Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Checkerboard Cake

Addie loves that she shares her birthday with her grandpa! We had a little celebration for both of them and since I had two more cake rounds - I served the checkerboard cake again. As we were serving, Wes was quizzing his dad to see if he could figure out how I created the checkerboard effect. Their scientific discussion included terms like "integrals" and "concentric circles." I decided it was time to reveal the secret to this mystery!

There are special cake pans that you can buy to create a checkerboard cake. I don't think you need them. Just start with two different round cakes (vanilla and chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, chocolate and strawberry, etc.). I made two cake mixes - chocolate and vanilla and ended up with four cake rounds - enough to make two checkerboard cakes. In the past I usually just make two rounds and then use the extra batter to make cupcakes. Remember: you can freeze cupcakes or cake rounds!

For the best results - you may want to create a template to cut your circles. But I am an "eye-balling it" kind of girl so I just cut away! You need to cut two circles of equal width in each cake round.

So you end up with this:

Then you just fit the alternating circles back together to get this: (As you can see - because I didn't measure, my circles didn't fit together perfectly. But I ended up filling in the spaces with chunks of cake I had to shave off the top to make it even. sometimes takes a little improvising but it works.)

For Addie's birthday party, I frosted the cake with 7-minute icing - her favorite. I decided to do something different for my second cake. I wanted a frosting that was light and easy to spread on my very "crumby" cake top. So I experimented and tried something that I thought turned out really great. I bought a powdered chocolate mousse mix (in the baking aisle) and I whipped it with about 2 cups of whipping cream. I added some powdered sugar to make it just a tad sweeter. It turned out really yummy!!

Growing up at my house - my mom always made the classic layer cake for any special occasion. I have many memories of her teaching me how to frost a layer cake. So for anyone who doesn't know...start with the middle (obviously).

Then frost the sides - making sure that you bring the frosting all the way up to the top.

Then frost the top. Remember to always use the tip of the spatula!

Mom would tell us how when she grew up - her mother was very stingy with frosting - applying a very thin layer to her cakes. In response, my mother was very generous with her frosting. She loved a nice thick layer of frosting that swirled and peaked. That was her idea of a beautiful cake.

Since this frosting has a whipped cream base, it needed to be refrigerated. So I used another tip I learned from my mom. Stick toothpicks in the cake and cover with plastic wrap. Chill until time to serve.

Checkerboard effect. Pretty cool!

There are so many variations you could try!
Vanilla and strawberry cakes - frost with raspberry whipped cream (whip cream and fold in fresh raspberries, slightly crushed)
Vanilla and lemon cakes - frost with raspberry whipped cream or cream cheese frosting.
Vanilla and chocolate cakes - frost with strawberry whipped cream (whip cream and fold in container of strawberry yogurt).
Vanilla and Red Velvet cakes - frost with regular whipped cream or cream cheese frosting.
You could use food coloring with vanilla cake batter to make any color of cake you want! It could even be rainbow!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Special Birthday

She's twelve. It's hard to believe. But we could not be more proud of the lovely young woman she has become!
We had sort of an Asian theme for her party.

And for a party favor...a back-scratcher with an Asian woman on the handle. The girls loved it!
We took Addie and several of her friends to Benihana for lunch.

Our family was there too.

At least they had each other with all those girls!
The show!
They gave the birthday girl a bottle of Ramune (pronounced ram-oo-nay). I guess it's all the rage in Japan right now. It is kind of a cool design. There is a glass marble at the top that you push down to break the seal and release the carbonation.

The marble rattles around at the top of the bottle while you drink it...
They sang "Happy Birthday" accompanied by a tambourine and hand drum.
After lunch we came back to the house for cake and presents. I made Addie a checkerboard cake with 7-minute icing (her favorite).

A memorable birthday like this deserves a memorable gift!

She's one pretty cool kid!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Leprechaun

Cate is one lucky girl! She has been receiving special secret notes from a leprechaun! This is what the correspondance has looked like so far...

Dear Cate,
My name is Adel. I am a leprechaun. Please tell me if you have trouble reading my writing. I hope you had a good St. Patricks Day. Did you catch any of my friends Lidia and Pernicus Snepe? I am sorry my writing is so terrible but this pen I'm using is a little too big. Where I come from we see 4 leaf clovers every day. Have you ever found a 3 leaf clover? I haven't I wish I could find one someday. Do you know any of my friends? They are very nice.

Dear Leprechaun,
I hope I will see you one day. Please write different. No. Yes. No.

Dear Cate,
You can call me Adel. Sorry you couldn't read my writing. I will try to use words you know so you can maybe read my writing. I don't know if you will be able to see me fully because I am very busy all the time. My friend Pernicus Snepe and I are going on a short journey so my friend Lidia will be writing to you for just one day. We are going to a magical mountain that might have 3 leaf clovers. I might be able to bring you back one if I find any. I love you.

Dear Adel,
I hope I get a clover when I come back from school.

