Category Archives: THE SCHOOL OF MAKING

THREE-LAYER CAKES

My holidays – up until Monday morning – were a cookbook extravaganza. We made birthday dinners (Fried Chicken a la Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock), holiday brunch (Turkey Pot Pie a la Screen Doors), buttermilk rolls (The Joy of Cooking) back-yard picnics (Bunyan’s Barbeque and anything from White Trash Cooking #2), homemade truffles (a la Nicole Spiridakis) , seasoned pecans (Bon Appétit Y’all) and an array of other goodies. But the highlight of two weeks “kitchen play” was the three-layered (and sometimes two-layered) cakes.

I told Angie recently that I am terrified by the three-layer cake. Although I see myself as accomplished in the kitchen, I have never been one to do much baking. However, I have become obsessed with the three-layer cake. My grandmothers and great aunts could whip out a cake in an early morning. They made layer cakes for church bazaars, birthdays, neighbors who fell ill or just because it was time for Sunday supper.

I took the holidays as an opportunity to face my fears, channel Angie, go beyond the simple cupcake and try my hand at the stacked treasure. (I have actually been working up to this for months.) In August, I purchased a cake decorating set which has been unused in the drawer since purchase. And recently I purchased 3 – 9” round cake pans.

First step: Butch requested a Red Velvet Cake with Chocolate Icing and Pecans for his birthday on the 24th of December. I got an old-time recipe from page 277 of my favorite, A Gracious Plenty, the soulful Ellen Rolfes Book from John T. Edge. The Chocolate Buttermilk Icing is a recipe passed down from my great-aunt (in Alabama Studio Style) and this was topped off with fresh shelled pecans from Butch’s grove.

Second: It was hard to believe that my son Zach turned 27 on January 4th! And although he does not really like sweets, I asked him to name his favorite cake. He said that he once ate a yellow, chocolate chip cake with cream cheese icing that was the best cake he ever tasted. In adventure mode, Maggie and I attempted a yellow cake, scattered with chocolate chips and our three layers became two when one layer fell apart!

Not to be deterred, I attempted it again and wound up with two perfectly iced layers.

I found a great set of cake tips on page 460 of The Lee Bros. Southern Cook Book and ordered The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum – which came highly recommended by Angie.

My copy of BakeWise by Shirley O. Corriher arrived yesterday morning & it is AMAZING… lovely how baking can be broken down to a science. Shirley prefers to bake one cake and then slice into three layers. The book is filled with interesting math – like the perfect measuring methods and baking stones. I now know how little I know and can’t wait to get started baking again…

Butch swears that he is going to make cakes every Thursday of the New Year.

Now, I am off to the gym…

Anybody have a recipe for Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing?

Posted at 8:08 am

AN END TO WINTER

It has just been so COLD outside. All the southerners are complaining so I can’t imagine what it is like to be up north at the moment. It seems that the weather has made the transition from the holidays back to work especially difficult this year (almost impossible) and the grey landscape could definitely use a bit of color right now. Does everyone feel that way?

My seeds came in this week: Seed Savers Exchange

I love the names: Dwarf Gray Sugar and Blue Podded Shelling Peas, Lacinato Kale. Chives, Lettuce Leaf Basil, Florence Fennel, Calabrese Broccoli, Summer Crookneck Squash, Pingtung Long Eggplant, Spinach and Smoke Signals Corn.

And, I received my worms: Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

This weekend I am going to clean up my beds around the house, plant Snow Peas, and prepare the compost pile that is going to be my summer garden. Posted at 6:01 am

A BUREAU OF FRIENDS

As I sit in my winter living room and look out the window, I think about what an amazingly full, rich, intense year it has been. I recently made the joke that I sometimes I feel like Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) in Blade Runner… when I am lying on my death bed, I will say, “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain….”

I feel lucky, blessed, and grounded to have recently met so many new acquaintances to add to the dear old friends who fill my cup with inspiration. While sitting on a couch late one afternoon in South Africa, I decided that I want to take a moment each month to talk about one of these rich, rich souls who has enriched my life.
From painter Judith Eisler, woman extraordinaire Marsha Guerrero, documentarian Davia Nelson, woman of style Julie Gilhart, film maker Jennifer Venditti, writer/stylist/foodie Angie Mosier, and hero Alice Waters, to designer Christina Kim, I want to highlight work that I find world changing, heartfelt and inspirational.
So is born “A Bureau of Friends.” Stay tuned for monthly stories.
Here’s a wish that 2009 may continue to be a great adventure…

FUROSHIKI – THE “GREEN” WRAPPING

While visiting Boston recently, my hosts at the Museum of Fine Arts gave all of the attendees this flyer about Furoshiki.

The term describes “a type of traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that was frequently used to transport clothes, gifts or other goods.”

“Although there are still Furoshiki users in Japan, their numbers declined in the post-war period, in large part due to the proliferation of the plastic shopping bag. In recent years, it has seen a renewed interest as environmental protection became a concern.”

What a great “green” way to use any available cloths to wrap your holiday gifts…
& see a video demo here:

& THANKS to the Fashion Council for a lovely event!


VIEW ON COLOR

“As we abandon long-established notions of the past and truly embrace this young century, the agricultural community will become the planet’s new elite, dominating our essential needs and inspiring years of farmer styles. After all, the farmers of the future will clothe us, house us, feed us, fuel us and hopefully even heal us. Ultimately they will be able to engineer design and grow furniture in a symbiosis of technology and biology, and therefore rural and urban lifestyles will merge and become one; resulting in an inversed social landscape with a greener city and a more contemporary countryside.

We will see vertical farming in the inner cities and the return of smaller luxury farms in the countryside to handle the market for fresh niche products, while arid areas of the globe will be used to power solar plants and farm new kinds of bio fuels. The farm will even become a destination for beauty and learning as well as a cradle for new retail strategies and marketplaces for the future.

This rural revival will sustain far into the future, influencing our habitations and interiors….” Li Edelkoort – an excerpt from View on Color – A World of Folk, page 67

Copies of The World of Folk issue can be purchased by contacting Tel: 212 420 7622  Edelkoort, Inc.- $95.00 + $ 7 shipping

 

INTERNATIONAL QUILT STUDY CENTER

I have been traveling so much that it has been difficult to keep up with all of the inspiring people, places and things that have crossed my path these last months. I am looking forward to slowing down for the holidays to process.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, I had the opportunity to tour the incredible International Quilt Study Center where the most fantastic, pristine, beautiful quilts find a home and are perfectly archived for future generations.

Visit their site to explore their magnificent collection or to make your own quilt design.

CHEZ PANISSE FOUNDATION

On Saturday afternoon, I had the honor of touring the Edible Schoolyard and having lunch in the new Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School Dining Commons. Alice Waters, the Chez Panisse Foundation and a team of others are working towards changing the way we see the school lunch program in America.

The program was inspiring, delicious and beautiful and I am committed to bringing this philosophy into the life of my own daughter.

Here is an overview of the work being accomplished by the Chez Panisse Foundation:

Continue reading

SOUTH AFRICA REVISITED

My trip to South Africa was such an inspiration and difficult to digest and share all of the wonderful people and projects at one time…

However, an example that continues to haunt me is the story of Monkeybiz. Economic development, women’s empowerment, health services – does not get more important than that.

There is a fantastic book that was published in 2007 that shows the work in full-color, inspirational detail.

The project has been revered by many from Donna Karen and Paulette Cole from ABC Carpet and Home in NYC to Deepak Chopra and Desmond Tutu.

Visit their website: http://www.monkeybiz.co.za/about.html

And don’t miss the book: Bead by Bead: Reviving an ancient African tradition