about bliss

Saturday, December 31, 2005

au revoir, year of the cake

The smell of my now famous Better-Than-you-Know-What Cake fills my home, the sound of my talented friends playing old-time music on a just-released CD fills the air, while outside large wet flakes of snow fill the sky. I’m making the cake for my friend S’s- second annual New year’s Eve Dinner Party. I spent a good portion of the morning buying the necessary ingredients, as my baking larder was spent from previous holiday baking. I searched for silver dragees to adorn this last cake of the year, but alas, none can be found. Instead I may drizzle “2006” in white chocolate, topped with a cinnamon-sanding sugar mixture for high glamour.

This noon, when I was taking my last run of 2005, I was thinking of the past year in terms of what I baked, and indeed, this was the year of the cake, in its many forms, and particularly, sizes. I started the baking year with the very first Mexican Chocolate cake on MLK weekend (a post-holiday celebration with my best college friends). I made chocolate cupcakes for my friends M- and B-, visiting from Chicago, in February--these were a preview of the cupcakes to come at their wedding in May. For that blessed event I baked 175 total, a melange of flavors and frostings; we had a frosting party the day before the wedding, complete with margaritas and glue guns (to construct the cardboard towers to hold the diminutive cakes). I made a chocolate cake for S’s birthday in February, and another for H’s birthday in April (though we celebrated on May day). I baked the chocolate layers here and toted them (and the non-perishable frosting ingredients) via airplane for J’s graduation party in AL, finishing the cake the night before the celebration. There’s the tiramisu I made for my brother L’s birthday in May, the chocolate and meringue frosting cake I created for E’s bridal shower, the chocolate cake I gave to S’s parents, the cake I made for Grandpa C’s Christmas gift, and assuredly many more that I’ve forgotten.

So now that I’ve reflected and reminisced, I’m thinking ahead to ‘06--what will this be the year of, culinary speaking? Cookies? Breads? Puddings? Muffins? Pies? Candies? I’m undecided (not surprising, if you know me well), but I’m leaning toward breads. I already know that I’ll be creating a King Cake from scratch for Mardi Gras, in honor of that great city with its amazing people and traditions, which will survive that which nature has wrought. The cake is more like a bread, a brioche, I believe, which is twisted into a wreath, glazed, sprinkled with the tri-color sugars of green, yellow, and purple, and, best (and rather oddest) of all, stuffed with a little plastic baby Jesus.

For now, I drink in the warm, comforting smell of hot, chocolate cake, and think of all of the cakes I’ve shared with so many family members and friends, near and far, and I feel content, calm, and cared for. Ahh, the magic of chocolate and the wonder of loved ones. Be blissful, each and all y’all:)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

gifts from the kitchen

To loosely quote the romantic comedy classic *When Harry Met Sally,* I’ve desperately wanted to write but have been trapped by something heavy: a combination of end-of-the-semester grading madness, final days at the cafe, and my characteristic end-of-the-semester cold. But, I’ve posted course grades, have been freed from the high-drama dysfunction of the coffee shop, and have shaken the last of my upper respiratory distress. I’m free! I’m baking! I’m thinking of witty and funny additions to my novel! I’m reading novels! I’m running and yoga-ing! I’m staying up late to watch syndicated *Sex and the City*!

I recently hosted a Christmas Tea Party for my family and friends, complete with dainty sandwiches (cucumber, white bean pâte, pimento cheese), tea breads (cranberry walnut, banana, made by Mom and H-, respectively), parmesan puffs (made by K-), cream biscuits with homemade strawberry jam, chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies, and the most amazing mocha slice cookies (from the December Issue of Martha Stewart). I also made Robert Linxe’s (of La Maison du Chocolat fame) truffles as party favors. Yumm! We sipped Moscato d’Asti and Castelton Estate Darjeeling. To quote old sorority reports, “a good time was had by all.” I thank my guests for their delightful presence, entertaining conversation, and overall kindness.

I enjoyed a delightful Christmas with family. I gave a variety of foodie gifts--from kitchen tools and vintage cookbooks to handcrafted mini-chocolate cakes. And, I have many new additions to my kitchen: Reidel “O” tumblers for Pinot Noir, a bottle of Zingerman’s 10 year balsamico condiment (yummm), the *Zingerman’s Guide to Good Eating*, and a nifty pump-action pepper grinder with premium pepper corns. I can’t wait to rearrange my kitchen, add the new goodies, and dream up lovely meals and occasions to welcome 2006.

One of my goals for 2006 is to write more regularly all around, including this poor neglected blog. I almost doubt anyone’s reading this anymore! If you haven’t given up, know that I’ll be back with more regular posts in 2006.

Happiest of holidays to all!