Not Quite A Piece of Cake

Clump #241:  Bake and decorate Cake Walk cakes; day six of the seven-day bake-a-thon.


So it all started with the magazine pictured above.  A seductive collection of cute cakes that seemed sooo easy and fun.  I argued for keeping the Cake Walk in our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival — tomorrow — and I said I could throw together four cakes for four walks.  For those unfamiliar with the game, a group of kids stand upon carpet squares set in a circle.  Underneath each carpet square is written a number.  Music plays, the kids move around the circle, ideally dancing.  When the music stops, all the players stop.  Someone picks a number out of a hat, and whoever is standing on that numbered carpet square wins a cake.  Whoo hoo!

The cakes are usually snazzy numbers with lots of candy.  I used two boxed cake mixes (they were on sale for 99 cents!), figuring I only needed a half for each cake.


As they say, “Mistakes were made.”  I thought the lollipop cake below would be a snazzy one, but didn’t realize I needed to wear gloves in order to knead the food color into the fondant.


I was not happy with the process, nor the color of my hands (even though they were radiant orchid, the Pantone color of the year).


When I got to the part of the recipe that advised taking off the fondant before cutting the cake, I said, “No, I can not do it!”  Note to self: read directions thoroughly.


I went to Plan B, the Henry and Mudge cake from Cynthia Rylant’s book Henry And Mudge And The Best Day Of All, wherein Henry has a birthday cake made to look like his aquarium.  A family favorite.


The others were inspired by the magazine.  Sunflower:


Car (two halves of a round layer, frosted together with an L cut out of one side):


And baby owls:


Wrapped up and ready to go:


Let the games begin!

Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bliss

Clump #240:  Bake Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bread; day five of the seven-day bake-a-thon.


Today I made another recipe from the Parade magazine article: “The Most Popular Recipes on Pinterest in Each of the 50 States.”   Buttermilk Banana Blueberry Bread was the top pin in Arkansas, with the words, “Damn Delicious” under the photo. How could I resist?   The recipe’s author enthuses, A great way to use up those lingering, spotty bananas, and the perfect holiday gift that everyone will love!”   Trouble was, those spotty bananas didn’t linger around this house, so I had to thaw one from the freezer and leave a note on the other two:


The recipe makes four mini loaves, which I had imagined to be the size of our mini loaf pans on right.  Not mini enough.  The 5 and 3/4 inch size is on the left.


In other Fall Festival news, I organized the toy room for the Mercantile, the flea market-type sale we hold indoors.  Here is a glimpse of the room before:


And if you ever want to give yourself an anti-materialism vaccine, a job like this will certainly do the trick.  So many junky little plastic things.  I had some help to make the “after” look like this:


And here is the “after” for the bbbbread:


The aroma is decidedly Damn Delicious,  and quite heavenly.  I might just have to buy one myself and get the full effect.

More S’mores

Clump #239:  Bake graham cracker cupcakes; day four of seven-day bake-a-thon: one baked-good-a-day to avoid the usual pre-Fall Festival log jam.


Some days contain more darkness than light: exhibit my tired, worn down, and shadow-like emotional state.  But even on a day like today, baking was accomplished.

I spent this past summer with the intention of making S’mores Cupcakes from a recipe I saw in Real Simple magazine.  I never got around to it, so the time is now!

Progress alert: I probably tossed the magazine containing the recipe in a recycling bag during one of my paper purges.  But no problem … I easily found it online.  Let that be a lesson.  I really don’t have to have so much paper around me.


The cake is the graham cracker part of the S’mores equation.  It contains one cup of graham cracker crumbs, or nine crackers.  How many crackers in a package?  Nine.  Very satisfying.


This was my maternal grandmother’s rolling pin.  It gives me confidence, when using it, to know that she was renowned for her pies.


Disaster was averted by my husband who managed to finesse the gears back into the Kitchen Aid mixer.  Heavens, is it telling me that I’m doing too much baking?


And the finished cupcakes, cooling down.  I’ll freeze, thaw, and finish them later.  They smell really-really good.


Ready or not, October is here and, like my goose friend in Strasburg …


one must gear-up and get with it!

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle

Clump #238:  Bake Pumpkin Snickerdoodles; day three of seven day bake-a-thon.


