Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Amazeballs Caramel Cake Recipe & Generally Factual Statements

I met Stephen just before his 35th, or somewhere near-to, birthday. His parents came to visit that weekend, or sometime close to that, and brought with them what Stephen may or may not have said was his favorite cake - a Southern Caramel Cake from The Sweetery in Anderson, SC. When presented with his birthday treasure, his eyes twinkled and his mouth turned up into a devilish grin as he imagined having the cake all to himself.  He might have even done the actual evil laugh. I'm just going to say he did...

I'd never had caramel cake before so I didn't know what to expect. The cake was pretttty darned good; much sweeter than I'd anticipated. I was all stomach-ache city! (If you know me, you know that the tastier the food, the more upset my tummy gets - it's a pretty solid scale with which to judge goodness of food.)

A year passes and I feel like we had that cake again during another visit to Anderson and again, it did not disappoint. OH! I remember - it was at Easter and the morning we left there were really, really strange markings on the cake. Children? Maybe. Adults? Ehhh. Dog? Perhaps. Aliens? Probably. I mean, check this shit out:

Kinda creepy, right? I KNOW!

Moving on to January 2012. Stephen has ANOTHER birthday, again, can't remember his exact age here, but I'm guessing it might still be 35 as I was probably wrong earlier and for the sake of "real-time story telling" I'm not going back to fix my possible error. It's definitely not because I'm lazy... So I decide I'm going to make my first caramel cake but was weary about where to pull a recipe from. So I found the cake portion on someone's blog (I cannot remember who's, sorry) and Stephen's mom sent me her recipe for the icing.

This thing, and toot toot people, was better than the store bought. There, I said it. My opinion, and I won't say for certain that it was Stephen's opinion, too. But there was no disappointment to be found in any stolen bite or slice of this cake! I made it again for Joe, Stephen's dad - who apparently claimed this particular type of cake his favorite long before his 30ish year old son ever did, ...and the rest of the Hilliard family's visit to Lake Murray (or Marion. I can never remember). 
Here's the recipe. Have fun :)

4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup whole milk, divided (1/4 cup and 3/4 cup)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (cut into small pieces), at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour three eight-inch cake pans (or use nonstick spray) and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and the vanilla extract and set aside.

Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and combine on low speed. Scatter the butter pieces on top of the flour mixture and add the remaining milk. Blend on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the egg white mixture a little at a time and beat on medium speed until just combined.

Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pans. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

The cakes will appear slightly golden on top, not browned. Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and cool completely.

I usually set my cakes to cool for about 20 minutes; near or at the end of the 20 I start on the frosting.

Caramel Frosting
½ cup butter (I use real butter)
1 cup brown sugar (dark brown gives a more intense flavor but you can use light as well)
¼ cup milk
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter over low heat.  Add brown sugar (be sure it dissolves – if not, the icing will be grainy).  Cool slightly. 

Add ¼ cup milk and blend (note from Stephen's mom: I add this a little at a time after adding the powdered sugar because it always seems to be too much milk and I end up adding lots more powdered sugar).  After adding powdered sugar and getting to the right consistency, add the vanilla and mix well.

Cake Assembly:
Place one cooled cake layer upside down on a serving platter and pour about one-quarter of the icing over the top, spreading evenly with a knife or angled spatula.

Place the middle layer upside down on top of the bottom layer and spread another one-quarter of the icing over it.

Place the third cake layer right side up on top of the second layer and complete the icing of the top and sides. And then I dare you to set it aside for a whole two hours to allow the icing to set.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

(French accent) Deer De'La Resistance! (/French accent)

During a bike ride around the neighborhood a couple of months ago, a pretty, pale pink, very soft looking flower caught my eye; particularly since it was growing near a giant dirt hill in the undeveloped part of our neighborhood. I didn't think much more about the flower until we went to Lowe's the next day to spend our entire paycheck - as usual - and saw the same pretty pink flowers FO'SALE! Hello!


Turns out this delicate beauty was called a Twilight Primrose. Even more heart warming of a flower because Twilight is one of my favorite book series and Primrose is a character from my most favorite book series (Hunger Games, duh.) So I grabbed four pots of it and literally floated on a happy cloud right out of Lowe's!

So now it's been planted for some time and it's mostly doing really, really well! It was a rocky start for two of them, moreso one than the other. The other two were thriving like I'd given them 'roids.

Next Scene: So one morning I wake up, mosey downstairs and go outside just to stare at my four beautiful Twilight Primrose. And what to my wandering eyes do appear, but a stupid ass deer has eaten the flowers off one of my damn Primrose plants.


I'll be honest, at first I thought it was kinda cute, the idea of a deer (or two!) being right in our front yard, eating my delicate Primrose for dessert. All I could think of was big doe-y eyes, lazily munching my flowers while thinking "I'm gonna have to work this off tomorrow, fo'sho!"

So I didn't think much of it until the next morning the flowers were gone off A SECOND plant. Grrrr.... This happened a few times; thank goodness it didn't take toooo long for the flowers to grow back and while the front plants were getting noshed on, the back ones - which had been struggling - started doing really, really well! Yay! Even better - those pussy deer wouldn't come any further into the yard to eat the now thriving Primrose plants. I'd complained to the neighbors about those fat ugly big-eyed deer eating my gorgeous plants and she suggested Society Garlic.

