One of my favorite Philadelphia traditions is held during the Bastille Day festival when a drag portrayal of Marie Antoinette stands high atop Eastern State Penitentiary throwing TastyKakes and saying, "Let them eat cake."
Now for those of you I haven't completely lost due to maximum Philadelphia reference saturation level or historical inaccuracy (blah blah blah, 'Let them eat cake has been accreddited to many high ranking women before Marie Antoinette, blah blah blah), there are plenty of ways to celebrate Bastille day without leaving an air conditioned space.
Something might be wrong in the baking world today. Bakery shelves are stacked high with the trendiest dessert, filled or flavored or “kissed” with the latest popular ingredient, and hidden under a crazy design. These are delicious and fun to look at, but somewhere along the line, we have to ask ourselves, “Where is the cake?”
Look friends, birthdays happen and nothing hits the spot like a good old-fashioned sugar-eggs-flour-butter birthday cake. Every decent baker should have a good cake recipe as his or her trump card. If someone tells you they don’t agree, they’ve never had a from scratch birthday cake, and since you are reading this, it is now your responsibility to make them the birthday cake of all birthday cakes—Yellow Cake.
Yellow cake is a cake Ron Swanson from Parks & Recreation would appreciate. It’s no nonsense, has a couple ingredients, and tastes like cake. Let’s remember that on a birthday, it should be ok to indulge. This cake requires a couple more eggs and some more butter than most which gives it a rich taste while keeping the texture airy and moist. Paired with a simple fudgy frosting, which can be whipped together in a food processor, yellow cake is a marriage of kid birthday party nostalgia and adult sophistication. Adding touches like neon dinosaur shaped nonpareils (a friend of mine picked these up for me at Home Goods) or an assortment of colorful jimmies makes the decoration even more fun.
In my experience, if you show up to a birthday with a messy, handmade cake, you’ll be forgiven of faults and suddenly attract many more friends.
From a young age, I have dedicated my life to one creation-- the homemade cookie. From the combination of my mother, a brilliant cook with zero interest in baking anything other than meat or dumplings (which makes her an even more amazing woman) and my dad's addiction to chocolate chips and his extreme measures of not sharing them with his three beautiful children (read: put them on the highest shelf), the homemade cookie was rarely in our house. Frankly, store bought cookies don't cut it for this cookie monster. In fact, cookies can't even be in the same aisle as baking supplies, that's how far they are from satisfying the real craving for cookies.
The first batch of homemade cookies I remember were by the hands of my older sister with help from me. She was finally tall enough to get the chair and reach over the refrigerator to grab my father's stash of chocolate chips. The elusive treasure had a map on how to achieve twenty four delicious discs of butter, sugar, flour and chocolate. We carefully put them together to make the round glops spotted with chocolate. After their perfectly timed rest in the oven, we pulled out the hot cookie sheet of golden discs holding rich semi-sweet gooeyness. I found bliss.
Cookies will never go out of style. As long as the basic elements have come together, even the most hideous of cookies get eaten. So after flipping through the wonderful book, The Cookiepedia, I knew I found a kindred spirit in Stacy. She gets it. I made these animal cookies with a little frosting and some non-pareils sprinkled on that. The cinnamon will make people ask you what your secret ingredient is. It's a great cookie for kids' parties or adults who are trying to make up for the lost sweets from their childhood.
Recipe Notes: Don't be alarmed if your cookies come out a little crispy. They will soften up if they sit out over night especially with frosting. Store these in an air tight container for about a week-- if you can keep them in your house that long.
There are a lot of jerks in the world. Hopefully you’ve been left in the dark and not forced to participate in the short-lived tradition of Bros Icing Bros. A drinking game, which was quickly shut down by Smirnoff Vodka, involves handing a bottle of Smirnoff Ice to the victim and forcing the victim to take a knee and chug the entire bottle. Smirnoff Ice is known as an extremely sweet and easy to drink beverage but its association with underage kids makes it a punishment to drink.
We definitely had to “ice some bros” at the Broetry Slam but since drinking games aren’t exactly praised in public, respectable places like National Mechanics, I had to get slightly clever. Move over already shut down by Smirnoff, Bros Icing Bros, it’s time for Slightly Tipsy Vodka Cupcakes with Bros Icing Bros Icing.
Slightly Tipsy Vodka Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp of vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vodka (Flavored kind is good in this!)
When someone says barbeque, there’s always a brief moment of panic for me. As the dessert go-to girl, I will be ostracized for not bringing some sweets. But the idea of desserts in the heat just gives me melted nightmares... that is until I discovered upside down cakes.
Most of us are very familiar with the traditional pineapple upside down cake. They’re so popular, I distinctly remember being able to make one in my friend’s toy oven. However, there are many other great kinds of upside down cakes. The final product is a sturdy, beautiful cake with intense flavors that doesn’t dissolve in the sun.
Especially since plums and raspberries are in season, this is my new favorite summer cake. Take the ripest, dark plums and combine with the tartest of raspberries (use golden for a little extra flare) to make the flavors really pop against the cinnamon and nutmeg in the cake.
If the amount a person loves sprinkles directly corresponds to how adult someone is... I miserably fail at being grown up. I pay my bills on time, I go to work every day, and I don’t eat cereal for dinner. However, give me a bowl of sprinkles and the part of me that’s still five and attracted to shiny things explodes.
It’s hard not to love the white background of cake flecked with tiny bits of color. As I folded the sprinkles or “jimmies,” I thought of what kind of frosting would go well. A simple chocolate was too easy. A little lemon clashed with the happiness that the sprinkles gave me. I rifled through my various bottles of extracts and flavors like a witch preparing a cauldron when my fingers brushed the top of a still sealed container, slightly hidden. In that moment, I realized how I could mature a cake with sprinkles in it—rosewater.
This combination of cake and frosting prevents the rose from overpowering and brings out the delicate flavors of the vanilla cake subtly flavored with lemon. Bring these cupcakes to a birthday party for young or old and be prepared for rave reviews.
Hit the jump for an explosion of sprinkle colors... as well as the recipe.
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