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1. IT'S ALL ABOUT THE CAKE STAND Cake stands have a way of raising desserts to another level. And the dessert need not be a cake. Piles of cookies or doughnuts look elegant when elevated above the rest of the table. Inexpensive cake stands can be found at department stores and cooking supply stores. Second-hand stores and junk shops are great places to find vintage ones. Even the most basic stand can be dressed up with a paper garland. A table decked out with multiple, mismatched cake stands is pure eye candy.
2. HANG A CLOTH BANNER Bedazzling the dining room with balloons and streamers is a must for every birthday celebrated in our house. We also have a stash of tissue-paper flowers and a felt birthday banner. Create your own pennant banner and consider adding a new flag for each occasion it's hung.
3. USE A CANDLE RING Originally a German tradition, using birthday candle rings are a festive way to honor a child's birthday. The ring, which is usually made of wood, has twelve holes with 12 decorative wooden placeholders. Beginning with your child's first birthday, you replace one placeholder with a candle. Your child will look forward to adding a candle each year, and hopefully doing the same with his or her children and grandchildren. Thewoodenwagon.com sells rings with a large selection of decorative placeholders.
4. GIFT A PLATE A YEAR Giving the same type of gift annually is a wonderful way to mark holidays and birthdays. I know someone who inherited a collection of 18 silver plates, each one given to her grandmother on her birthday, from her first to her eighteenth. Christmas, Passover, and other holidays are also special times to commemorate with different types of dessert plates, from hand-painted china to Depression glass.
5. MAKE BREAKFAST A CROWNING OCCASION There's nothing like waking up to a celebratory breakfast highlighting a momentous occasion, whether it's a birthday or the first day of a new job. Bake a favorite breakfast treat and create a crown that is used for such times. It'll make the honoree feel regal.
6. USE FRESH FLOWERS AND PIPED FROSTING A small batch of colored buttercream piped from a baggie and colorful, fresh flowers can turn any dessert into a show-stopping centerpiece. Use frosting to pipe letters or numbers on any type of baked good. No need to make frosting flowers, though. Use real roses, violets, lavender, impatiens, pansies, daisies, or other non-toxic blossoms to dress up a cake or cupcakes (try to get flowers that are organically grown and not sprayed with pesticides).
7. DESIGN A PHOTO ALBUM WITH RECIPES Start an album dedicated solely to a special holiday or birthday. Document the people, the food, the discussions, and include photos and recipes used on that day.
8. HOST A BAKING PARTY Invite family and friends over to bake a favorite recipe with you. Labor-intensive recipes like rugelach are more fun to make with the help of others. Ask guests to bring their heirloom recipes.
9. CREATE A TIME CAPSULE IN A JAR Collect memorabilia marking a special occasion, and be sure to include a recipe that was used on that day. Carefully place the items in a large glass jar, seal the cap, and set the jar on a shelf, labeled with the year in which the capsule may be opened by future family members.
10. LAMINATE PHOTO CAKE CARDS Every year, take a photo of family members with their birthday cakes. Print the photo out in a 3 x 5-inch format, tag it with the year, laminate it, and mount it on a stick. Use the cards to decorate future birthday cakes, which will serve as sweet reminders of birthdays past.
Black -bottom ice cream pie
A dark, heavy chocolate cake has little appeal on a hot, humid August day. Perhaps that's why my sister, Lisa, who favors chocolate over most things, opts for ice cream pie instead of cake for her summer birthday celebration. Unlike a bowl of ice cream, which can't hold many candles, the expanse of this pie gives ample opportunity for ceremonious lighting. True to its name, Black-Bottom Pie has a tasty, dark-colored chocolate crust. A satisfyingly thick, fudgy sauce covers the crust before the ice cream is generously added. Mint chocolate chip is Lisa's preferred flavor, but almost any ice cream will work with this recipe: coffee, strawberry, dulce de leche, or even plain vanilla. Summer birthdays scream for ice cream, but so does any sticky, sweltering day.
Crust 1 1/4 cups finely crushed chocolate cookie crumbs (about 25 cookies, such as Famous Chocolate Wafers) 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 2 tablespoons sugar Filling 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate 6 tablespoons water 1/2 cup sugar 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 quart mint chocolate-chip ice cream (or your favorite flavor) 1/4 cup chocolate cookie crumbs (about 5 wafer cookies)
1. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 375°F.
2. Put the cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar in a bowl and stir to combine.
3. Press the mixture firmly into a 9-inch pie plate, being sure to cover the sides of plate too. Bake for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.
4. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the chocolate, water, sugar, butter, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the chocolate has melted. Continue to cook for another 1 minute, or until the mixture has thickened slightly. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
5. Pour the sauce over the cooled pie crust and place it in the refrigerator to chill for at least 1 hour.
6. Once the sauce has firmed in the crust, soften the ice cream slightly so it will be easy to scoop and spread evenly into the pie crust. Fill the crust with the softened ice cream. Sprinkle the top with the cookie crumbs and freeze the pie for at least 2 hours, or until firm.
