Monday, January 31, 2011

Another potluckortunity...

As some of you know, I sing, and have been doing as much since...forever really.  I have sung with some brilliant ensembles, but none so brilliant as the folks I sing with now.

Really.  During worship yesterday, we had 4 separate people leading songs, and all were wonderful.  Each was technically exquisite, and yet nearly invisible in self-awareness.  I sat for well over a year listening before I felt I could meet even their lowest standards.  I enjoy standing with these guys, and in their company I have GROWN.

I could spend hours counting the many ways I "love my church," and maybe someday I will.

All of this to say that last night we had a little gastronomic gathering, and I decided to bring a cake.

OK.  Not just a cake- an obnoxious Oreo Cake.  Lemme tell you all a little something about this cake: well...alright.  When an invitation declares that "women" are meant to bring a "dessert," my first thought is "yes!  time for cake!"  At the same time, while others are bringing unpretentious cobblers and puddings- the feeling I get when I walk into a room with something as loud as this...

...the feeling is not, "OK.  here is my dessert.  Job well done."  It is more like when I walked into junior prom wearing what looked like a wedding dress when everyone else wore short little whatevers, and being used the following Monday in a sentence that "Heather" constructed with one of our new vocabulary words: "ostentatious."

"Rachel's dress was very ostentatious at the prom."

Really, Heather?  Really?  You bought your dress at the same store.  And while we're at it, yes, my Birkenstocks were real.  You could have asked instead of throwing a pencil into the middle of the room and then asking me to pick it up.  I would have made you a rubbing of the logo.

And Salem- you charge $10,000 a year for school and I get teased for wearing a nice dress to the prom?  Geez.

Oh- wait.  Where was I?

Cake.  I labored over whether or not to bring one- but unlike some of the chicks whom I went to school with, I really think these kids like me as much as I like them.  And I think there may have been tears, or even a fire started by a small riot at the sight of my hands bearing sugar cookies.  I could hear their voices, faintly in my future:


I couldn't disappoint.  I then conceived the most gaudy and sumptuous cake I could imagine: A two-layer chocolate cake, each resting on an oreo crumb crust.  In the center is thick smear of Oreo cream cheese frosting, and milky chocolate fudge and cookie crumbs bring the thing together.  It is my husband's favorite, as he says that every bite holds something a little different: a combination of textures your tongue hasn't discerned before.

Num num.

I will post a recipe soon- I am finishing up a website this week, and some other very exciting things that I cannot really talk about right now.

And I want to say quickly that I love cobblers, cookies, brownies, parfaits, mock cheese cake, animal crackers, and whatever else was there last night.  Please, no one be offended by my very tongue and cheek commentary on the importance of cake-baking.

Have a beautiful day.

Rachel Bee

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A recipe...

A few days ago I posted a recipe for Sweet Potato Lamingtons with Maple Goat Cheese Frosting.  You remember; these...

They were delicious, but as I mentioned before: they are tedious.  Annoying, even.

Beasts, if you will.

Here is the recipe, but I believe you might need a tutorial on how to construct these bad boys.

Sweet Potato Cake

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c + 2 tbsp. white sugar
1/2 c + 2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sweet potato puree (contents of about 1 roasted sweet potato)
1 t vanilla extract
2 cups cake flour
1/4 baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 c buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a 13x9 pan by putting down parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.  Make sure you let some hang over the sides as you will need to use it as handles to pull the cake out later.

Cream together the sugars and butter for 5-7 minutes, until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until completely incorporated.  Stir in puree and vanilla extract.

In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  Beginning and ending with the flour mixture, add to  sweet potato mixture alternating with the buttermilk in 3 additions.  Scrape down the bowl after each addition.  Pour into the prepared pan, and bake for @ 25 minutes, but check at 20.  

When cake is done, let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then use a knife to scrape away any cake baked into the edges of the pan, and pull the entire cake out of the pan by its "handles."  Let cool completely on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, take a look at it.  See how the edges slope down slightly?  Take a serrated knife and gently cut off those edges.  I believe I had to cut about an inch to an inch and a half off of each side.

For your remaining slap: if the long side of the cake is directly in front of you, using a ruler, measure 4 equal pieces, at around 2.5 inches wide.  Cut, gently.  Cutting the other way, you will only be able to cut 2 rows equal to 2.5".  Cut.

Now you should have 8 equal squares.  Wrap them up, and throw them in the freezer for at least an hour.

Frosting:  Take a square and set in front of you.  Take a few tablespoons of frosting and spread evenly on top.  Place a second square of cake on the top.  Check to see that the cakes are perfectly flush together.  If they are not, cut down the sides of cake until they are.  Don't get too crazy here, as you are looking or uniform little cubes.  Then, taking some frosting onto a small, offset spatula, run DOWN the sides of the cake, spreading a thin "crumb coat" down the sides of the cake, until all sides are covered.  Scrape the sides of your spatula off between applications, as the...well, just do it.

Place completed square in the freezer to set, and repeat with other cakes.

Pulling one cake out at a time, frost thinly again, careful to keep uniformity, but knowing that they are to be covered with the topping of your choice (don't be too anal).  Coat with toasted pecans, or whatever strikes your fancy (white chocolate is good as well).

Tadah.  Take a picture, show a friend- knock on a neighbor's door- you worked really hard on these.


