According to The New Best Recipe, this dough is “tender and crisp,” not flaky like pie dough. The book also describes cookies as descendants of sweet pastry dough, claiming cookies were the result of the French deciding this dough was good enough to eat on its own.

I find pie dough to be about 10 times easier to work with than this sweet pastry dough. It may be delicious, but it warms up quickly and gets very sticky and hard to work with. Worst of all, every time I make it I can’t stop eating the dough raw!

The ingredients consist of an egg yolk, a small amount of cream, vanilla extract, flour, confectioners’ sugar, salt and a stick of butter. The yolk, cream and vanilla are whisked together while the flour, sugar and salt are supposed to be placed in a food processor – something I lack. My version involved mixing the two separately by hand. The cold butter is cut into the flour mixture, and then the egg yolk mixture is added and combined until the dough just comes together. Hard to do by hand, but not impossible.

The dough is then refrigerated for an hour, formed into a tart pan (I have a Nordic Ware tart and quiche pan with removable bottom that I bought at Target), frozen for 30 minutes, then baked. The crust is baked covered with aluminum foil using pie weights for 30 minutes, then the weights and foil are removed and the crust is baked until golden brown.

I don’t actually have pie weights, but beans work!

I won’t go into how pastry cream is made – it’s a pretty standard thing even if recipes vary. This recipe called for half-and-half rather than milk or cream. I used the quick-cooling method because I didn’t have a lot of time to wait. By spreading the pastry cream on a cookie sheet or other large pan (I used a 13x9in baking dish) between two layers of plastic wrap, you allow more heat to escape at once.

It might not look delicious here, but it is. The plastic prevents a skin from forming.

After cooling the crust and cream, the cream is spread over the tart crust. Strawberries are then placed in the pan, starting with the tallest strawberry in the center with the remaining berries placed in rings spreading outward.

First I cut the stem ends off the berries.

The recipe directs us to order the berries by size. They looked so good I couldn’t stop taking photos! This is before I lined up my strawberry army.

Once ordered by height the berries were ready to go into the tart.

Once great thing about this tart is that you don’t feel like you’re ruining the freshness of fruit by cooking it down – it doesn’t get cooked!

The final step is glazing the fruit. The New Best Recipe suggested using red currant jelly with strawberries, but they were out at the grocery store. I picked up apple jelly as a substitute.

Glazing involved heating the jelly to the boiling point and stirring enough to get the lumps out. The heated jelly is then brushed, flicked, and dabbed onto the fruit until everything looks shiny and delectable.

Doesn’t look particularly good, but it certainly makes the dessert look polished.

I cut way too many strawberries for my tart pan. I guess I’ll have to eat them later. Now the berries are ready for glazing.

The final product looked great, but be sure to serve it soon after you finish! The water in the strawberries will thin out the pastry cream making it hard to serve.

YUM

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