Double Rainbow Cake Guide and Party Fun

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Friends

Here are photos we took from the actual birthday party for Chad and Jett. The frosting is a new recipe that I found, since the birthday girl wanted a cherry frosting. Having never had it, but instantly loving the thought I hunted a promising recipe down, and think it turned out pretty tasty.

Ingredients:

  • 2 boxes yellow cake mix
  • Eggs, oil and water as required by mix
  • Gel food color
  • 2 10″ round pans
  • Parchment paper or foil circles cut for the bottoms of the pan
  • Pam spray
  • 12 glasses
  • 12 spoons
  • Rubber spatula
  • Mixer
  • Cherry frosting
  • Chocolate frosting
  • Large strawberries, for structural integrity

I used the 12 glasses, six for each batch of batter, because I wanted to try and make sure I had similar amounts and similar colors mixed in the two cakes. I’m very glad I did this, as I think it made a difference in the final result.

One issue I had was the shape of the cakes. Typically, when a cake rises up in the center as these did, you slice off the offending bump to make it even for frosting. I dreaded doing this and losing any of the color I worked so hard for, so decided to use some internal supports. Having been informed that chocolate frosting would be a suitable replacement if I was unable to make the cherry frosting happen, and that strawberries are a favorite fruit, I decided to go for broke.

The outside of the cake is frosted with the cherry frosting, but the layer between the two cakes is frosted with a homemade chocolate frosting with large-ish strawberries around the edge to provide the support needed to make the cake level and prevent it from splitting in half. Yes, it’s somewhat absurd, but I planned on laying the slices on their sides so the middle layer could be dodged if undesired. Happily, I think the birthday girl liked it, and it probably made the cake better for Chad since he’s a chocolate fan. I just wish I could have found cherries large enough to do the job, for flavor consistency across the cake.

I was concerned about the structure since the strawberries kept wanting to slide out through the frosting, but they behaved in the fridge while we went out to lunch. It was a great time, as Jett’s parents, Jett and Chad themselves and Paulette joined Chooch and I. We headed back to our place to relax, chat, and later have cake.

After the cutting and eating, the cake was deemed extremely sweet. No big surprise there, but the squeal of joy from Jett during the cutting made it WELL worth all the effort. Everyone enjoyed the spectacle of it and the taste was pretty darned good, too.

Thanks to Cheryl and Bob for letting us host the party, and for the lovely flowers and lunch! You are far too kind, and we’ve loved every visit with you guys.

Happy Birthday to Jett and Chad! It’s an absolute blessing to count you as friends! And that Scott Pilgrim viewing must happen SOON!

ExperiMENTAL Foods: Double Rainbow Cake Test

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Firsts

So, I’m having fun playing with desserts. I’m finding that people love when I show up with some tasty new variation on an old dessert, but are also happy when I leave and make me take it with me. Conversely, I’m trying to leave the sweet temptations behind and they frequently end up in the garbage. I have no problems with this, as I’d rather it go to the landfill then attach to my ass.

Besides playing with variations of cheesecake flavors and cake frostings, I’ve been attempting to bake vegan and also more things from scratch, I became fascinated with the Cherpumple phenomenon which resulted in customized Pi-Cakes. I fell in love with friend Andrea’s Dessert Enchiladas to the point that if her husband doesn’t treat her right I’m ready to propose on the spot.

The newest thing I’ve been working on is for my dear friend Jett Micheyl’s birthday. A month ago, she tweeted this:

I want this cake for my birthday -> http://trunc.it/dy7lw
The link went to this insane creation:

You guys should know by now that I loves me a challenge! The cake in the photo has one layer with colors in rainbow order, and the other layer is in reverse order. Well, I decided to do both layers in rainbow order so I could call it the Double Rainbow Cake. (Title inspired by the Double Rainbow hippie dude videos.)

And so began the testing…
Last weekend I did two test cakes, because I wanted to test my procedure and also decide which cake mix to go with. Yes, I cheated and used cake mix. There were already too many variables in play, and I wanted to ensure that the cake would actually taste GOOD.

For the test, I tried a white cake mix and a yellow cake mix, since I found conflicting information on the internet on which provided a better looking end result. I also used a different technique in that for the white cake mix I evenly divided the batter across the six glasses, and with the yellow cake mix I used a graduated amount for each color. Red being the outside color needed more batter, violet being the inside color needed less batter. I varied the amounts based on location in the classic “ROY G. BIV” rainbow order between red and violet.