Maple Goat Cheese Frosting

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 package goat cheese, room temperature
2.5 cups powdered sugar, SIFTED
2-3 tablespoons whole milk
1 t vanilla
1 t all natural maple flavoring

Beat the goat cheese until slightly smooth.  Add butter, and blend together until no longer lumpy (this can take a minute).  Add the powdered sugar and stir until incorporated.  Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, until you achieve a spreadable consistency.  Stir in extracts.  Makes enough frosting to coat and fill a 6" cake, or 4 lamingtons.

And there you have it.  See why a tutorial is in order?  See why you dip or pour frosting over traditional lamingtons?

Yikes.  Off to make some cookies.  I have an exciting cake to make this weekend (yes, it involves said "cookies").

Wiggling in my seat over the potential of this cake.  A delicious, textural explosion.

Have an extra beautiful day.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Hair- Embarrassing rants and raves...

Those who know me intimately, know that I was quite bothered two days ago over a coupon that came out with our local paper.  

Quite bothered.  As in crying, and slamming my fists against our office desk.  I was en route to the door with my little one, and thought I would check my facebook page before I left.  When I did, I discovered that one of my faithful clients posted a coupon to my salon, offering services at a dastardly discounted rate. I mean, a $15 haircut.  $35 for all over color.  $50 for a full head of highlights!  I read the coupon extensively, scouring it's words for a sentence of relief...

"Participating stylists only."

"Valid for first-time guests only."  

"If you use this ridiculous coupon, please come bearing gifts."

But there was nothing, and as I knew nothing about it previous to this moment, I frantically exploded.  I have since erased my rather passionate rant, but I was very upset.  Why would I get upset over a discount opportunity offered for only 24 hours?  Hmm...

I am not going to bore you with the details (just spent 20 minutes writing the details out, and they were b-o-r-i-n-g), but I have worked very hard in the last few years to build my book in a certain way.  I have tried deep-discounting, but it (in my experience) has produced clientele who either need or are brazen enough to continually ask for deep discounts.  When a person is a hairstylist, she gets to spend 1-4 hours with a single human being.  There is a lot of talking.  There is a lot of sharing.  Sometimes there are tears.  But at the end of a session, no matter how good the color looks, if the client/stylist rapport is not positive, she is NOT coming back.  There have been times when I have wanted to take my shears and jab them into my throat, or being so overwhelmed with annoyance or pure disgust over a conversation (the amount of bigotry and hatred that still exists in this city is abhorrent) that I tear up, or even once nearly passed out.  

Generally speaking, I really like EVERYONE on my book right now, and as they consistently trust me enough to give me money to help their "crowning glory," I think they like me, too.  My book, therefore expands slowly by people who like me introducing people who they like to, well- me- and by reason, we all like each other.  Sometimes it doesn't work out, but most of the times it does, and I am grateful.  Continuing with reason, as I do not receive walk-ins, the only people who can use this amazing coupon for my services are people who are already OK with paying my real prices.  

So I was upset.  

And my salon-owner found out.  And in her uprightness and precious-ness, she was sorry.  And I was sorry, for being frantic and worried and frantic (I know I said that already).  And the strangest thing happened.  

We talked about it.  We did not cry, we did not raise our voices, we didn't hug or hold hands- just two women having a conversation for the purpose of mending a relationship.  We forgave each other.  It was novel, and mature- which is very hard to find in this field.  I like her.  

So, if you purchased this coupon, please use it.  Do not feel bad.  But do come bearing gifts.  I really love coconut, or especially lemon cake.  

If you have come to the end of this, thanks for indulging me.  

Rachel Bee

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A sweet potato, a decade, and a dream...

I have very few friends.  I think I might be stinky, as in a room of nearly 20 women this morning, the only two vacant seats sandwiched little old me.

What to say next...

I pause as many of the women in that room read my blog, and I don't want any of them to feel sorry.  I really wasn't bothered.  Really.  In fact, I chose to sit on the other, more vacant side of the room when I walked in.  It was just kind of funny it worked out that way, and kind of...typical.

I begin this way, as one of my friendliest and oldest friends dreamed about me the other night, and decided to tell me about it.  She lives in California.  I met her 10 years ago, almost to the day.  Our paths converged on the other side of the world when we were paired as roommates in college.  The two of us barreled through some of the most dreadful and yet majestic moments of my life.  We were young, emotional, and broke; lorded over by two very demanding bellies and subsequent tender self esteems.  Sometimes we were good for each other, and other times we were oh, so bad.  But we had fun, and I would like to say that other people enjoyed our stereotypical American silliness.  I miss her.  And although we have mustered some self control in our agedness, I wonder how long it would take us to gain 20 pounds, if together again.

Especially if she has dreams like this...

She dreamed that I brought her sweet potato cupcakes with maple pecan cream cheese frosting, and this made me think.  I was going to do a post on Lamingtons, as this month marks 10 years after I first discovered this delicate confection.  Lamingtons are typically a white cake square, dipped in a thin chocolate frosting and covered in desiccated coconut.  They are beautiful, and my friend and I ate many of them.  All things considered, I decided to make Sweet Potato Lamingtons, coated in Maple Goat Cheese Frosting and toasted pecans.  See for yourself:

Ok.  truth be told, I made one covered in pecans.  Here are the other two:

The one on the left is coated in white chocolate, and the other is desiccated coconut.*

I am not really a "foodie," and I don't claim to be.  I am knowledgeable, but I have a very rudimentary palette.  Goat cheese frosting is a little different for me, but I didn't have any cream cheese; and I found this cheese very close to it's expiration date, under some flour tortillas and grapes.  The texture of the frosting is supremely smooth and creamy, and not as thin as cream cheese frosting.  It is, however, relatively tart and fruity.  The maple extract really worked to mellow the flavors, making it more palatable.  I enjoyed the overall product, but a Lamington is a lot of work.  That is why there are only three of them.

