yellow cake and chocolate icing

one of my favorite things to do in life is to celebrate. as silly as that sounds, i find the act of celebrating any event to be very meaningful; a way of being thankful, recognizing victories, and propelling one through hard times. i firmly believe there is always something to celebrate, from the typical birthday/anniversary to a particularly smooth morning commute. and the real beauty of celebrations is that they are equally useful in good times and bad; grace and i have celebrated surviving a particularly hellish work week with the same sense of festivity as our excitement over the start of summer. and for us, most celebrations involve food.

this celebration was long overdue. we've had francie for about 9 months now and we have yet to formally commemorate her introduction to our family. and what better way to do that than a cake? i wanted the quintessential childhood cake; buttery yellow cake complemented by fluffy chocolate frosting. after doing some initial online research, i found my new cake recipe gold standard. one bowl, pantry ingredients, same amount of time to make as a boxed cake. the frosting was more of a challenge, and in the end, we gave up and used store bought. a minor set-back, but a good opportunity to test out another frosting recipe, for another celebration.

quick yellow cake from the kitchn

makes one 9x13 or two 9-inch cakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

take the butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat the oven to 350°F. prepare two 9-inch round pans by greasing them thoroughly with butter or non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening. you can also flour them, if you want, although this isn't strictly necessary. sprinkle a little flour over them, tilt and shake to distribute evenly, then tap out the excess over the sink.

mix the ingredients together in the order they're listed - creaming the softened butter and sugar first, then adding the eggs, flour, salt, baking powder, and finally the liquids. using an electric beater, beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minutes.

immediately pour into the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops spring back slightly when pressed.
let cool on wire racks for at least 15 minutes, then flip each pan over onto the rack and tap gently all over. lift the pan slightly. if the cake doesn't feel like it's falling out smoothly, lay a slightly damp kitchen towel over the pan and tap again.

cool completely then frost and eat!

francie's cake

there has been a major, major craving for yellow cake in our household recently and we needed a less pathetic excuse than that to make it, so we decided to break out the colored icing and celebrate francie's birthday. we don't ACTUALLY know when her birthday is, mind you, so it was a convenient reason. she seemed in a very festive mood when presented with the cake, although admittedly, she also seemed a little terrified. don't worry! we didn't let her eat any! recipe to come...

hot dogs!

hello - i (grace) am guest posting on caketime to tell you about some cake (and hot dogs...and pork sandwiches...and orange soda). awhile ago andrea and i went to a crazy good chilean bakery/hot dog store (ie best place on earth) in astoria - san antonio bakery #2 (the other one, appropriately named #1, is near JFK). it really was kind of awhile ago, so i won't get into the details, but this place had some nice hot dogs, pork sandwiches, and orange soda. the cake wasn't the highlight, but i blame andrea for ordering the wrong thing. hot dogs and pork sandwiches are seriously enhanced by the addition of large amounts of avocado and mayonnaise - two of my favorite things. perhaps it's odd to put mayonnaise and avocado on a hot dog (less so on a pork sandwich) but at the first bite it made complete sense. really very delicious. and if it's possible to eat a hot dog in one bite, i think maybe andrea did. this place, with helpful owner ruben, travel shows about chile on the tv, and little red boat-type holders for the hot dogs, was well worth the trip. i can't recommend the cake in the picture - go for more dulce de leche oriented desserts maybe? - this one had a secret jam layer which i really can't abide by. (i am firmly against fruit+chocolate)
and a word on orange soda - it's not just the stuff of children's birthday parties.

san antonio bakery
36-20 astoria boulevard
astoria, ny 11103


way overdue, but i guess it is maybe fitting that i'm posting these pictures of the 4th of july on the eve of the RNC? i WAS in the solidly red state of virginia when these were taken, although maybe it will go blue in this election?! sorry, obviously i have politics on the brain. (and those of you who indulged in a bit of schadenfreude with me yesterday know how exciting it can be!)

moving on. did you ever ride the pirates of the caribbean ride at disneyland? do you remember the very begining of the ride, right after you get in the boat, when you are drifting past the dock/restaurant in the murky dark, with the sounds of crickets, and far-away people? and those fake, but sweet nonetheless, fireflies, blinking lazily near the water? if you had grown up in the south, this may be a familar scene to you outside of the magic of disney, but for a californian like me, this bayou took my breath away each and every time. well, these pictures are a close approximation of what it was like to actually live this scene, instead of the brief disney interlude i usually have. the air was heavy and damp, the water was perfectly still and the sparklers gave off the most glowing of glows.

garden profiles

here's a picture of the first flower from my fire-escape garden. i planted these seeds way back in may, and they've provided me with flowers the entire summer. in the future, i'll make sure to plant as many flowers as produce; they are so pretty and really brighten up the windowsill. of all the things i could buy, i think fresh flowers have the greatest return for me. and to think i can just grow them! plus the cats love looking at the bees...

this is our basil plant this summer. i am not as proud of it as i am of the flowers, mainly because it wasn't raised from seeds. we bought it mostly fully grown from liberty garden center out in red hook. despite not being as pretty as the flowers, it has definitely come in handy in the kitchen. i hope to move it indoors in the colder days to come. i don't think it is bred to survive the winters in an apartment, but i'm sure going to try.
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