Mother’s Day/Half-Birthday Boy Cake

Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake a.k.a. Half-Birthday Boy Cake

Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake a.k.a. Half-Birthday Boy Cake

It’s been a while; 10 months to be exact. 7 days after my last post, I welcomed (more like roared) our identical twin daughters A and M into the world to join their big sister and brother. Since then, it’s been almost 10 months of whirlwind with barely any time to catch our breath. For many months, we were in the trenches, never able to anticipate what the next day would bring, let alone look forward to another canning season.

Somewhat miraculously and seemingly overnight, things changed. Life has found a groove. Sympatico nap and bed times are finally happening, leaving me with time to dream about the upcoming season. The “bigs” are big enough to help me with the garden and we look forward to sharing our joy of gardening with the kids. I have visions for uncanny and I’m excited to see where it will go this season.

In celebration of life, of spring, of parenting and of our kids, I wanted to create something special for our son who turned 2.5. While we don’t normally celebrate half-birthdays, this guy has had to share his Mama, his time, his toys and endure constant hair-pulling from the twins and know-it-all-ness from his older sister and was in dire need of a celebration to honour the immense strides of the past six months. It just so happened to coincide with Mother’s Day and since I need no excuse for cake, I present you: The Half-Birthday Boy Cake (or Mother’s Day cake…or really any excuse cake). It’s not fancy and I fully disclose I used a gluten-free boxed cake mix given my son’s intolerances and my time constants, but I encourage you to go all-out and make the cakes from scratch.

Vanilla Grapefruit Curd Cake

Irresistible.

 

Half-Birthday Boy Cake

2×8″ yellow cakes (I used President’s Choice yellow cake mix and added some homemade bourbon vanilla, but homemade cakes are preferred.)

1/2 to 3/4 cup Grapefruit Curd between the layers. I used 1/2 cup of curd I made over the winter and froze. I wished I had about 1/4 more.

Cover with 7 Minute Frosting. It’s so old school and wonderful and if you’re like me and have run out of confectioners sugar and can’t slip away to the grocery store, it’s even more perfect for frosting a cake.

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It’s easy and basic, but the grapefruit adds such a great tang and punch of flavour. Any curd would be marvelous and very soon you could keep it seasonal with a rhubarb curd. As usual, this recipe is wonderful to do this with kids and watching the frosting increase in volume is a tasty science lesson. Enjoy!

Sampling

You’ve got something on your nose!

 

 

 

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Sunny Citrus

While it’s important for me to shop and buy local, I realized after last year’s 100 Mile Challenge that it’s a long time without citrus, especially over the winter. There’s something inherently cheery about citrus, that sweet pucker that puts a smile on your face and reminds you that somewhere in the world, some place is enjoying warm enough weather to grow these round cherubs of goodness (and that you don’t live in such a place!).

Armed with grapefruits, lemons and limes, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try out some new recipes and a new style of preserve I’ve never conquered.

Behold…

Vanilla Cupcake with Grapefruit Curd

Last winter, I kept seeing recipes for really beautiful curds and I vowed that the following winter, when we weren’t participating in the 100 Mile Challenge, I’d give them a try. I used this recipe, from Confections of a Foodie Bride and what I especially liked about her recipe for Grapefruit Curd was that it was a smaller batch of curd and that it used whole eggs. Right now, I don’t have time to use up 6 egg whites in another recipe, like angel food cake or meringue and I feared they’d get wasted. I also wasn’t sure how I’d feel about a curd and how quickly I’d use it up. According to the National Office of Home Food Preservation, curds can be canned, they be frozen up to a couple of months (just insure lots of headspace because they’ll expand) and they’ll also hang out in your refrigerator up to a week, so there are plenty of options. I opted for the easiest method since my time is very limited by chosing a smaller recipe.

The recipe results in a creamy, delicious and decadent curd. The one thing I noticed was the recipe didn’t state to use unsalted butter. My curd, while delicious, is a touch too salty and so the obvious butter tastes is more prominent than I’d like. Still, it’s a great recipe for beginners like me!

My next citrus project is this:

The Beginnings of Cointreau

I use a lot of Grand Marnier because I love the orange flavour and depth it adds to preserves. However, it’s pricey and if I can make it cheaper, I will. Again, since this is the first time with this liqueur, I quartered the original recipe found at Foodista. I took a very cheap, 375 mL bottle of brandy, a lime and two oranges. I’ve microplaned the citrus and will let it sit for a month, as per the instructions. Hopefully, I’ve made something delicious!

It All Starts Here

End of the Year Spicy Marmalade with Kaffir Lime Leaf

The Makings of Something Great

I can’t think of a better way to cap off 2011 then with a preserve, especially this one. It represents the best of my year, a little spontaneous, a little spicy, definitely sweet and totally ready for celebration. I’m not sure what I’m most excited about, the fact that I managed to make this after a two month preserve-making hiatus, that I made this preserve quickly and while wearing a baby, or that it tastes delicious.

The uncanny clan are visiting with family near Toronto and a trip here always means one of our famous “ethno-grazes”, where we visit several spots in Toronto and load up on ethnic delights and refill our spice cabinet. This past trip meant a stop to Chinatown and returning with a big bag of kaffir lime leaves. While I normally reserve these leaves for my curries, one sniff and I knew I had a preserve in the making. Luckily, there were some lone oranges kicking around my father’s fridge that needed some love and some lovely dried chill peppers meant an interesting preserve could me mine.

It’s a very small batch, totally spur of the moment, but preserves can be that fabulous. While canning means more preparation with cleaning and sterilizing, but mini-batches means you can experiment and have a lot of fun discovering flavours you might like (or not!). I particularly liked this preserve and am looking forward to featuring this preserve over a chèvre and crackers for our New Year’s Eve celebration.

I opted for the largest orange in the fridge and sliced it using my favourite citrus slicing method a la Hitchhiking to Heaven. I tossed in about 1/4 cup of water and then added more orange juice as it softly boiled to prevent scorching, about 1/2 cup of liquid all total. Two small pieces of hot pepper were added and that was enough for a nice kick, but you can start judiciously and add more near the end if it’s not spicy enough. 4 kaffir lime leaves seemed the right amount, so adjust accordingly if you’re making a larger batch.

Let the mixture softly boil until the orange slices turn to mush when you squish them between your fingers, or eat a slice and when its softened to your liking, add your sugar (I added to taste).

Voila!

To try this yourself:

Spicy Marmalade with Kaffir Lime Leaf

Yields: 1 cup

1 large orange, cleaned and scrubbed, quartered with the middle pith removed and thinly sliced

4 kaffir lime leaves

1 inch piece of dried hot pepper

1/3 cup sugar

1 cup water/orange juice (approx.)

1. Combine orange slices, hot pepper and kaffir lime leaves and water/juice and bring to a low simmer, cover and stir occasionally, about 40 minutes.

2. Put a dish in the freezer to test for gel point.

3. When you’re happy with the softness of your citrus, add sugar and increase heat to medium-high and continue cooking until the set point is reached. Remove hot pepper and lime leaves. Enjoy!