Sidenote: I'd seen this Society Garlic plant all over the neighborhood and thought "copy cats!!" at each yard that contained it and thusly decided that, even though I liked the particular plant, it was not going in OUR yard. Because, duh, we're not copycats.

Next Scene: Sunday, June 17. Lowe's Gardening Center. Just Jessica, in a hurry - no less, and seriously pissed at Bambi. I find the Savory Garlic (what I was calling it at this point because I don't generally pay anyone 100% attention). Grabbed three pots of that, two pots of Moonshine Yarrow, and four pots of dying Salvia. I'm a sucker for a challenge! (<- blatant lie.  More like a sucker for a sweet-ass deal.) I loaded up, went home and plopped the buckets in the front yard and dared Bambi's cute fat ass to step foot near my sweet, delicate Primrose again.

sorry for the craptastic photo. the barely-there plant in the front is the primrose. The yellow stuff in the middle is the moonshine and the random green sprouts are the garlicy junk.

So far, so good :) Jess -1, Deer -0

almost dead salvia plants.

I finally planted (most of) all of it last night and, sure, it's only been a few days since its been in the yard, and maybe it's deer fasting week or something else dumb that deer might do, but, I'm pretty confident in this garlic stuff cause it smells AWFUL! Plus side: you (human) can eat it, soooo I guess I'll have to do another post to let y'all know how my deer repellant tastes... Not the Salvia, though, because wikipedia said it shows up on piss tests.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Recipe, A How-to & A Vacation ...almost.

The family just returned from vacationing at Lake Murray for nearly a week; such wonderful time spent with Stephen's family! Before we left I'd started working on a few blog posts - a recipe, a "how-to," and another for just general vacation related bragging :) 

I'm excited to share the first two - a caramel cake recipe that's TDF and the other a roman shade how-not-to-do (mostly) I made for the big boys' room. This particular shade was more difficult than the one I made for the dining room because I wanted the back to be lined; helloooo learning experience. Booku fabric arrived just before we left last Sunday and I am excited to use my new ever-burgeoning roman shade making skills. Seriously, I'm learning the hard way.

Also, just before we left I purchased a(nother) piece of furniture off of Craigslist - an old bookcase hutch thing with some drawers.. and stuff. The plan is to turn it into a not-wet bar and free up some cabinet space, too.  I snagged the paint yesterday and have a tutorial from Pinterest that we'll (Stephen will get to play this time) be loosely following (iCreateWithLove Green Storage Solution). The tute isn't, IMO, a 100% how-to but I think we can fill in the missing pieces, especially after browsing through the q&a's from the author of the post (i.e. type of brushes used, paint finishes, etc.).

So, I guess I have four new posts in the works, yay for you! The rooms in the house are also generally coming along nicely - I'm working on all of them at once so that really slows my progress but I find it near impossible to concentrate on just one at a time :)

Oh, and happy belated father's day to all the poppas and also to the mommas who do double time!

My 3 boys at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia last Tuesday (Josh, Russ, Jack):

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Downstairs Oldness

This morning, and yesterday morning, and Monday morning, I woke up to the sound of the sky falling and it was ahhmuhzing. Especially since I watched it from our killer new bed! Our new furniture was finally delivered this past Sunday morning, but I haven't even had a chance to blog about the "before of the downstairs area," so nothing "new" will be in this post. womp womp! Plus, no one room is fully put together anyways, so any pics I posted wouldn't do my imagination justice for what's being planned :)

The living area. It was quite poorly designed, unless you enjoy not having enough room for a minimum of 5 people to sit comfortably. The loveseats are a good fit, essentially, but the room is better configured for someone who might actually like to decorate the mantel for Christmas (me? well, it doesn't matter now, does it?) ...(yes, me. That tv placement is raining on my sugar plum parade). Anyways, there isn't a lot of room for improvement (or issss there... wait and see!) for furniture placement, and that's frustrating. Does anyone else feel like this color scheme is just a fancy military barracks? .... fancy army man cave, perhaps? uh.yeah.

<3 that natural light!

I've obvs already started moving in my crap.

not.a.fan. With 3 little boys and those pointed glass edges?! Stitches waiting to happen.
missing dining set- sold it on CL; it was one of the first things I wanted to see go!

Josh, Stephen, & I are officially cohabitating, although this week won't feel as much like it since Stephen is out of town doing some silly work-related stuff. (My description, not his.) This actually works pretty well; it kind of gives me a week to adjust 1. to a new home & 2. to a new home that I'm sharing with my loves (& 3. so Stephen won't be in my way while I move things around - a couch is easier moved when it loses 250 lbs]

I changed my mind about no new stuff, here's a sneak of our bedroom. I'm just in lurrrve with it, especially our new down-alt comforter :)

& a reminder of our old:

btw - that queen size bed frame is totes for sale. $120 and it's yours. Pickup only. I have a boxspring you can take with it, too.