And it was after midnight.

And my husband fell asleep watching a certain movie, and I was too focused to stop and turn off the dvd intro, looping every 45 seconds or so.

"We need more wax!"  Frost, frost... "We need more wax!"  Coat, coat... "We need more wax!"

You get the picture.

It was a blast, however; and it made me remember.

Love you more than marshmallows, marching bands and cookie-making.

Rachel Bee

*The desiccated coconut is just for looks in this case.  Not a recommended dusting in this recipe.  Oh- recipe is here.   I am going to cuddle a toddler.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

All things girly.

There are certain things I always want to say about myself:

1.  I am laid back.
     I am certainly not laid back.  If I have ever told anyone this, it was most definitely a boy, as I feel it makes a girl much less intimidating.  What girl says in response to the "tell me about yourself" question: "Well, I am as uptight as they come."  Not ever this girl, I can tell you that.  But the truth is out, I fear, and it is that I, Rachel Bee, am as uptight as they come.  There.  I said it.  I digress.

2.  I love being pale.
     I don't.  I want to be brown.  Very brown.  Like California dreaming Barbie brown, with long flaxen hair and a fuschia bathing suit.  I love to lie out in the sun- for us Southern girls it is right up there with pecans, Ronald Reagan and blonde hair.

3.  I am sweet.
     When people describe me or the gentleman who lives with me as "sweet," it is a fact: she doesn't know me very well.  It starts with my voice- a girl who has a speaking voice like mine can't possibly be sweet.  She can be nice, but sweet?  No.  The alto is always the villain.  I want to be perky and smily and sweet- but again, I must confess: if you see me out and I have a smile on my face, I am probably laughing.  I am probably laughing at you.

*I kid*

4.  I am cool.
     Really, I look cool.  I do.  I know this.  I am interested in cool things and I wear cool clothes and cook trendy meals- but this girl spent way too much time alone in her room as a kid.  I am tragically nerdy.

5.  I grew up a tomboy.
     I am a girl.  The girliest of girls.  My swimsuit coverup as a kid was the apron I wore with my Easter dress.  I played with Barbies and forced my brothers into playing with them as well.  My favorite movies are dancing movies, my favorite colors are pink and purple, and I love Jane Austen.  I adore wearing dresses and skirts, curling my hair and playing in makeup. I recently told someone that if I had an actual day off- I mean, a real day when I had no access to hobbies or cleaning- I would spend an hour doing my hair, another doing my makeup, pull out all of my clothes and do a fashion show in my room (see again #4).  
      For whatever reason, the idea of growing up all dirty and masculine and then blooming into this surprising, beautiful woman seems completely romantic to me.  Don't get me wrong- I have attempted androgeny (see high school senior year), but my well-developed (ahem) femininity was all too apparent, no matter how short I cut my hair.  So, I have indulged: I have invested my chocolate-swooning, lace-loving, bug-hating self into nearly everything I do.  I do hair and makeup for a living, because if I wasn't doing yours for money, I would be doing my own for fun.  I dust cakes in pearly powder and pipe flowers and hearts as I feel somehow it will make your day.  I knit ruffled snoods and dot them with silk and netting for that extra-special, extra whimsical je ne sais quoi...

Well, see for yourself....

and another.

Obviously, it is backwards here.  I was hoping my husband was not trying to get my hair in the frame, as  this is my signature "second day" hairstyle, and most days it is a big, knotty mess.  But so bad.  Maybe I should give a tutorial on this 2-minute "do."  You can do it.  Believe me.

As for the snood, I had an idea for this in my head- and it started by casting on as many stitches to my needles that I possibly could, which in this case is 120 (on a size 13).  I knitted for a few rows in stockinette stitch- maybe an inch and a half's worth, and then maybe at around row 5 I knit 4, K2tog, and repeated to the end of the row.  I knit a few more, and then gradually worked down to a size (knitting stitches together as needed) that would just fit over my head.  I continued in a rib stitch until I was satisfied with the length.  I sewed the two ends together, folded it over, and then sewed the part that rolls down, down.  Toss something pretty on there, do some quick embroidery, and call it a summation of today's title: girly.

I recognize that the "pattern" I pretended to give you up there was pretty pathetic, and in the future I vow to write down my patterns as I make them.  Really.

6.  I always keep my word.

Have a beautiful day.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Perfect Storm...

It is nearly 10:30, EST, and I am up with a cup of coffee (French-pressed, no less), and a cake I just pulled from the oven.  Little man is awake in bed, of course, and I am just dreaming (and not in the way I should be at 10:30 PM).  I dub this not a bad time to unwind and talk about my dad's birthday cake.  I dub 10:30 EST not a bad time to talk about this...

My dad is a very special man, and he deserves a very special cake.  My very special mother gave me a "Southern Living" cookbook a few Christmases ago, and this cake has spent many evenings taunting me from the front page of the dessert chapter.

Taunting?  Yes.  Yes because it contains nearly every delicacy that causes me to swoon, and yet my husband despises:  coconut, pecans, cream cheese, custard...wait...

"Dear, do you like custard?"

No answer...probably asleep.