It’s pretty easy to tell that the white cake mix created more pastel colors, which were beautiful. But Jett is more vibrant than that, so I went with the yellow cake mix base and got much brighter colors. The trick will be getting the violet without making it quite so dark. I also preferred the result with the graduated amounts so decided it was worth the extra trouble. The flavor was remarkably similar, with the white being MUCH drier than the yellow. We decided yellow was the way to go for both vibrancy and moistness.

These photos are from the tests I did, using 1 box of cake mix in each 10″ cake pan. I intended that solely for the test, but decide to go ahead with the size for the final cake.

Check this space tomorrow for the final cake results.

***************EDIT******************
I’m including the link to the “Double Rainbow Cake Guide”.

World Nutella Day: The Reckoning

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Friends

Events were such that we actually cracked open the Nutella tub on Friday night. I baked some yummy vegan brownies (Thanks, Andrea!) to take to Chooch‘s band practice. (He’s the super sexy bassist for Ditched By Kate, dontchaknow!) While I’ve had these brownies before, I’d never made them so I took the Nutella as insurance against failure. Sure, Nutella isn’t vegan, but I didn’t spread it on the brownies. Rather I just set it beside the brownies for folks to use if they liked. Needless to say, the pan was empty before we left for home and the Nutella was a hit.

Too few hours later, World Nutella Day had officially started so I broke my fast with Bloom bakery croissants that I lightly toasted in the oven. I spread Nutella on top and it was crispy, gooey and heavenly. I had hoped to make crepes or waffles, but just didn’t have time during this super-full weekend.

Lunch found us at a dear friend Grailwolf’s birthday party at Hard Times Cafe somewhere in Maryland (Chooch drove). I brought along my trusty tub of Nutella and cookies to set out for folks to enjoy. Lorna Doone’s were my favorite with Nutella, but the oatmeal chocolate chip and chocolate graham crackers were also enjoyed. It seems the hands down favorite was the Nilla Wafers, especially in the “Reverse Oreo” configuration that Andrea invented – Nutella sandwiched between two wafers.

At dinner (and after a tasty cocktail), I felt a bit more adventurous and decided to push the envelope of my pledge to incorporate Nutella into every meal. Pre-dinner nosh included blue tortilla chips, and being a lover of pretzel or potato chips with chocolate I couldn’t resist. It was pretty good, but nothing I’d specifically seek out. I have a feeling that Nutella covered pretzels would be much better and will be testing that theory at a later date.

During dinner itself, I mixed a small amount of Nutella in with fettuccine noodles. The noodles were un-sauced, and I’d enjoyed chocolate pasta in the past. It’s a bit odd, but as another carbohydrate-Nutella-delivery-system it served well.

I then pushed beyond the limits of decorum by spreading Nutella on garlic seasoned broccoli. Judge me all you like, but I was not alone in thinking it was not unpleasantly interesting.

I redeemed myself at dessert, having prepared a cupcake bar of sorts. Chocolate cupcakes, which I hollowed out the top for filling with a small variety – cherry preserves, Nutella (natch), banana slices, chocolate frosting and a last minute addition of peanut butter.  Several iterations were created, but my very favorite was a smidge of Nutella on a banana slice inside a cupcake with a thin layer of Nutella on top.

I’d say the day was a success, except that I got on the scales this morning and am dealing with a Reckoning of another sort.

Baking Your Own Cherpumple (or PiCake)

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL

I wish I’d thought to post this before Thanksgiving, as it seems a lot of folks took the annual American day of unrestrained gluttony as justification for baking their own cherpumple.  While I did not make a full cherpumple for Thanksgiving, I did make two PiCakes (term coined by my husband for the individual cherpumple-like layers). One was the pumpkin pie/spice cake layer, (we’ve nicknamed Spumpkin) and the other was the pecan pie/chocolate cake layer which we’ve nicknamed ChocoCan (pronounced like Chaka Khan).

I’ve previously baked two full cherpumples and 2 PiCakes, starting back in August. I had already forgotten the process I developed through trial and error, so am documenting them here for myself and anyone else that wants to give them a try. I considered taking pictures and posting them also, but I just don’t think they’re necessary as I’ve embedded creator Charles Phoenix’s video instructions at the bottom of this post. It’s the guidance I used to bake mine and while it’s fairly general, it take the mystery out of the process in a humorous way.

