Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Registries, oh Registries

I was updating my registry at Crate&Barrel today and I noticed they have a contest going on.

I'm not usually much of a contest-enterer, but for whatever reason I couldn't resist this one.

Sooooo... I hate asking this because I feel slightly awkward and embarrassed doing so, but I would love it if you, dear reader, would vote for T and I so that we can win the Ultimate Wedding contest at Crate&Barrel.  You can vote here:

Thank you in advance :D

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons

... make lemonade.  Or so the saying goes.  But that's speaking of metaphorical lemons.  What happens when your aunt gives you lemons?  Lots and lots and lots of real, literal, bright yellow lemons from her tree that seems to produce them in abundance?  If you're Christine (me), you start furiously Googling lemon everything.  Lemon cake (Smitten Kitchen has a lemon poppyseed cake that looks divine), lemon cookies, lemon bars, lemon tarts.  You name it, I looked for it.  The only problem was I had tons of lemons and was trying to avoid going to the grocery store to buy supplies.  You see, I have a ton of stuff at home already.  Stuff a plenty for cookies, cakes, and everything in between.  So why is it then that lemony treats require so many extras.  Who has poppy seeds laying around their house?  Who has the time to create a glaze for these cookies?  Not me.  So, being the lazy baker that I sometimes I am, I eliminated recipe after recipe in the search for something delicious that could be made with ingredients I already have.

That, my friends, is how I found it.  A lemon pound cake recipe that will forever be my lemon pound cake recipe.  Are you that kind of person?  The kind of person who finds a recipe they love and then stops searching for others?  I've never been a "grass is greener" kind of girl, so I think I'll call it a day.  Unless you can find me something yummier and easier, this my friends, will be the lemon dessert that beckons me when those 234823 lemons get dropped off at my house by my aunt.

It goes a little something like this...

It's called Sour Cream and Lemon Pound Cake by Epicurious, except that title is deceiving because I didn't use sour cream at all.  So I'm just shortening the title to Lemon Pound Cake, lest I have to awkwardly call it Plain Whole Fat Yogurt and Lemon Pound Cake.

Start by zesting those lemons.  I normally do this first, because it takes the most work and I like to prep things before I get started, lest I get distracted and forget something.

I think it's kind of random that I chose to use a yellow bowl with the lemons, but it's what I had on hand.  Oh well.  Look at how selflessly those lemons gave me their zest.


Then you've got to cut and squeeze those lemons to get out all of their juicy goodness.  I'm telling you, my aunt produces some super lemons.  The zest is super lemony and fragrant and the lemons themselves are FULL of juice.  Next time I get a bunch, I'll share them with you so you can make this recipe too :)
As an aside, this is why I registered for a lemon squeezer.  Because juicing 12-13 lemons by hand = super tired sad hands.

This recipe should be called "heart attack with lemon" cake.  This is the two sticks of butter with three cups of sugar.  This is before the six eggs.

I decided to alter the recipe and make little bundts since they are what I had on hand.  Look at my mom's cute little bundt pan, buttered and floured and ready to go.

There is my brother with his Harry Potter glasses, pretending to help.

Filled and ready to jump into a warm oven...

I know you're not supposed to open a hot oven while something's baking (because you easily lose heat in the oven when you open the door, which could mar your baked good), but I saw these through the window and couln't resist.  They rose much more than I thought they would.

All the rising meant the little holes at the bottom were covered.  Oh well, they turned out gorgeously, don't you think?

Perfect for sharing.  Not for eating all by yourself.

And here is the recipe:

Lemon Pound Cake, adapted from

  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (I used a little more, just because I wanted to be sure that the lemon flavor came through)
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 cup full fat plain yogurt

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease mini bundt pan. Dust pan with cake flour; tap out excess flour - I used PAM baking spray with flour.  Worked like a charm and is so much easier and less messy than using butter/shortening and flour.

Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl at medium speed until fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat 5 minutes (it seems like a long time, but it takes this long for the softened butter and sugar to really come together).

Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined after each addition (with so many eggs and such a great potential for shells, I cracked all six eggs into a bowl and then slid them into the mixer one by one, yolk with some white by yolk with some white.  It's not an exact science, but it sure beats trying to dig egg shell out of your batter).

Beat in lemon juice and peel. Using rubber spatula, mix in dry ingredients. Mix in yogurt.  Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on rack 15 minutes.  Carefully turn cake right side up on rack and cool completely.  (If you're using a full-size bundt pan, the baking time will be considerably longer - more in the range of 1 hour and 30 minutes, like the original recipe says.  Because I was making smaller cakes I cut the baking time to 25 minutes and then checked the cakes every 3 minutes to see how they were coming along.  I found that 30-35 minutes gave a perfectly golden crust and deliciously moist cake).