We'll say that he doesn't like it.  Especially because it is caramel custard.  How can I make something so abhorrent to him, especially when I make a perfectly fine chocolate cake?  Lets pause to see another picture...

Because it's a Saturday, because I am wearing my lucky socks, because it's Dad's birthday- wait...

"Dad, do you like custard?"

No answer.  I am sure he does.  Especially because it is caramel custard.

Oh well, my Darling P, the next one is yours: chocolate, Oreo, peanut butter, brownie-layered; whatever you want.

In conclusion, I- I mean, Dad got this: a perfect textural storm of moist butter pecan cake, sandwiching layers of gooey caramel custard, and dressed in tart cream cheese frosting.  I toasted shaved coconut and mammoth Georgia pecans (thanks, Shannon), and left not a surface lacking in Dixie decadence.  The Southern Living Cookbook calls it "Caramel Cream Cake," but I call it "heavenly."  It was perfect, and if you can gather the free counter space, a few hours, and all of the ingredients, it is so very worth it.

Caramel Cream Cake (adapted from Southern Living)

For prep (can be done days before)

Chop one cup of pecans very, very finely (some of these are going into your cake; you don't want them to sink).  Spread evenly onto a baking sheet, and place in an oven, preheated to 350.  Toast for 5-7 minutes (keep an eye on these babies).

Spread 1/4-1/2 cup shaved or shredded coconut onto a baking sheet.  Place in preheated oven (350), and toast for 5 minutes (if you start to smell it sooner, check!)

Make Caramel Custard, recipe below

Pecan Butter Cake

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 t soda
1/2 t Kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped coconut
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup finely chopped pecans

Prepare 3 8" or 9" pans by placing a circle of parchment paper on the bottom.  I never butter or flour; it is a waste of time.  Make sure your parchment paper rounds are flush to the pans, or you might have some seepage.  

Beat butter for 2-3 minutes until fluffy.  Add sugar and beat for 5-7 minutes until extra fluffy, scraping the bowl occasionally.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, until fully incorporated.  Stir in vanilla. 

Add all of the dry ingredients, plus the coconut (I used organic desiccated coconut for this, as it is so dry and very fine) together in a separate bowl, blending thoroughly.  Now, add your dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, BEGINNING and ENDING with the dry ingredients (in 3 or so additions).  Scrape down the bowl occasionally, and do not beat too hard.  Fold in the pecans.  

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold a third of the whites into the batter, to lighten it, and then continue with the rest, gently until incorporated.  

Divide into the three pans (I used two and threw some batter away.  I cried).  Weigh these pans to make sure they are even.  Throw pans into an oven preheated to 350. Bake 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Place on a baking rack and let cool for 10 minutes.  Take a small, sharp knife and run it along the inside of the pan, loosening it from the sides of the cake.  Turn cake out of pans, and let cool completely.  

Caramel Custard

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch of salt 
1 t vanilla

Whisk together first 6 ingredients in a heavy sauce pan until smooth.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, and then boil 1 minute until thickened.  Whisk in butter, and once mixed, pour through a mesh strainer.  Trust me on this.  Place plastic over surface of custard, and cool for at least 4 hours.  Stir in vanilla.  

To assemble:

I usually wrap up my cakes after they cool and place them in the freezer for at least a couple of hours.  It helps to hold the cakes together, and they are easier to frost.  If you do this and you are using only 2 pans and want to cut the layers in half, do it BEFORE they go in the freezer.  Look closely at my layers.  I forgot that step.  Wonk.  Wonk.  Divide the filling between the layers, leaving a small space around the edge, so that it doesn't bleed into your frosting.  Frost your assembled cake, and coat thoroughly with toasted goodness.  

Don't bake and give this cake away.  Make sure you are able to snag a piece.  You have earned it.  

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package (full fat) cream cheese, softened
1 stick of butter, softened
1 pound confectioners sugar
1 t vanilla extract

Cream together butter and cream cheese.  Add Confectioners sugar and blend until just mixed.  Stir in vanilla extract.  

Oh my goodness.  It is now nearly midnight.  The little one just quieted, and I am off to bed (caffeine, you have no power over me).  

Have a beautiful day.  

Rachel Bee

A cake for Little Miss Thang...

I have a client who's hair I do nearly every 8 weeks, and she is precious to me.  I want to call her; I want to invite her out to coffee; I want to sit and glean from her deep well of knowledge and wisdom.  All I know is that when she is in my chair, she speaks and all sorts of- well, it is similar to this...

She speaks, and I see- in ways that I have never seen before.  I did her hair last week, and she beautifully affirmed a concept or philosophy I had hidden in my innards (ha.  "innards").  

Gibberish.  Gibberish.  Gibberish.  Right?

I will do my very best to post every recipe I show here, with the goal being that I want to inspire all of you to be creative and get in the kitchen.  I do realize, however, that some of you (locally) would simply rather not bother, and like for others to do the baking for you.  So, I will.  

$35 for a 9" round 
$20 for a 6" round
$1.50 per unfilled cupcake
$1.75 per filled cupcake

The prices will stick around until I am overwhelmed, and then they will go up.  Call, email, Facebook, comment here, hire a sky-writer, whatever.  

I need two days notice.  At least.

So, this is one such cake, commissioned for my little friend's birthday.  She wanted a chocolate cake, and for the life of me, I could not figure out how to make a chocolate cake look cute enough for a seven year old, save (gulp) a piping bag and (double gulp) fondant.  I have played with a piping bag before, but writing?  My handwriting is reminiscent of serial killers rather than little girls, and with a two year old at my feet giving the occasional bump- my results were less than stellar.  