Ingredients for full traditional cherpumple recipe:

  • 3 frozen pies – apple, cherry and pumpkin;
  • 3 cake mixes – yellow, white and spice;
  • Ingredients specified on cake mix boxes (you will be following the box directions for the cake batter);
  • Canned frosting – cream cheese (see recommendations below).

My recommendations:

  • 10″ cake pan works perfectly, I prefer the Wilton aluminum pan.
  • Substitution of vanilla for cream cheese frosting, based on the stickiness and unforgiving texture. It may be different with other brands, but the stuff I had resulted in a really rough looking finished product. Swapping the vanilla gave a much nicer-looking cake. The flavor change didn’t matter to me since I don’t eat the frosting, I dive into the layers.
  • Whipped cream for the Spumpkin (Spice cake/pumpkin pie) PiCake. It’s heavenly, but then that’s my favorite topping for both pumpkin pie and spice cake, separately.

Ingredients for PiCake layers are essentially the same as above, except you choose the flavor combinations you want to try. For instance, the ChocoCan PiCake is chocolate cake mix with pecan pie and chocolate frosting.

I’m embedding the slideshow of photos of the cherpumples and PiCakes I’ve baked. If you’ll notice, the first cherpumple (better seen in the video at the end of my slideshow) is not nearly as attractive as the second one. This is for two reasons: One I was short on time so used an 8, 9 and 10 inch pans to bake all at once and ended up with a layered effect. I also used the cream cheese frosting which was unforgiving and nearly transparent. The second and subsequent cakes have been MUCH more attractive.

Here are the steps I take to ensure the best possible end result:

  • Bake or thaw the pies. They will not thaw inside the cake if you don’t, and your cake batter will not cook if you have a cold or frozen pie inside. Raw cake batter is not the goal here since you need the cake structure to support the ooey-gooey pie.
  • Bring the pies to room temperature before starting. You don’t want them hot since you’ll be using your hands to drop them into the cake. I disliked even using slightly warm pie because the whole thing is much more fragile.
  • Set oven temperature to 325 regardless of cake box instructions. Anything higher and you risk undercooked batter or burned cake in trying to get the batter fully baked.
  • Now is the time for putting a sheet of aluminum on the bottom of the oven to catch any overflow. It can happen.
  • Use a 10″ cake pan. It’s the perfect size for the pie, even if one of larger than average. It also allows for all the cake batter to be used.
  • Spray generously with cooking spray.
  • Cut a parchment circle for the cake pan interior bottom. The ease in removing the cake is COMPLETELY worth the effort of this step. Yes, it’s easier to line with aluminum, but my results were tremendously better with the parchment.
  • Spray again with cooking spray. Yes, it’s overkill. You’re welcome.
  • Mix the cake batter according to package directions.
  • Carefully break off the crust around the edge of the pie, but don’t break the top or bottom crust! This step is optional, but preferred. It makes it easier to cover the pie with batter and I just like it better taste-wise.
  • Pour most into the bottom of the pan, reserving about a third for covering the pie after you drop it in.
  • Drop pie and smooth remaining batter of the top, making sure to “seal” the pie in batter.
  • It will obviously take longer to bake than a regular cake. I recommend setting the timer for 45 minutes and doing the standard toothpick test. It’s a bit tricky since you don’t want to go into the pie and distort the results. It usually takes about an hour for it to bake in my oven. Expect it to take even longer if you have more than one layer baking in the oven. The first cherpumple I made, I had all three in there and I do not recommend doing this.
  • I recommend running a knife along the inside of the pan after it comes out of the oven. If there is any cake batter overhanging the cake pan edge at all, you’ll have an easier time when it first comes out than after it cools and hardens.
  • Wait 20 minutes before removing from pan instead of 10. The cake is a bit more fragile with the essentially liquid core.
  • As always, allow cake to fully cool before frosting.

Cherpumples I Have Made


Charles Phoenix Video Instructions

Thanksgiving Eve Thoughts

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, Friends, Health, No Whining, Our Kids

Like kajillions of other folks, I’ll be working in the kitchen today for more than just normal meal preparation. With Thanksgiving already upon us and day two of brain pain, I’m glad that I only have minimal work to do.

I’m not hosting dinner, so we’re only bringing a few sides and two desserts. And while I’m grateful for this lighter load, I’m even more grateful for the company we’ll be in tomorrow.

