LET THEM EAT CAKE

Poor Marie Antoinette! She denies having said, “Let them eat cake!” to a starving French nation. She was very extravagant in all things. In her defense, she was barely a teenager. Imagine all that wealth and power. I’m not sure I wouldn’t have lost my head over it either.

Anyway, I love cake; I love to bake. There’s only one problem with baking a cake. There are only two of us!  When the kids were home it was perfect. I got a piece and they ate the rest. So what’s a cake lover to do?

I had an “aha” moment. Why not make a mini cake?  I have a 6×3 pan that I used for a topper on a wedding cake. All I had to do was decide what kind of cake I wanted to bake. I’ve seen them in the bakeries and grocery stores. Why haven’t I thought of this before? Would you believe me if I told you I actually had a dream about this? It’s true!

I learned a while ago to bake my cakes and freeze them. Prior to freezing them I brush them with a mixture of simple syrup. It makes them so moist you won’t believe it. You can freeze most cakes up to 2 months. When you make a small cake, like this one, you end up with 2 cakes. That means you will always have one in the freezer ready to frost and serve, or give as a gift. Winner, winner!!

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So my first mini is a  Raspberry Cake with Buttercream Icing. Buttercream and raspberries, how can that not be good?  It just screams summer. It turned out great and how adorable is this???? I am already thinking of my next creation.

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MINI PARTY CAKE

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

This cake is an adaptation from Dorie Greenspans “Perfect Party Cake”

INGREDIENTS:

For the Cake:  (this makes (2) 6×3 inch cakes. Slice in layers, wrap, freeze, and store one for later use.)

  • 2 1/2 C cake flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/ 1/4 C buttermilk
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 C granulated white sugar
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 C unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

For  the Buttercream: (this recipe makes enough for 2 small cakes or 1 large cake)

  • 1 C granulated sugar
  •  4 large egg whites
  • 3 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For Finishing:

  • 1/3 C seedless raspberry preserves, stirred vigorously until spreadable
  • Simple syrup (1 C sugar and 1 C water boiled to dissolve sugar) cooled

 

DIRECTIONS: Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Use the Magic Release (see directions below) to prepare two 6×3 cake pans. (you can butter, flour, and line with parchment paper if desired).
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Whisk together milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
  3. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, fitted with a paddle, cream the butter and lemon zest and sugar until the mixture is very light and fluffy.
  4. Add the lemon juice beat til incorporated
  5. Beginning and ending with the flour mixture add 1/3, then half of the egg mixture. Repeat ending with the last 1/3 of the flour mixture until all is incorporated. Stir to bottom of bowl well with a spatula. Beat for an additional 2 minutes to make sure everything is mixed together thoroughly. Stop occasionally and stir with spatula.
  6. Place 3 cups of batter into each pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, when tested with a wooden skewer into the center it should come out clean and should spring back to the touch. Check at 35-40 minutes. Oven temps will vary.
  8. Let rest for 5 minutes on a cooling rack.  Unmold, and invert onto the cooking rack, right side up, cool completely.
  9. Slice both cakes into 3 layers. Brush all 3 of the cut sides with the simple syrup. Place the layers on an aluminum lined baking pan and freeze. Once frozen place each layer in individual freezer safe bags. Cakes can be frozen for up to 2 months.

DIRECTIONS: Buttercream

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, put the sugar and egg whites and fit the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisking constantly. Continue until it feels hot, about 3 minutes. The sugar should be dissolved and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
  2. Remove from the heat, and put in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat for about 5 minutes or until cooled.
  3. Switch to the paddle attachment and add the butter, one stick at a time and beat each until smooth. Once all the butter is incorporated, beat for 6-10 minutes on medium high-speed. If it separates, keep beating, it will come together again.
  4. On medium speed add the vanilla.
  5. It should be shiny smooth, velvety, and white. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface and set aside.

ASSEMBLY:

I made the cake the day before to ensure it was frozen. The buttercream was made the day of assembly.

  1. Remove and unwrap cake layers from the freezer.
  2. Place the first layer, cut side up on your cake board.
  3. Spread 1/3 of the buttercream, then 1/3 of the preserves.
  4. Top with another layer and repeat until the last layer.
  5. Place the last layer “cut side” down.
  6. Ice the top and sides of the cake with buttercream and decorate with fresh raspberries.

TIPS:

  1. You can vary the berries and jams.
  2. You could also use lemon curd as a filling.
  3. A whipped cream icing on the outside would also be a good variation.

**** Do you have difficulty getting your cakes to release from the pan? Fear no more! I came across this one some years ago. Try this simple concoction; you can thank me later.