STRAWBERRY SURPRISE CUPCAKES
Tantalizing with thick frosting and a thin slice of strawberry, these cupcakes are especially hard to resist. The sweet pink color invites you to take a bite, and then the surprise: There's a smidge of strawberry frosting inside the cupcake too. Children and adults alike appreciate the fresh berry flavor—no red food coloring used—paired with the delicate, tender cake. Look for colorful red or pink cupcake liners when baking these adorable cakes.
Makes 24 cupcakes cupcakes About 3/4 cup hulled strawberries 2 1/2 cups cake flour 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature 1 1/4 cups sugar 2 large egg whites 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup whole milk Strawberry frosting About 3/4 cup hulled strawberries, plus 24 strawberry slices for garnish 12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 4 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
2. Puree the strawberries in a food processor or blender. You should get about 1/2 cup puree; if not, puree a few more strawberries to yield 1/2 cup. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high for 4 minutes. Add the egg whites and beat for 1 minute on medium, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the strawberry puree and vanilla extract and mix on medium for 30 more seconds.
5. In five portions, alternately add the flour mixture and milk to the mixer bowl, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing well after each addition, about 20 to 30 seconds. Fill the liners halfway with batter and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then gently release the cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Make the strawberry frosting: Puree the strawberries to yield 1/2 cup. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 4 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the strawberries and mix. (The mixture may seem curdled, but will come together with the addition of the sugar.) Sift the confectioners' sugar into the bowl 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract. Set aside.
7. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop out a spoonful of cake from the center of each cupcake. Fill the cavity with frosting using a pastry bag or plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Replace the scooped-out cake piece. Frost the top of each cupcake and top with a strawberry slice.
NILLA WAFER PUDDING
Pudding was an easy after-school snack when I was growing up. It was one of the first things I learned to cook, along with instant Cream of Wheat and cinnamon toast. One of my favorite recipe creations was vanilla pudding, bananas, and crushed Nilla Wafers. I would scoop it in a glass and stir in my toppings. (Later I learned that bananas and Nilla Wafers work well with ice cream in a blender too.) A little more time intensive than the Jell-O cook-and-serve packs of my childhood, this recipe for Nilla Wafer Pudding satisfies my sentimental side, while improving on history with a homemade pudding that's light, luscious, and pure. The yield is large enough to serve a crowd of kids or dish out at a backyard barbecue. For a more elegant presentation, assemble in a trifle bowl.
Serves 10 to 12 3 large egg yolks 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3 tablespoons cornstarch 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 cups whole milk 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup (1/2 pint) cold heavy cream 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar 4 ripe bananas 1 tablespoon lemon juice 50 vanilla wafers, crushed, plus a few whole for decoration
1. Put the egg yolks in a heatproof bowl and whisk slightly. Set aside.
2. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Carefully add the milk to the pan, whisking constantly for 8 minutes or until the mixture starts to thicken. Do not let the pudding come to a complete full boil, just a gentle one.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and pour half the thickened milk into the egg yolks and whisk well.
4. Return the to the heat. Gently add the yolk mixture to the pan. While stirring constantly, bring the mixture back to a gentle boil, and continue to stir for 1 more minute.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and 1/2 teaspoon of the vanilla extract. Set aside.
6. Whip the cream until light and fluffy. Do not overbeat. Stir in the confectioners' sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.
7. Cut the bananas into 1/2-inch slices and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Carefully toss to coat all the bananas.
8. In the bottom of a 2-quart bowl, spoon in 2 cups of the vanilla pudding. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup crushed wafers. Arrange 1 cup of the sliced bananas decoratively over the wafers. Spoon in the rest of the pudding and coat with 1 cup crushed wafers. Arrange the remaining bananas (reserve a few slices for decoration) on top of the wafers. Cover the entire surface with the whipped cream. Decorate with the reserved banana slices and whole wafers. Serve immediately or put in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
From Sweet Home by Rebecca Miller Ffrench (Kyle Books; 2012) Photo Credit: Philip Ficks
Excerpted from Sweet Home by Rebecca Miller Ffrench Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Miller Ffrench. Excerpted by permission of Kyle Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted February 11, 2015
This has become my 'go-to' baking book. While my family has immensely enjoyed each recipe we have indulged in, I've found even more joy in sharing it with others. Whenever invited for a meal, I am quick in offering to bring desser. Of course, I include the recipe and often follow-up with sending this book as a follow-up gift. Not only are the dessert incredible, but the stories and Rebecca's writing are a pleasure. Both help readers feel more connected to the food and the history of where it comes from. Favorites of all have been the chocolate date cake, as well as the cardamom cake. In my classroom, children and I often bake wacky cone cakes or one of the cupcake variations to much delight of young stomachs!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2012
This author is coming to my local BN for a signing, saw the book looked interesting so I bought it. I am glad I did. It is a beautiful book. I am of Norwegian descent and I can totally relate to the stories with some of the recipes. I do already have some of the Norwegian receipes frommy family, with little variations. This is a great book, particularly I think if you are of Scandanavian descent, but even if you are not, the recipes, stories and photros are great. I plan on buying one for my sister as a gift also.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 16, 2012
No text was provided for this review.