Today’s recipe (or clump, if you may) is a cookie that was featured in Parade magazine as the most popular recipe on Pinterest from the state of Oregon.  All fifty states’ top recipes can be found here.


The recipe called for a dash of allspice, and I was excited to use teeny little measuring spoons that belong to my younger daughter.  I never knew the difference between a dash, a smidgen, and a pinch before we had these.


The finished product.  Are they as luscious as the photo in Parade magazine?  Is the pumpkin flavor too subtle to the point of nonexistent?   Purchase a couple at the Fall Festival and you tell me.


In they go with their cookie cousins.


Happiness is …  a freezer full of cookies …


And fabulous Fall color!

Our Family’s Favorite Cookie

Clump #237:  Bake molasses cookies; day two of seven-day bake-a-thon for upcoming Fall Festival bake sale.


If I were to write an ode to a cookie, it would be to this.  The humble molasses cookie.  Comforting, aromatic, replete with family history.  My mother-in-law began the tradition.  Early in my married life, I was there to hear one of her older granddaughters say, “Grandma, this is the perfect cookie.”   If that memory doesn’t call her to mind, there’s the molasses bottle itself:


My careless drips fall like a string of beads.


I’ve made these cookies so many times that the steps feel meditative.  Sifting the dry ingredients:


I love using wax paper.


The rolling of the cookies is like sculpting with play dough.


And the final product, ready for the freezer.


As Quakers have said through the years: “Simple but of good quality.”

From the Don’t Eat Your Heart Out Cookbook, by Joseph C. Piscatella


2 C all-purpose flour     1/4 teaspoon salt     1 teaspoon baking powder     1 teaspoon baking soda     1/2 teaspoon ground cloves     1  1/4  teaspoon ground ginger     1  1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

2/3 C safflower oil     1/4 C molasses     1 egg or 1/4 C egg substitute     1 C firmly packed brown sugar     granulated sugar

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Using lowest speed of electric mixer, blend oil, molasses and egg; add sugar.  Blend.  Gradually add flour and dry ingredients; mix well.

Chill dough 2 hours.  Form into 1-inch balls.  Roll each ball in granulated sugar.  Place on baking sheets.  Sprinkle each cookie with 2-3 drops of water.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.  (I always opt for 8 minutes.)






Cranking Up a Seven Day Baking Challenge

Clump #236:  Bake chocolate chip and Reeses Pieces cookies; day one of 7-day bake-a-thon.


Not to mention any names, but a few people in my life might possibly accuse me of taking too many pictures.  Once I start, I find it difficult to stop.  I admit, it can get annoying, but if I didn’t have so many images to choose from, I may not have had the one above, which, now that I see it again, is the perfect illustration for my blog-making machinery in full-stop.

I took the photo at The Mill at Anselma on a recent visit with my husband. From its website: “Constructed in 1747, the Mill stands as the most intact, authentic example of a custom water-powered grain mill in the United States …”

Let the blog-wheels turn again!


When I last posted, I was riding a wave of adrenaline on a 30-day challenge before a visit from two of my husband’s sisters.  We truly had a grand time together.  Here are the three siblings watching a sunset “down the shore,” as they say around here:


After a challenge, the question arises, “What now?  How often do readers really want to hear from me?  Does anyone care?  Is posting every day too annoying?”  (Dark night of the soul existential blogging questions.)

My husband and I were skyping with our younger daughter today (she’s the one studying in Russia), and I was fretting over the fact that she will not be here to do her usual amazing baking job for our Quaker Meeting’s Fall Festival.  And I don’t use the word “amazing” lightly.  I have a certain tendency to come up with great ideas for fun baking projects, but lack the time management skills to pull them off.  Not so with our daughter.

She, wisely, told me, “Just bake one thing every day before the festival … One clump a day.”  Oh my goodness, why in the world hadn’t I been able to figure that out?

So here we go!  Day one, starting easy.  Basic chocolate chip cookies made from the recipe on the Ghirardelli chocolate chip bag with Reeses Pieces to add seasonal color and pizazz.  I noticed I was using a potholder with a fall festival theme … tra-la!


This is what’s fun about baking for the festival.  I’d never tried this before, sticking candies onto cookie dough …


but it worked!


Double-bagged and popped into the freezer.


Voila, indeed!