Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Irish Soda Bread Muffins

Having never made Irish Soda Bread before, I thought it would be a good thing to do during the five hours the corned beef was cooking. I have only had Irish Soda Bread a few times, so I wasn't really sure how it was made. I went on to Tastespotting (of course) and found a recipe for Irish Soda Bread Muffins and as that things always come out cuter as muffins, I thought I'd try that. Now, I'm not Irish (I'm not even close to Irish), but I have to say, these muffins came out quite well and the very Irish women in the office seemed to enjoy them, so I must have done something right.

Note: I seem to have used this recipe more as a general guideline than strict instructions . I only used one kind of flour, used yogurt instead of buttermilk (which I think made them more moist), left out the egg (I didn't have any and figured what's the worst that could happen), only used raisins and cranberries and used caraway seeds instead of ground caraway. I also put regular sugar on top instead of the fancy kind and yielded 17 muffins instead of 12 (the extra five of which I ate in one sitting). Leaving out the egg might have made them a little heavier, but I think the denseness helped the moisture, these are way more moist than regular soda bread.

I love Caraway.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The 1969 Party (also not a cake)

On March 8, 2009, my parents celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. being that this is quite a feat in my book, my brothers and I thought it necessary to throw some sort of bash. One afternoon, while driving home from work, it hit me: why have a regular old party when you can make people dress up and eat foods that haven't been popular in 40 years? So that's what we did. We threw a 1969 theme party and it was a ton of fun. There was fondue (cheese and chocolate), rolled sandwiches, a jello mold, herring-wrapped sweet pickles (a surprising popular choice), and many other c.1969 treats. It turned out to be an immense success- one friend brought a guitar and sang angry anti-war songs, another rewrote the lyrics to Cole Porter's D'Lovely to the theme of D'Chessman (my father's name is Dan), my sister-in-law did a version of the Not-So-Newlywed Game (which my father later acknowledged was "far less scary" than he expected it to be). Most of the recipes came out of some old cookbooks of my grandmother's and let's be honest, are you really ever going to make blender mushroom butter rolled sandwiches? If you want any, just ask.
So here it is in all it's glory, some food, some people, some fun:

Not so newlyweds - Newlyweds

Eating the cake now and then...

My brother Dave and me and my Sister-in-Law Holly and Brother Josh
(at this point I guess I should explain that my father got married during the two weeks in 1969 when it was deemed fashionable to wear turtlenecks with tuxes, so that's what he and the groomsmen wore. The fathers-in-law refused and he now acknowledges that they were correct)

Not-so-Newlywed Game (What's your spouses most annoying habit?)

One table with things on sticks

That table cloth is a remnant from the fabric store, I can't wait to make a skirt out of it :-)
more things on sticks

Even more things on sticks (in case we were wondering when the destruction of the rainforests really began...)

Crushed pineapple, lime jello, sour cream, what could go wrong (actually pretty tasty if you could get past the texture)
Curried nuts

Our bar (another fabric remnant, I think this one might stay a table cloth)

And authentic Legal Seafoods t-shirt c.1969

some signs I made

Grandma Ruth's afghan put to good use

At this point, I just want to take a moment to explain to some people (Anne), that yes, obviously my friends and family, and anyone else who reads this blog, is very capable of figuring out that a party, William-Sonoma spatulas, a baby blanket, etc. are not cakes. But the name of the blog is Cakes, cakes and more cakes, so I was covering my butt, you know, so I can't be sued for libel or something. Or I was just being clever, which is much more likely :-)

The Caramel Cake

For my parents' 40th anniversary party (see above), I decided to finally take pity on my father's recent inability to eat chocolate anytime after 4pm and indulge his love for caramel/butterscotch/all things made of gooey, delicious sugar. I found this recipe when doing a Google image search. Funny story about that: We had a snow day on Monday, so I decided to make the cakes and throw them in the freezer until Friday. Everything went according to plan. Come Friday, I go to print out the recipe for the filling and low and behold- the entire page of the website containing images and recipe for the cake, is gone. Completely gone. Panic ensued briefly. I then remembered that I am a librarian and did an internet search for "caramel cake" assuming I could find a similar recipe and just fudge the rest. Turns out the actual cake is from a Paula Dean recipe (hmmm, maybe this is why it mysteriously disappeared off some random woman's website). It's the same recipe as the coconut cake, except you use this amazingly indulgent caramel filling and frosting instead of the coconut filling. The cakes themselves come out so well, it is definitely my go-to cake recipe when I'm feeling more adventurous than a box.

The whole thing was a good learning experience. It taught me that maybe, I don't know, printing out the recipe before the day you want to use it might be a good idea. It also lead three 7th graders to first ask me why, if I was trying to make something good, I didn't just buy the cake and then to find the cookbook section of the library (600's) and bring me a "Desserts of the World" book allowing that "it has cake recipes in it."

Anyway, it was really good and pretty easy. I HIGHLY recommend Paula Dean's cake recipes- even with all the butter :-)