Much less.  My swirls were great, dots were good, but words?  Well, see for yourself.  

Lumpy, bumpy...eesh.  But overall, a pretty gorgeous cake.  

And yes, that is a Campbell's chicken noodle soup can.  There are actually three of them under there.  I tried to move the cake to a proper stand for the picture, but given my history, I thought it was better photo'd here.  

I will give you all a little tutorial for those fondant flowers.  Not too bad for my first go!

A recipe or two?  Enjoy!

I have used her frosting recipe, but it sort of tastes like straight up butter to me.  So I use this one...

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

8 oz. of semi sweet chocolate (I recommend 60% cocoa.  Anything darker is too grown up for a kid's cake)
1 stick of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup cocoa
3/4 cup whole milk
pinch of salt
3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Finely chop the chocolate, and add it along with the following 4 ingredients to a heatproof bowl, and place over a pot of simmering water.  Stir until melted and smooth, and remove from water.  After SIFTING the powdered sugar (you will regret not sifting), incorporate it into the chocolate mixture.  Let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes, and then stir in the vanilla (never stir vanilla into a hot mixture).  Place it into the fridge until it firms, or if you are in a hurry, put it in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.  

Note: this frosting can be very, very, very thick.  A metal spatula or knife and some hot water is a must for spreading this stuff.  Or else, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  

Trust me.

Alright, friends.  Have a beautiful day!

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's all in the details...

I have a friend.  Her name is K.  I made her a pretty sweet snood for Christmas 2010, and you can read about it in my very first blog post.  Remember?

My friend has a family, of which I have become a part.  She has two beautiful boys, and one very sweet little girl.  She has a husband who is a pillar in my world, and an extended family who I care deeply for as well.  I have told her before that she is probably my favorite friend, and that I don't care very much if I am or am not hers.  I'm secure enough.

So, as the story goes, her snood was laying around the house, and her super sweet and sassy-pants daughter asked if perhaps I would make her one.  Now, this kid- I have a special place in my heart for her. I recognize that her mother buys her clothes, but given my obsession with pink, purple, fluff and really all things girly; I often imagine myself shrunk down and shopping in her closet.


I am petite enough.  I have thought very often about shopping in children's clothing stores.  All of the hearts, dots, stars and tulle...I would have a blast.  I would do very well in Tokyo, I suppose, and I hate that when I was in Sydney I was too plump to shop in the Asian shops.  Sigh, but I digress.

So when it came to designing a snood for this little muse, I thought that I should make something I would like, and then size it for a seven year old.

And this is what I came up with...

I had some bamboo/wool blend yarn, and with a size 5 needle, I used just a knit stitch to create this little cutie.  I folded it down, and embellished it with a collection of buttons from Joann's.  I have to say, what an overwhelming and extensive button collection!  I had to restrain myself.  I also happened to have a few rolls of simple ribbon in nearly the same color laying around, so I used my trusty blanket stitch to give it a little something extra.  Really, I love the way it turned out.  Here it is on a roll of toilet paper...

So stinking cute.  Make one!  A half a skein of yarn, some buttons, ribbon, and an afternoon.  I will come up with a pattern soon enough.

Have a beautiful day.  Or night.  Or whatever.

Rachel Bee

Monday, January 17, 2011

Last week...

I know, for a new blogger who claims to be creative, I had very little to show for it last week.  Last week was...well, hard for me.  It was cold.  We live in a very old house where any good warm air swiftly flies under the door, out the windows, or the dog who lies a foot from the register greedily absorbs it into her fluffy (now very dry) coat.  When the "Bees" are cold, they do not move out of their robes, blankets, and gloves.  We prefer a 100 degree day anytime to what we had last week.  Alas, come Wednesday, the snow melted enough to force me out of my fluffy socks onto the road, and in the latter half of the week, I actually got a lot of little projects done.

1.  Wednesday night, the owner of Spa Bleu in Surrey Center asked us to build for her a website.  Spa Bleu only offers services that my salon does not, so I don't see it as a conflict of interests.

2.  I finally, finally finished a snood I have been tearing embroidery out of for weeks now, donning an obnoxious knitted bow which forced me to learn something new in the art.

3.  Two extraordinary cake successes:  A Pecan Coconut Caramel Cream Cake, and a Chocolate Cake embellished with 3 large fondant flowers.  My First experience with fondant was really not so bad.

4.  Made the loveliest little snood for a seven year old girl.  She has amazing style, and I have often told her that if I could shrink myself down to fit into her clothes, I would.  So, I made something that I would love to wear, only a bit smaller.  It is darling.

We have a ton of pictures of all of said projects, so stay tuned and be, well, "welmed" (not over or under, just "welmed.")

Have a beautiful day.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Really, just everything.

Last night Langston woke up screaming, as if he had vomited or had a very awful dream.  We lied on the sofa together for the rest of the night, although at 2:00 am, I really felt like I could have started my day.  My day is so full, beginning at 8:30 with one of those heads of hair that is otherworldly; a head of hair that is, I am sure, meant to be enough for four people.  It is breathtaking! My day moves on with some of my most committed and inspiring clientele, and then it's home to whip up some mac and cheese for two starving boys.  I also have two birthdays on Saturday, and by extension two glorious cakes to create, as the birthdays belong to two of my most treasured people.  One cake will be a pecan pie cake: 3 layers of pecan and coconut-studded white butter cake, filled with a pecan pie-inspired custard, and topped with cream cheese frosting (what else for such a glorious Southern cake?).  The other is chocolate on chocolate, but with my very first go at gumpaste flowers, God help me.

