Beyond awesome

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Cake! Cake! Cake!

I don’t think this was what Marie Antoinette had in mind when she suggested that they (the French peasants) eat cake, nom nom. Actually, the original quote is probably misattributed and apart from that, it’s supposed to say: “Let them eat brioche.” Oh, and did you know that there is a House episode titled “Let Them Eat Cake?”

I have a favorite birthday cake. I love love love it – well, if I didn’t love it, it wouldn’t be my birthday cake. The cake? It’s a Mocha Cake. It’s actually my Gran’s specialty. She used when my Mom was a little girl. Well, the cake was distributed among the entire family including the bunch of cousins, and everybody got a teeny sliver. A teeny sliver that everyone savored. And it was a treat – there were no mixers, no KitchenAid so all the mixing and beating of the dough was done by hand. I’ve beat whipping cream by hand, which already was a lot of work so I can’t imagine how much work that was. And since they didn’t have an oven, they had to take the cake to a bakery to have it baked there.

I didn’t take any pictures of the entire cake because it was just too tasty to take the time to photograph it

Gran doesn’t really work off recipes. Neither her cooking nor her baking is full of precise direction. Her Indian food recipes are something like “when the oil begins to pearl but not too quickly” or “when it smells right” or “depending on the meat.” Yeah, not so helpful. You need to really have a lot of experience for those directions to make sense. And my Indian cooking is nowhere on her level that I have had enough practice making those dishes. Whenever I cook something in that direction I end up being disappointed because it’s just not up to her or my Mom’s standards. Which means that I don’t get the practice in to get more cooking experience. I also don’t like going out for Indian food since it’s never as good as Mom’s. A catch-22.

I’m not making fudge, but since Gran fudges her recipes this was very appropriate. And darn it, now I want ice cream

Anyway, Gran has always fudged her proportions, which is pretty contrary to baking since it so based on chemistry – change the balance and you might end up with a cake mess. In fact, the last time I made a Mocha cake with her, she basically asked me dump 1 lb of butter in the bowl, plus a bunch of sugar – just based on her sense of proportion. And a bunch of eggs – I’m not sure how many since it’s a been a long time since we baked together, but it was at least 8 eggs. The mixing bowl was already full with that mix, so we separated the mass, and then she added flour and nuts and coffee according to her judgement. We ended up with 3 and a half cake ‘loaves’ – our neighbors and friends loved us. In fact, one of our friends always hopes that there’s some leftover mocha cake when she stops by for a meal.

The cake is basically a modified sponge cake, with less sugar than normal (so many cake recipes call for too much sugar). Apart from the usual suspects, it als consists of ground nuts, either almonds or hazelnuts, and mocha. The mocha is very concentrated coffee – instant coffee dissolved in very little water. I guess you could also use a very very strong espresso. Once the cake is in the oven you make your frosting. It’s a mix of butter, powdered sugar, more concentrated mocha and ground nuts, whatever you used in the cake. Once the frosting is done you stick in the fridge to keep it cool.

Then it’s time for the best part of the cake – apart from eating the cake of course. The completely cooled cake is carefully cut in half . If you’re ambitious, you can cut the cake into 3 layers rather than two. Just make sure you whip up some extra frosting. Now you’ll frost the bottom layer of the cake before adding the top layer. If your frosting is too, well, buttery and warm, stick it in the fridge til the frosting is cool and spreadable, not too solidified. Then you’ll frost the remainder of the cake. At the end, when you’re done you’ll add walnut pieces, preferable walnut halves as a decorative element. Stick the cake in the fridge to solidify the cake. Make sure to also store the cake in the freezer.

Mmmm, frosting (sorry for the blurry pic)

And then, then it’s time to eat! The end pieces are the ones everyone battles for, but the rest is just as tasty. Plus you savor every single bite since it’s made only once a year.

Star Wars party invitations

But – I think I want a Star Wars kind of cake too. I mean, how creative. And the geek in me would have so much fun. And can you imagine Star Wars cupcakes? You know, headshots as cupcake decorations? I think I need to tinker around with that. I probably will need to make the cake covering out of fondant, or if I really want to be decadent, I could also make them out of marzipan. Mmmm, marzipan.

I’ll also take a Star Wars party – the geek in me would have so much fun, plus it’s so much more practical than a Stormtrooper outfit, or Darth Maul or Leia slave costume. Tasty cake vs uncomfortable costume, hmmm, which one would win… Although, it is pretty awesome to see the costumes that people create. Plus there are apparently many Star Wars themed weddings – not my cup of tea, but I’m sure it’s a great wedding party. (Click on the images for more pictures from the different parties).

Bees, beehives and honey

honey with honey dipper

local blackberry honey – and I love that honey dipper

Day Two (Tuesday April 23rd): A Mascot Project. Your task today is to either think of or research a project that embodies that house/animal. It could be a knitting or crochet pattern – either of the animal itself or something that makes you think of the qualities of that house. Alternatively it could be a type or colour of yarn, or a single button. Whatever you choose, decide upon a project and blog about how and why it relates to your house/creature. You do not have to make this project! It is simply an exercise in blogging about how you come to decide upon what projects to make. Try and blog about the journey which inspiration and investigating patterns, yarns, stitches, (etc) can often guide you through. You may wish to make a collage or ‘mood board’ to present several ideas, or even sketch out your own design.