Miracle Pan Release

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 C vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 C vegetable oil
  • 1/2 C all purpose flour

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Whisk thoroughly until everything is incorporated and smooth.
  2. Store in an airtight container, at room temperature.
  3. To use, dip a pastry brush (or use a piece of crunched up wax paper/parchment) into the mixture and spread a thin layer over the bottom and sides of pan(s). Use this for any recipe that calls for “greasing” and “flouring” your pans.
  4. This can be made into any size batch you want. Just make sure the proportions are equal in amount to each other as above.

* Wilton also sells this pre-made.

Since I have buttercream icing left over I plan on making a mini fresh peach cake. I’ll use fresh peaches and peach jam. I am also going to put a whipped cream icing on the outside with this one and add some toasted almonds to the top. Cake and coffee anyone??

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

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ROCKFISH……HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOE!

I don’t know about you, but as we “mature”, I find it more and more difficult to give my husband a birthday present. What I mean is, something other than the standards. Things like socks, shirts, or his favorite meal. I still do all of those things but wanted to do something he would really enjoy.

We went to a beautiful vineyard with fantastic wines in Eden, Maryland. Bordeleau Vineyards and Winery.    It was fantastic! Our close friends and our children where on hand to make it a party. He got some wonderful cards and gifts and drank some great wine. Our daughter brought the most amazing marshmallow doughnuts from a bakery in Baltimore. It was a fantastic day and he loved it. I still had one other card up my sleeve.

http://www.bordeleauwine.com/

I just happen to know the captain of “0 Dark Thirty” and his wife. He charters fishing trips from Taylors Island, Maryland.  A beautiful boat, and he knows these waters like the back of his hand. I contacted his wife and she had him contact me. A fishing trip was born. This information I didn’t divulge until the day of his birthday. He was so excited, but I was too.  I found a birthday present he would always remember and would definitely enjoy. No boring socks here….haha!

That’s Captain Bruce Abbott and my husband Joe, holding our dinner for today!

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https://www.facebook.com/O-Dark-30-Fishing-Charters-1401113283537277/?ref=br_rs

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The bottom right is my husband kissing his fish. One of our friends came from Connecticut just for this trip. I think it is safe to say, he and his buddies had a fantastic day. Many thanks to Captain Bruce Abbott. Check out his Facebook page. I added the link above. If you find yourself in this area book a fishing trip with the “0 Dark Thirty”. You’ll have memories to last a lifetime and a fantastic day.

I have a beautiful rockfish fillet;  I am going to cook it on the grill. It’s simple and very tasty. Should you find yourself the beneficiary of a rockfish fillet you might want to give this one a try. By the way, rockfish are also known as striped bass. Striped bass or “stripers” are also called rockfish because they like to nestle in the nooks and crannies of reefs and ledges.

Here’s the recipe. I can not wait for dinner! I am going to have it with a salad and a stuffed artichoke casserole. My friend Barbara gave me that recipe, and it just so happens, it will be my next blog. So don’t forget to come back y’all!

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GRILLED ROCKFISH FILLET

INGREDIENTS:

  • Rockfish or Striped Bass fillets
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • Lemon slices (optional)
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • Herbes de Provence
  • Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a large sheet pan with non-stick foil. Use plenty of foil and you will be using it at the end to encase the entire fillets.
  2. Place the fillet or fillets on the sheet pan, skin side down, after rinsing and patting dry with paper towels.
  3. Lightly brush the meat side of the fillets with olive oil.
  4. Put small thin pats of unsalted butter across the top of the fish. (These will melt and distribute over the fish during cooking.)
  5. Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning across the fish. Keep in mind that too much can be overpowering. I like to see it but not completely cover it.
  6. Sprinkle lightly, the herb de Provence over the fish
  7. Place very thinly sliced lemons on top of the fish. (If you aren’t a lemon lover you can omit this step)
  8. Lightly add some fresh ground pepper
  9. Bring the foil up and over the fish to cover it. You will want to do this loosely, but completely enclose it, so you can check the process easily
  10. Place on a hot grill, checking after the first 15 – 20 minutes.
  11. When the fish flakes easily and is opaque, it’s done. (Ours took about 18 minutes.)

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

Viki D

 

 

 

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY ATBB..thank you ARUBA!

One year ago, on January 27th, while sitting in Aruba I decided to start a blog. I’m not sure if I was inspired by Aruba or a lightning bolt…haha. I honestly wasn’t sure I could do this at all. I gave it one or two posts and figured the novelty would wear off. Instead, I found a sense of release and purpose.  So this particular blog is dedicated to ATBB and Aruba.

This has been an amazing vacation. My husband planned it 10 days prior to our arrival…..spur of the moment! I of course was thrilled; this is our favorite getaway. What’s not to love? Great weather, great food, the locals are friendly, helpful, and speak English. It’s called “One Happy Island” and for good reason.

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Aruba is a 19 mile long island of the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea. It’s 15 miles from the coast of Venezuela. On a clear day the Venezuelan mainland is visible from the south-eastern coast. Together with Bonaire and Curaçao, it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles.