Dear Cate,
I am Lidia. I don't know if you will get a 3 leaf clover today and they might not even find any 3 leaf clovers. I love your room. Adel will be back tomorrow.

Dear Cate,
Sorry I have not written to you. I have to go to special meetings on the weekends. Well sorry but we didn't find any 3 leaf clovers. We will keep going up to the magic mountain on weekends and keep looking. I will not be able to write to you on weekends and neither will Lidia. Just so you know.

Dear Cate,
You are so cute. I love the way you make your bed everyday. Will you set up a bed for me tomorrow in the morning? I love you.

Adel's Bed

And so it goes.
Isaac is also receiving letters...from Pernicus Snepe.

If you haven't guessed "Adel's" true identity, click HERE.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Worth Watching

I am completely hooked after just the first episode! It is Life, the new four-years-in-the-making Discovery Channel series. It is on Sundays at 8pm. (The commercials are ever annoying so record it for watching later if you can.) I believe there are 11 parts to the series.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Have You Read This? Have You Seen This?

You can check out my most recent book recommendation on Desperate for a Good Read. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. It's a quick and entertaining read. It was a little darker than I expected though.

Wow! I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this documentary! My kids loved it too. The film is made up of behind the scenes footage of the creation of This is It - Michael Jackson's mind-blowing concert that was never to be. I believe he died eighteen days before the first concert. There were to be 50 shows - all at the O2 arena in London. All fifty shows sold out within a few hours of tickets going on sale. MJ was 50 years old at the time and hadn't toured for 10 years - but he was still the "King of Pop."
I never thought of myself as a huge Michael Jackson fan - but I have always appreciated his talent as a musician and a dancer. And there was plenty of both music and dancing (and a little crotch-grabbing). There were also many interviews that present a different side of MJ - that of a hard working, respectful, considerate, extremely talented musician that was anxiously looking forward to returning to the stage. It was fascinating!
And be sure to watch the special features!!

I decided to include this review I found on Amazon:
It's hard not to watch This Is It without feeling a mixture of sorrow and elation. When he passed away in the summer of 2009, Michael Jackson was in the midst of rehearsals for his final tour, an ambitious 50-date engagement. In editing 120 hours of rehearsal footage together, Jackson producer Kenny Ortega proves that it would've been an event for the ages. Michael performs material that spans his career, from a Motown medley to multi-platinum hits from Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad. Though he hadn't toured in 10 years, it becomes instantly apparent, despite rumors to the contrary, that Jackson was still in full possession of that unmistakable voice--high-pitched whoops and all--and that he still had the gravity-defying moves of a man half his age. Jackson and Ortega also collaborated on some real showstoppers, such as a graveyard-set "Thriller"; an imposing "They Don't Care About Us," in which several dancers appear to morph into thousands; and a film noir sequence in which the singer slides in and out of Gilda and other black-and-white classics, singing "Smooth Criminal" all the while. Not everything works, like the Jackson 5 numbers, in which he flubs a few lyrics, claiming that his earpiece isn't working properly, but as he readily acknowledges, "That's what rehearsal is for." It's a tragedy that he didn't get the chance to share this dazzling show with the world, but Ortega allows fans to feel as if it actually happened--at least onscreen. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Papa's Birthday Means Pot Roast, Athletic Socks and Circus Peanuts

Here are some photos from my Dad's recent birthday celebration:

Thank goodness I had some helpers to prepare the 4-5 pounds of vegetables! I didn't peel one carrot! (I-man was there to help out with the potatoes)

After we all stuffed ourselves with pot roast (my dad's favorite meal), Kip's amazing bread and yummy fresh fruit - it was on to the delicious lemon cake with homemade lemon ice cream - made by my mom.

After dinner we had a special surprise! A little background first: When I was about 1 year old, my parents had a keepsake box made for each one of their children that had their name and picture on it. Most of my siblings have taken their keepsake boxes to their own homes. But I guess Kip and I procrastinated. Ours have been at my parent's home all these years. They brought them for us to go through and finally take into our possession. Kip went through his box first. A clipboard he decorated in elementary school.
A shoe that belonged to my mother.
A polyester shirt. Actually this shirt has a story. Many years ago when my dad first met my mom - he was immediately interested in setting up a date with this lovely young woman. At the time he and his brothers owned one of the first clothing stores in Provo. He approached my mom's brother Brent and said the if he arranged for a date with Janet - then my dad would get him a free shirt from Clarks clothing store! Brent followed through with the deal and somehow the actual shirt ended up in Kip's keepsake box!
My box was next.

It was mostly filled with silly things saved from high school and junior high but there were a few cool heirlooms. My dad brought this porcelain ballerina home from his mission to England for my mom. It is Royal Doulton porcelain.
Not sure why I saved this...
The presents were next. My cousin Nick drew this funny card.
And as expected - the gifts included athletic socks and orange circus peanuts. It wouldn't by my dad's birthday without them.

Love ya Dad! You are the best!