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

They Say You'll Just Know

When you've fallen in love... When the timing is right...  When you've found "the dress."  Is it so wrong to then also believe that I'll just know when I've tasted it - my wedding cake?  I know that in the grand scheme of life it's one of the smaller priorities.  People remember how touching your ceremony was, how the best man made them both laugh and cringe, and the people they saw at your wedding.  They'll even remember how beautiful the bride was when she entered through the church's doors or how misty eyed her groom was when he caught his first glimpse of her.  People rarely remember the food (unless it's bad), much less the cake.  So then, why has it become such an important thing to us?

Because we've built our relationship on cake... or more generally dessert.  On embracing the small sweet moments together over something as simple and delicious as a slice of cake.  I love to bake, and our first non-camp encounter involved us collaborating on dessert - I brought brownies and he brought ice cream.  Our first date found us having dessert not once, but twice.  Cupcakes at Ghirardelli Square and gelato in the Sunset district.  On our second date he promised me cake and when he told the waiter we'd pass on dessert, the "what?!" that slipped out of my mouth was unmistakable.  It's silly but true, our hearts were won through our stomachs.  Well, among other things.

So then, it is important to both of us that the cake that we present to our guests at our wedding is one that we enjoy.  I'm coming to realize that as much as they say the day is about the bride, really it is not.  If it was, she wouldn't be the one planning it.  Certainly I will be the center of attention on my wedding day (whether I like it or not).  All eyes will be on me as I walk down the aisle.  People will ooh and ahh over my dress and I'll feel every bit the bride in it.  But at the end of the day, I am (along with my fiance and our parents) throwing a party for 300+ people.  I want them to enjoy themselves.  To not feel as if they've intruded on one of the most intimate moments of my life, but rather that they've been invited to celebrate in it.  It's every bit about them as it is about me.  They are the ones who have helped us become who we are and encouraged us on the journey to this place.  They will be there to celebrate us, and we will be there to show them our love, affection, and thanks for the years they've walked this road with us... and then to invite them along as we start a new path together.

To that end, I want the very best for my guests.  I've only gone to two tastings so far, but I think T and I have found "the cake(s)."  It's hard to believe, but our first cake tasting was love at first bite.  Make no mistake, we're still going on other cake tasting endeavors (who passes up their one opportunity to try lots of free cake?), but I think we've found "it."  I wont spoil the surprise (even though I'm so in love with these cakes I've already told everybody who's asked about how the tastings went about them), but I will show you the pictures from our first two tastings.

The first one was with Sugar Butter Flour in Sunnyvale.  DEEEELISHous.  Moist, dense, perfectly crumby, flavorful cake.  Just the way I like it.  I don't like my cake too heavy, but I certainly don't like it too light either.  This cake was just right.  Some of the flavors were the kind of flavors that make you think "who in the world gets a wedding cake of that flavor (e.g. banana walnut?!)?" and some made T and I wish there were more than just the small sampling they gave us.  This was hands down my favorite (of the two bakeries) because it was my kind of cake.  And to top it off, they had a sample cake out that was exactly what I want my decorated cake to look like.  Hmm... I think it won't be long before we book with them :)

The second was Satura Cakes in Palo Alto.  The cake tasting experience was less enjoyable for a couple of reasons.  First, I felt really rushed.  We had an appointment and I felt like she sped us through the cakes and asked us a couple of questions without letting us really discuss it amongst ourselves.  Sugar Butter Flour was not that way at all.  The baker let us keep sampling and gave us the chance to dialogue through what we were thinking and what we liked/disliked about certain cakes.  Second, it just wasn't my kind of cake.  Satura is an Asian bakery, so it's Asian cake.  Fresh cream (which is much less sweet than buttercream) and fluffy cake.  Yummy in it's own right, but not my favorite type of cake, much less my dream wedding cake.  Unless T was holding back after our cake tasting, I think it's safe to say that this is probably a dessert place we'll hit for a snack but not for our wedding cake.  Their mango passionfruit cake is just too yummy to not try again :)

Their cake may not have been my favorite, but I was still one happy girl taking home leftovers :)

Sorry this post was kind of spazzy and a mesh of serious with cake.  It seems weird, but that's pretty much my relationship with my fiance in a nutshell.  Spazzy + Serious + Cake