But as much as I like talking about all that can be done with butter, flour, sugar, and eggs; these things pale in comparison to other things going on in my life right now.

We all struggle, and we all have varying degrees of strain and stress.  I have called myself a Christian since I was four, when the Gospel (or good news) seemed such a very simple concept: John 3:16.  I called myself a Christian without an issue until a decade ago, when my "Christian world" toppled over because of one man's very insensitive decision.  What does one man's decision have to do with the solidarity of the Gospel?  Well, nothing, really (in retrospect).  But when your life is so insanely busy with what you are doing for Christ that you forget who Christ really is- well, by God's grace you might help a few people, but others who look at your life and see your very shallow faith...well, their concept of Christianity is further cemented in another way completely.  So, after nearly 8 years of wandering around, looking for truth and concepts apart from the Gospel- a star, stability, something steadfast and strong- I never found it.

"It," however, found me.  And I guess I need to talk about that a bit later, as I am out of time.

Have a beautiful day.  Maybe a picture or two tomorrow.

Rachel Bee

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ambrosia Cupcakes.

As I mentioned before, I was inspired this Christmas while eating my mother's famous ambrosia, or "Five Cup Salad," to create a cupcake worthy of representation.  After much deliberation, I came up with these little beauties...

Simple white cake, hollowed out and filled with a mixture of chopped and crushed pineapple, adorned with mallowy, cooked meringue frosting infused with orange zest, and crowned with toasted coconut and a maraschino cherry.  The tart pineapple was a brilliant contrast to the buttery sweetness of the cake, and the marshmallow frosting was light and almost refreshing.  The coconut gave an excellent crunch, as well as brilliant aesthetic.  I like the cherry, but after looking at these beige cupcakes, I wish I had put them in red papers.  What can a girl do?  Make more?  Sure, once everyone falls off of their diet wagons.  Mean?  Perhaps.  I know that no one wants to hear a thin girl talk about weight issues, but as most of you might know, I was not always so small.

What?  You don't know this?  Let me go back into the bedroom and fish out some old pictures to scan.  Hold on a minute.  Enjoy this, the most gorgeous baby picture ever taken while I look.

Ok.  No luck with the pre-weight loss pictures.  I have been looking for three days!  Or perhaps I did find them, but I am holding them for later.  But I do have a proper recipe for these gorgeous cupcakes!

Ambrosia Cupcakes

1 recipe White Butter Cake
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 recipe Marshmallow frosting*
1 T orange zest
1/2 cup toasted coconut**
15 maraschino cherries

I follow this recipe for my White Butter Cake, although I do not separate the eggs, whip them, and add them later.  I used to do that, but I tried adding the eggs unseparated, one at a time, and the cakes come out and rose perfectly, without being too dense.  Two notes:

1.  Double this recipe if you want to make a proper 8 or 9" round cake.  I use this recipe as is for my 6" layer cakes.  
2.  If you use these little nut cups for cupcakes, do not fill over half way.  If you overfill these, they will rise and then collapse into themselves, or pour over the side, dripping off of your baking pan and burn on the bottom of your oven.  And you will cry.  Especially when someone has paid you to make a large batch for a shower and you only have an hour after said tragedy to create, frost, and bedazzle 50 more.  And every time you turn on the oven for the following week you will be reminded of your failure by the sickening smell of burning sugar, unless you are the type of person who has the time to clean up after every little kitchen snafu, but I digress.  Don't overfill the cups. 

After your cakes have completely cooled, grab a can of crushed pineapple, and drain WELL.  Like extra well.  I also chopped up a bit of fresh pineapple after the fact, as I wasn't satisfied with the texture of the crushed pineapple; but I am sure the crushed alone is fine.  Now, with a small knife, cut little "plugs" out of the center of your cupcakes, pinching off and discarding the bottom halves of the plugs.  Fill the cavities with a tablespoon of the pineapple, and then cover with the remaining plug.  It doesn't have to be pretty, as you will cover it with frosting.

Pipe with Marshmallow frosting (or just spoon it on), and sprinkle with toasted coconut.  I also topped mine with a maraschino cherry, which I blotted completely clean of it's red juices.  I put them on toothpicks and shoved them into the cake, as I thought they might be a little heavy.  

Orange-Scented Marshmallow Frosting*

4 egg whites (room temperature) 
1 cup sugar
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla extract
1 T orange zest

In a large heatproof bowl (I used my stand mixer bowl), add the egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar together.  Place bowl over just simmering water, and whisking all the while, heat until a thermometer reads 160 degrees.  Transfer bowl to a stand mixer (you can use a handheld model as well), beat on high until glossy, stiff peaks form.  Beat in vanilla extract and zest until just combined, and frost as desired.  Yum!

Toasted Coconut**

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  On a baking sheet, spread coconut to a very, very even layer.  Place in oven, and watch it.  For my shaved coconut, it took 5 minutes.  Shredded might not take as long.  Good rule of thumb: if you can smell it, it is probably done.  

And there you have it.  Ambrosia Cupcakes.  Perfect for, well, whenever!

Have a beautiful day! 

Rachel Bee

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Winter Wonderland...