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We met a couple on this trip from Connecticut; Chris and “Bah”. Feels like we have known them forever. We have shared stories about our families and friends, laughed a lot, and eaten some amazing meals. Suffice it to say, we have a lot in common. Food is definitely a love we all share. Hopefully I’ve talked Bah into starting her own blog. She, also from an Italian family, loves to cook and is willing to share her recipes. I can hardly wait!!! A friendship we hopefully will enjoy for years to come.

This trip we stayed close to the airport at the Renaissance Marina Resort, which is now owned by Marriott. It is within walking distance to some of Aruba’s best restaurants. This resort boasts its own private island with pink flamingos that will eat from your hand. A free boat ride escorts you to the island to spend the day lazing in the sun, or playing in the crystal blue water. If you prefer to be out of the sun, cabanas are available so you can just enjoy the island breezes. There is also a restaurant that has great local food, cocktails, and beer. If you prefer, you can stay at the resort and enjoy one of their three pools or a beach lagoon. Like to gamble? There are Casinos as well. Let us not forget the shoppers. Gucci, Prada, Cartier, Tommy Bahama, Nautica, Nike, and many jewelers, just to name a few.

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http://www.renaissancearubaresortandcasino.com/resort-accommodations/marina-hotel-en.html

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It’s only fair that I include some of the restaurants we really enjoyed. Keep in mind, we couldn’t go to all of them but the ones I am listing are well worth the trip. I strongly encourage you to make reservations. Fish is in abundance and fresh. Their meats and produce are flown in and treated with great respect. Dining is an experience here that you will truly enjoy. If you like to fish there are several places that will prepare your catch for you at a decent price. Here are some of our favorites.

http://www.bingoaruba.com/  (Best beef carppacio I have ever had. Also famous for their dutch drink Shroebbler)

http://www.yemanja-aruba.com/main/  (A wood fired grill, the stuffed portobello mushroom was to die for. Their toasted bread with olive tapenade was killer too.)

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http://legaragebistro.com/  (French cuisine. We had a fantastic lunch there.)

http://www.solemarearuba.com/  (Italian at it’s best. We have been dining here for 24 years.)

http://www.thedutchpancakehouse.com/  (Always busy but what a great breakfast. The cruise ships dock at their back door.)

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wacky-Wahoos/278125168880426  (Very difficult to get into. When you book your vacation book a reservation here and hope you get in.)

http://papiamentoaruba.com/  (Beautiful surroundings in an old farm-house. Great food and friendly atmosphere.)

https://www.google.com/search?q=Big+Mamas+aruba&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-us&client=safari  (On Baby Beach, get the fish sandwich, it’s amazing.)

http://www.madamejanette.info/joomla2/menu  (A bit more upscale, great for dinner, a nice treat for your and your special someone.)

http://casibaricafe.com/  (Biggest grouper sandwich I have ever seen and very tasty. It’s where the locals go.)

https://www.facebook.com/midudurestaurantaruba/https://www.facebook.com/midudurestaurantaruba/ (Another local hangout with the best view on the island of the island.)

https://www.casatuaaruba.com/casa-tua-renaissance-marketplace/  (Best pizza on the Island)

http://www.bugaloe.com/  (Fun, great seafood, dancing,  kareokee, entertainment.  Do not miss this one)

So, get your vacation on, come sit under a divi divi tree and relax. Come to Aruba! It is “One Happy Island”.

Til next time,

Ciao xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHOPTANK CHARLIE

I am very sad today as I write this post. You see, we have lost one of our four legged friends, known to us as “Charlie”.  Charlie was a beautiful Golden Retriever who was part of the Feehley family. He was well known and loved by many. I will always fondly remember him on the Choptank River, swimming, and chasing sticks and balls thrown in the water. He was always eager to please and very gentle.

Our “fur babies”, become part of our families. We nurture, care, feed, and take care of them in the best possible way we can. In return, they love us unconditionally, without question or pause. There’s something comforting about opening the door and seeing that tail wagging and their smile, just because they missed you; just because they love you.

In my experience this pain is one of the hardest to overcome. It only comes with time, and only you know when that time is. Once you come through the other side you are left with fond memories and the hope that one day you will see them again.

I know Charlie is running in the sunshine, chasing sticks and balls. He’s still there watching over my dear friends and trying to comfort them from afar. I also suspect he has caught up with his partner in crime, Chessie. His female counterpart who passed away only three short years ago.  (Pictured below are Cruiser, and Charlie on the right.)

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Love your pets and enjoy every day you have with them. I believe that’s how they live. In the moment, with you and for you, every second, of every day.

I will keep Charlie in my heart. My prayers and love go to Robyne and Terry. Let time be on your side and ease your sorrow and pain. We will all miss Charlie and will be thinking of and praying for all of you.

In dedication to Robyne, Terry, Charlie, and Cruiser.

xoxoxo