This year, my baking list includes two PiCakes (PiCakes = term my husband coined describing stand-alone cherpumple inspired layers). I won’t be stacking them because I want to use different frostings on them. The ChocoCan PiCake (Chocolate cake and pecan pie) will have chocolate frosting and the Spumpkin PiCake (Spice cake and pumpkin pie) will likely have vanilla. I haven’t decided yet, as I’m considering leaving it unfrosted for topping by the slice with whipped cream, in traditional pumpkin pie/Thanksgiving manner.

I’ll also be baking a sweet potato casserole. I’d intended on a healthier recipe, but am having second thoughts as I hate to serve an untested recipe at Thanksgiving. I suppose this is the ideal venue for it, as the diners are an adventurous sort and Lord knows there will be plenty of other tasty food to eat if it’s not as tasty as I hope.

Besides beer and wine, we’re also bringing a simple green salad. I’m hoping to find and whip up a yummy mustard vinaigrette to go along with it. I fell in love with it at the Dogfish Head restaurant a few weeks ago and want some of my own. If you have a tried and true recipe that you want to share, please let me know in the comments!

In the morning, Chooch and I will do the annual Turkey Trot 5k race. It’s the third year we’ve been registered, but we had to skip it last year because of my then new-and-unknown illness. Since I stopped waiting around to get better, I’ve been “training” for it for months. Knee and back problems have hindered me of late so I’m not where I’d hoped to be, but I’m still thrilled to be able to do it. Just crossing my fingers that this downgraded migraine will subside and let me actually run it.

As has been the case for the last four Thanksgivings, Mom is heavily on my mind. We used to bake together in preparation for Thanksgiving and knowing that another year is passing without her is not an easy one to wrap my mind around. Hell, as recently as last week, I had to correct myself when I said “… my parent’s house…”.  On the one hand, I know I need to find out how to accept on a subconscious level that she’s gone. On the other hand, I just don’t want to. It’s hard to give up the comforting feeling of unconditional love from knowing that there’s this person out there that loved you before you had a name or even took your first breath. She loved me at just the thought of my existence, and that’s a heady feeling. I’ll be grateful for her for the rest of my life and refuse to let sadness take the day. I instead choose to celebrate her and all that her life meant to others. <3 Pocket Mom!

In the spirit of the holiday, I’d like to share some of the things I’m grateful for on this day:
~ That my family is healthy and happy, in spite of the bumps on our paths. I love them all, for their perfections and their flaws.
~ The amazing friends I’ve somehow lucked into finding. Whether its my friend of 22 years or friends I’ve made this year, I can’t help but reflect that this is one of the richest times in my life. I’m inspired, challenged and emboldened by them all.
~ Three handsome boys that break my heart from longing to see them and heal it just by existing. Regardless of the distance, they are the spring in my step and I can’t imagine my life without them in it.
~ My husband, for all that he is and wants to be. I pledge my turtle love. Forever.

Dear Reader, know that whether you are traveling or staying at home, I heap blessings upon you for a safe and happy holiday.

Dessert Hacking, My New Addiction

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Chooch, Cooking, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Friends

Maybe it’s just boredom with traditional desserts, but since the first planning stages of cherpumple baking in August I’ve been looking at desserts differently.

My immediate thought after the first viewing of the “how-to” video was that I needed to attempt it with one of my cheesecakes baked inside a chocolate cake for the first cherpumple. Sadly, it was a failure on two fronts. First, the chocolate cake batter never completely cooked and was raw in places. This was, in hindsight, due to the density and temperature of the cheesecake. I’m sure I can overcome the issues in future attempts. The second disappointment halted future attempts for now – my husband, son and I decided that you couldn’t even taste the cheesecake as it just absorbed the chocolate flavor. (I’ll get back to those later, as I’ve got some possibly tasty solutions to this problem.)

Even so, they let out cries of horror when I tossed it in the trash.

Another modification to the cherpumple was at the request of P.G. Holyfield, which I surprised him with during his visit this weekend. After trying the cherpumple I baked for BlenderCon, he pulled me to the side and let me know that he would love to try a chocolate cake/pecan pie layer. As expected, it turned out to be extremely delicious. My concern over what would happen to the inner pie layer was unnecessary. It retained its moisture and texture and also added its distinctive flavor to the chocolate in a very tasty way.

Note: My husband coined the term “PiCake” for any cake/pie layers or stacked layers, so that’s what I’m calling those that are not true Cherpumples (cherry/pumpkin/apple pies baked in white/spice/yellow cakes).