So, a mascot challenge. Since I’d picked House of Bee, I decided to start out with some free association instead of searching Ravelry for bee patterns. The first things I thought of were honey, sweet and beehive. No, I don’t mean the hairstyle a la Amy Winehouse. I mean the real beehive thing, home of the bees and so on. Still, no big mental leaps here. Then I started thinking of the friend who keeps his own bees – hi Thomas! – and the delicious honey we receive from him ever so often. And how I like finding local honeys (haha) and try to support apiarists (if you can’t easily find anyone near you, try local grocery coops). And I don’t mind crystalized honey – actually I like it better than squeezy tubes. Anyway, back to the bees. Another really cool thing about bees – apart from the fact that they make honey, mmm – is that they structure of the beehive is pretty ingenious. The hexagonal shape of the beehive cells is really efficient – they’re stable, and maximize honey storage with minimal wax required. In that sense bees are excellent mathematicians. There are a lot of cool facts out there about bees and bee colonies and yadayada. And now I will stop boring you with bee and honey geekage.

I started poking around Ravelry for bee related patterns. As you can see, I considered quite a few patterns. But in the end, it came down to two: Anne Hanson’s Pompa and these really cool socks named Snicket Socks. They were inspired by the movie Lemony Snicket, but I think they look like hexagons. And now you know why I picked those socks.

So, the next question was color. Yellow and gold are the obvious choices. As are yellow and gold stripes. And believe me, if I had some yellow yarn handy, or black and yellow striped, I may have knit one of those other projects above. I’m planning to use Wollmeise in Salamander to make those Bumblebee socks in that collage, the same yarn the designer used. They look like they’d be so much fun. But – no yellow yarn here. That’s what happens when you move and the rest of your stuff hasn’t yet caught up with you…

Yarn colorway Berries & Cream

But I do have this gorgeous skein of A Verb for Keeping Warm yarn here, colorway Berries and Cream. It’s cream with occasional pink, in various degrees of saturation. Really really pretty. It makes me think of summer desserts – I mean, fresh, sun-warmed berries and a bit of cream, so delicious.

How many of us can remember sitting outside in the spring and summer sun, enjoying the rays and devouring an ice cream cone, or some fruit, or cooling off with a nice cold, possibly sweet drink. And then the zzzzzzs start, and you start having to defend – i.e. hide – your food & drinks from curious bee scouts. Worse if it’s a whole gaggle of bees seeking you out. (Of course, it could also be ants)… There are all these Disney cartoons out there about ant and bee invasions of various picnic parties… I remember Pluto being harassed by this rather, well, prickly bee in Bubble Bee. Ah, the memories..

berries & goat cheese with honeyIt’s funny, I just recently did a food photography project involving berries, cream and honey. And mint. Mint was the unifying element. But more on that after Knitting and Crochet Blog Week. However, I did want to share a photograph of my inspiration and so I changed it up a bit, with strawberries instead of raspberries, goat cheese instead of yoghurt/cream, and of course that cute little honey dipper. Btw, it’s very difficult to do an action shot all on your own, especially if you don’t have a remote for your camera. I will be rectifying that asap. And the timer focus didn’t work well enough for my taste – somehow the shallow depth of focus wasn’t quite right…

Why am I not surprised that I managed to work in some food into the post, even though it’s supposed to be all about knitting? So anyway, I will be casting on for this project in the next few days. In fact, if I manage to cast on for it today, then I might have a wip picture for tomorrow’s Yarn Along-esque post. Which I still need to draft. Sigh.

Thank you all for bearing with me, and for following along with my thought processes. I’d love to see your mascot project ideas, so please, leave me a link to your post! And for your enjoyment, here is Bubble Bee:

Twitter. Yeah.

So I’m suffering from Twitter feed overload. Seriously. There’s such a ridiculous amount of tweeting going on in my feed that it’s hard for me to keep up with who has said what, and so on. You may be saying “well duh, that’s the point” and you’re right. Twitter is about tweeting, but I’m reading so much that it’s hard for me keep up with who said what, to keep track of the Tweets that really are of interest to me. And thus it is so much harder to respond, and really interact with people. I even changed my twitter address to make it clear that this is an @anjireads account. I will be shifting things around, and set up a separate Twitter address where I can actually talk to the people I want to talk to, and keep the alerts and updates and infodump tweets to another account. (It may sound weird that you can infodump on Twitter, but some people give it their best shot. Especially when a new tweet appears every 10 minutes. It defeats the purpose of tweeting if you’re still telling your story in a series of tweets. Brevity is the point of here, people, that’s why you have 140 characters!).

Pardon my grumpiness, but I feel bad that I haven’t been interacting as much with you guys. But I promise I’ll do better in 2013, and overhauling my Twitter, and thus my tweeting is one way to go about it.