At work the other day, I overheard a conversation referring to "North Carolina" as "up North," and by reference anyone who has lived there should be used to this weather.  Having grown up in Kentucky and North Carolina, let me say, as a "Northerner," that I would rather do a lot of things than bear these temperatures.  I do not like the snow in my front yard, the ice on my driveway, nor do I like having my heater on in this old house and not see a thermostat read above 65.  When conversing about the South, the only item that I take a large amount of pride in is our warmer climate, and will refer to this weather as my fellow Southerner Stephen Colbert did in last night's show as "the storm of Northern aggression."

So, to make "lemonade out of lemons," or ice cream out of ice...I guess, I chose to search through my cabinets yesterday for a reason to turn on my oven.  Sore about Sunday's bread disaster, I decided to make brownies instead.

Ordinarily, I am not for boxes, as they contain an insane amount of everything in this world that is bad for you, but when it comes to brownies- I admittedly have a long line of kitchen flops.  They are gritty, cakey, dry, gloppy- you name it.  I have even managed to cut open brownies and find scrambled egg whites.


And when one looks for a decent brownie recipe, they tend to be made with melted chocolate, which is just plain expensive and wasteful for someone like me to incessantly throw into the garbage.  There is a recipe on that calls for an entire pound of chocolate.  Now, lets say you buy a bar of Lindt chocolate at 4.5 oz a bar: at $2.50 apiece, plus- I mean- if you are going to spend that much on chocolate, you aren't going to put low-grade butter in your batter-

You see what I mean.  And I guarantee that in my case, it would go in the trash.  So, the search was on for the perfect, step by step, cocoa powder-using brownie recipe that would end in fudgy, chewy, and downright delicious brownies.  And I found it.  I found it here: Technicolor Kitchen Brownies.

They are everything and more, and I decided to make them even more special with a small flower cookie cutter.

Here is a picture...

Warm, fudgy, and in my tummy.

Have a beautiful day, and keep warm.  I will be in my pjs and fluffy socks, knitting a bow for tomorrow's post (I hope).  And maybe a loaf of bread.  I don't stay down for long.

Rachel Bee

Sunday, January 9, 2011

You're so vain...I bet you think item 4 is about you.

I have to admit, from Friday until now I have experienced more let-downs than victories.  Let me explain...

Item 1.  Before I left Friday morning to drop Langston off at school, I text-messaged the young man who owns the studio where I have been recording to let him know I was on my way.  Nearly 20 minutes later, I received a frantic call from him to let me know he was not going to be able to meet me.  Now,  Let me give you a little insight into who I really am: anything but laid back.  I believe that maybe at one time I was, or at least claimed to be as I saw it in a movie once, but I am not.  I take most things pretty seriously, especially now when I have so very little free time.  Am I patient?  Yes.  Do I generally have good perspective when things don't work out?  Yes.  But only after the event.  During, I cry; and Friday morning was no exception.  The thing is, this isn't the first time he has let me down.  It is the third.  The third phone call asking me to come another time.  The second time he "wrote it on the wrong date."  The other time he thought I was someone else.  Really?  We have recorded the entire song, minus 2 vocal tracks...

I am frustrated.  Now our appointment is Wednesday.  Gracious.  This thing is gonna be very, very good (perspective:)

Item 2.  How hard is it to give away a cupcake in January?  Darn near impossible.  Ok, peoples.  They are cupcakes.  Delicate little morsels of sweet goodness!  And the thing is, they didn't have the usual, rich buttercream adorning their pillowy tops.  It was meringue.  Egg whites, orange zest...think of the protein; the vitamin C!  I even hollowed out the middles and filled them with pineapple.  I am quite sure that consuming one cupcake put me back 230 calories.  Skip the afternoon snack and eat one. *

Item 3.  I intentionally turned someone's hair magenta, and then decided I didn't like it on a 47 year-old woman.  So we turned it red (although I am convinced it will be pink again in a week).  Yuck...

Item 4.  I don't want to offend anyone with item 4.  **

Item 5.  I spent 2 and a half hours on baking bread today, only to turn out a dense, doughy flop.  Meatball subs turned into meatballs and cheese on some frost-bitten hamburger buns.  What can you do?

Through all of my weekend's adversity, although my son is taking a moment to poke at the flab that is hanging over my pants, my life is just beautiful.  And when I think of all that could have happened, what others might be going through...I mean- get over yourself, Rachel.


God is faithful.

Rachel Bee

* If you specifically refused a cupcake and are upset that I am upset that you refused a cupcake, lets both get over it right now.  I love you.  Done.  Ok?  Ok.

**Item 4 is not about you.  I promise.  :)

Friday, January 7, 2011

What do you think?

Ok, cupcakes are obscenely popular right now, and I really prefer presenting a spectacular layer cake at parties, but I am not sure that certain flavors belong in a giant cake.

For instance, my mother has a recipe that she has used for ambrosia since I was a little girl, which includes pineapple, marshmallows, coconut, mandarin oranges, and sour cream.  While I was eating it this Christmas, I was thinking about how perfectly balanced it's flavors are, and how texturally satisfying it is.  The marshmallows become all mousse-like, the coconut retains its bite, the sour cream adds a tang that counteracts the mallowy (made it up) sweetness.  I love the mandarin oranges, and growing up I assumed that they must be expensive, otherwise we'd eat them all the time (thought the same about cauliflower).  As I finished the last bite, I thought about replicating all of those flavors in a baked confection, but I think a whole cake would be way too overpowering.  So, tomorrow, look out for (what I hope will be) a delicious post on...

