Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Yellow Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting (22nd Birthday Cake!)

The past week has been a bit of a whirlwind. I started classes for the semester, began a new internship, and celebrated my 22nd birthday. I also played in the still-falling snow with my roommates at 2am (best. idea. ever.), went to hockey game, and hosted a fiesta of sorts. It has been a really great first week back at SLU, but I'm beginning to process that this is my last semester here ever, which is simultaneously scary, exciting, and bittersweet. While I'm hopeful about the possibilities of the future, I can't deny that I'm also nervous.

My apprehension about the future has made me want to focus on enjoying the time that I do have left at SLU as much as possible. And since my 22nd birthday conveniently fell on the first weekend of this semester, I made the most of it by spending the weekend with some of my favorite people doing some of my favorite things. As one of my favorite things is baking, I made this cake to eat with my friends before we went out Saturday night. Because, yes, I am the kind of girl who likes making her own birthday cake. (Although my roommate also chipped in and made chocolate crinkle cookies--thanks, Kate!).

I love other people's birthdays because they give me an excuse to bake things that I wouldn't normally try, and my own birthday was no exception.  I debated for way too long about what kind of cake to make since I could choose anything, and ultimately settled on a classic: yellow cake with chocolate frosting. As much as I love chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate, this cake is a one that I've always loved. It was actually the first layer cake I've ever made, and I couldn't have been happier with how it turned out. Here's to celebrating what will hopefully be the best year yet!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


by Jane Austin

I don't know if there's anything left to say about a Jane Austin novel, but that's not going to stop me from trying. This novel was mainly read during a family vacation to Lake Tahoe to go skiing; the picture above was taken during the flight from St. Louis to Las Vegas (complimentary hot chocolate with heart stirrer via Southwest Airlines).  

Emma is my fourth Austin novel to complete, with only Mansfield Park and Persuasion left to check off the list. Like most girls, I've long been a fan of Austin's novels; beyond just Mr. Darcy, I enjoy their delightful commentary on British society and Austin's keen social observations, and Emma was no exception to this.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Homemade White Chocolate Ice Cream

I'm what you would call an ice cream lover. I like every form: basic soft serve, old-fashioned hand dipped, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, Italian gelato, and, of course, homemade ice cream. While generally not as sophisticated as other varieties, homemade ice cream will always have a place in my heart. It is a rare event that goes by in my family where homemade ice cream is not present, and I never get tired of it.

However, while I'm an ice cream lover, and I'm certainly devoted to chocolate, I'm not a white chocolate fan. It just seemed to be a poor imitation of the real thing. However, this ice cream may have converted me.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Help

The Help 
by Kathryn Stockett

My grandmother recommended this book to my mom as one she thought I would like, so I found it wrapped up under the tree on Christmas morning. Thanks, Mom and Grandma! :)

The Help was very different from my other recent reading material, but it's a book I knew I would enjoy immediately. I love stories set in the South, especially ones that focus on women during the 60's. Unsurprisingly, The Help deals with issues of race and civil rights, but from a perspective--that of female housekeepers--that is different and refreshing.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fall 2010 Semester Baking Wrap Up

I baked a lot during the fall semester of senior year, and while I plan to feature most of those recipes as individual posts, there are a few that don't necessarily need or deserve such detail for various reasons.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being
by Milan Kundera

This book did not grab me immediately, and I was tempted to walk away about twenty pages in, but I persevered and was rewarded. It's somewhat difficult to sum up the plot of The Unbearable Lightness of Being--essentially it revolves around lives of four people and a dog. Through exploring the relationships between the characters, Kundera offers up a lot of food for thought about the nature of love and how our decisions reflect both the lightness and the heaviness of our nature.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being was not always an easy book to read, and sometimes the characters made me angry or frustrated. This is proof that I can get a little too emotionally involved with books, but that is only because the issues discussed are so weighty (forgive my pun)--from the nature of fidelity/infidelity, to our dependence upon those that we love. I also struggled at times to relate to the characters, as their approach to love and relationships is so different than my own. The Unbearable Lightness of Being was challenging, and it left me with questions.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Stollen (German Christmas Bread)

In light of my recent interest in bread baking, my curiosity was piqued when I came across a recipe for Stollen. It's traditional German Christmas bread, I'm German, and I like to bake stuff. Decision made.

After some Wikipedia-ing, I discovered that Stollen usually has nuts, in addition to the traditional fruit and spices. A few more searches led me to this similar adaptation of Peter Reinhart's original recipe and the Food Network's version of Stollen.  I decided to make a slight combination of the three versions, using the basic Peter Reinhart recipe, that would also include a cinnamon-sugar filling (because I'm a sucker for anything cinnamon-sugar). The one catch? I really don't like dried fruit of any kind and was tempted to leave it out entirely. Let's not address how ridiculous that is considering that fruit is a critical element of Stollen, but eventually I compromised by baking one loaf with raisins and one without.

The verdict? Since the directions didn't specify an exact time and I lack a thermometer, I over-baked my loaves slightly, making them a little too dry. As expected, I greatly preferred the loaf without the raisins, but my dad seemed to like the more traditional take. Making this was a lot of fun, but next time I think I'll stick to some kind of cinnamon bread!