Behold the ChocoCan PiCake

Another friend that has not yet experienced the cherpumple, Tee Morris, let me know last week that he wants to try it. He also suggested a chocolate layer with pumpkin pie inside. While I personally don’t like chocolate mixed with pumpkin pie spices, I can’t deny Tee his request and will make him that layer.

Then there’s the layer I’m dying to try, and have already added it to my Christmas baking list. It will have a chocolate cake with a cherry pie inside. I’m a huge fan of chocolate covered cherries, and I think it will be most delicious!

I’ll post updates with the results of those modifications, assuming I don’t forget again. I’ll also post future dessert hacks, as they are attempted, with photos. The list is very long, so it will take awhile.

Oh, and I’m baking the pumpkin pie/spice PiCake for Thanksgiving. Don’t judge me. It’s good enough that it bears repeating.

Cherpumple Exploits

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Anti-Health, Cooking, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, Dessert Hacks, ExperiMENTAL, Family, Firsts, Friends, Our Kids, Podcast

Fiddle dee dee. I came to post an update on my cherpumple exploits only to discover that I never posted anything about it here. Shocking!

A cherpumple is a dessert phenomenon that I first heard about thanks to J.C. Hutchins, when he tweeted a link to a picture of it either at the end of July or beginning of August. Intrigued by the link, I naturally googled it and found a video showing how to make your own.

Chooch and I were amazed, and discussed possibly making it for BlenderCon, our annual party that was coming up a few weeks later. We got the name BlenderCon from the name of our blended family podcast, Into the Blender. We decided against it because we’d already spent quite a bit on what was needed for our chocolate fountain, which has been a part of the tradition since we held the first BlenderCon in 2008.

A week or so later, I was listening to Jared Axelrod’s Fables of the Flying City and he was discussing the sixth anniversary of podcasting. (No, August of 2010 wasn’t the fifth anniversary as Apple celebrated. It was just the fifth anniversary of Apple listing podcasts in their iTunes store.) Jared felt strongly that something needed to be done in August to celebrate it, and I realized, hey! We’re doing something in August! And Jared’s coming to it! We should make the cherpumple! Sixth anniversary, six desserts in one! Perfect!

I baked it the night before the party, and stressed because it was not as pretty as I’d hoped, mainly because of the cream cheese frosting I used (very sticky and unforgiving), as recommended in the video. In spite of the imperfections, the dessert was a hit. It’s definitely more of a spectacle than a dessert, but was enjoyed by all. Our dear friend P.G. Holyfield even took up the challenge I laid down to combine cherpumple with chocolate fountain. I’m happy to say he survived the sugar overdose and has mostly recovered. Mostly.

For further explanation, a cherpumple is a three layer dessert that includes a cake and a pie in each layer. The top layer is yellow cake with an apple pie baked inside; the middle layer is a white cake with a cherry pie baked inside; the bottom layer is a spice cake with a pumpkin pie inside. Once baked, you stack and frost as you would any layer cake. It was re-named the CakePieCakePieCakePie that night, and our friend Dr. John Cmar announced that 5 diabetics living nearby had just dropped dead because of the amount of sugar in the dessert. I’m pretty sure he was kidding.

Paul Fischer blew out the number “6” candle on top since he was the person in the room that had been podcasting the longest, and then we started carefully cutting slices. It’s as difficult as you might expect. Most people doubled up and really just wanted to taste each of the levels. The best flavor, as we were told by most guests, was the spice cake/pumpkin pie layer. I’d have to agree. The two flavors are perfectly suited and completely enjoyable.

It was such a huge hit, that when we were planning my son’s farewell party a month later we decided that I should make it again. I made a few changes, such as making all the layers 10″, instead of 8, 9 and 10″. More importantly, I dumped the cream cheese frosting in favor of vanilla frosting. It turned out much prettier and the flavor didn’t seem different at all. Besides, most folks were diving straight into the layers without going near the frosting.

When Chooch lifted the cake to move it before the party, he decided we needed to weigh it since it was so heavy. It tipped the scales at 17 pounds. I started to feel really guilty at that point.

It was again, a huge success. Just like before, everyone just wanted to try each of the layers and most ended up in the trash. The majority again held that the pumpkin/spice layer was the best.

I’ve sworn off making the full, three layer monstrosity. We’ll see if that sticks.