The Ambrosia Cupcake.


Also coming next week...a finished song (recorded, mastered, yadda yadda).  This, I am truly nervous about, so please be nice.  You can be critical on the next one.  Ok?

Ok.  Off to the studio.

Rachel Bee

PS- Any favorite flavor combos you'd like to see in a cake?  Inspiration, anyone?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Before it's too late...

If anyone out there is like me, and in the middle of July craves cold weather and all of its delicacies, you are vastly disappointed to go into the store and find not a single can of pumpkin puree.  Not one is found, despite the magnanimous holiday displays, and the deepest discounts in November's turkey rush.  I can even find organic pumpkin at $1 a can at Walmart in December, and yet in July there is nothing.  NOTHING, I say.  This year, I am not going to be thwarted in the stickiness of summer.  I bought 3, 32 oz. cans of the stuff during my last trip to the grocery store (I had 4, but I put one back so that my guilt doesn't keep me up at night).  So, this summer, the pumpkin pancake party is at my 85 degree house.  Bring a chair, a bathing suit, and some blotting papers (hate for you to be dewy in the pics).

Calendar.  Mark it.

Or you can use your pumpkin now and make this delicious cake.  Really, really delicious.

This is a pumpkin cake, covered in maple cream cheese frosting.  I didn't vary the recipe one bit from the one found here:

I love this website.  It is sooo easy to use, and the back stories on the desserts are really interesting.  I don't recommend the pound cake recipe, and please don't try to make vanilla pudding with anything less than whole milk.  Just saying.

By the way, this cake does not bake up very thick.  I made some extra frosting and cut the two layers into four to give it some height.  I chopped up some dried cranberries and loaded the sides for some color, but that cranberry in the middle was a regret.  It looks like some sort of impolite protrusion from above.  Like a belly button, one you wish you didn't have.  By the way, here is the frosting recipe I use.

Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese (full fat, softened)
1/4 c whipping cream, cold
1 t vanilla (I used 1/2 t vanilla and 1 t maple flavoring- not imitation)
1 box powdered sugar, SIFTED

Blend the butter and cream cheese together.  With your mixer on low, incorporate the powdered sugar until not lumpy.  Add the flavoring, and really whip that stuff for 20 seconds or so.  In a separate bowl, whip the cream until you have stiff peaks, and then gently fold it into the frosting.  I love this addition, as it detracts slightly from the sweetness, and gives what can be a very dense frosting some levity.

Sorry, giggle break while my two year-old sniffs my rear end.  I dunno.

Anyway, another picture...

Thanks, everyone.  Night night.

Rachel Bee

PS.  Belly button...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Through the lens of someone who loves...

I am a talented girl.  I know this because- I know this.  I know that sounds like an awfully haughty statement, is true.  Now, I am not exactly sure how I got to be the way I am.  I was definitely not born a songbird, and even when I decided to start singing, I know for certain that every note was not music.  The first time I picked up a brush, it was not art; and cake, well...last night's mess in my oven is a testament to how human I am.  The Bible says very clearly that God has "put desires in our hearts" (Psalms 37:4), and I really believe that's how we as Christians develop our individual talents and skills.  It is up to us to take those desires, be diligent with them, and develop them into something beautiful, creative, and pleasing to God, and of course to others.

Now, among my many developed talents and skills, photography is lacking.  I would love to pick up a camera today and start learning to shoot.  I would love to be up at 2:00 am, in the kitchen, preparing a tutorial on how to make my fudgey, chocolate frosting, or trying to make my stand mixer look like art in print.  But the Bible is also very clear in stating that when we are married, the "two become one" (1 Corinthians 7, among others), and my husband has that talent more than covered.  Over the last 6 or 7 years, through the lens of my husbands camera, I have become so much more confident...



Oops.  Photo unavailable.  Can't post Bible verses and nudity together.  It's a rule.

A better cook...

And generally,



It is easy to be photogenic when the photos are captured by the lens of someone who loves you.

Love him.

Rachel Bee

Monday, January 3, 2011

Still digesting...

Christmas was over a week ago, and I feel as if I am still digesting it's glorious meal.  Here is a little taste of what we had...

That's right, a big, delicious $67.00 hunk of red meat, roasted to rare perfection.  However, today's post is not about the prime rib that is still lodged in my arteries, it is about Christmas's decadent dessert!


This was my attempt at a s'mores cake.  That's right, two layers of chocolate cake, with a graham cracker crust baked right into the bottom of the cake.  It worked!  Despite my worries, the crust came out with the cake layers in one piece.  I frosted it in gooey marshmallow icing, and then my husband showed me how to fire up the butane and torch that baby!

Yes.  Those are my manly hands.

Chocolate drizzle, plus a layer of melted chocolate between the layers made for an amazing mouth-feel.
Every bite contained cold, soft sweetness, rich chocolate cake, salty crunch from the graham cracker, and luscious dark chocolate.  It was heaven.  Absolute heaven.

Oh, I forgot to say, take extra care in cutting this cake.  The frosting is pretty gushy, and the crust in the middle makes for an interesting challenge with the knife.  We did OK.

Well, there you have it, folks.  I promise a tutorial in the very near future.  Really, I do.  And a recipe for the frosting.  The cake is the same I featured on the "i heart pot luck dinners" entry.

Hope you had a beautiful Christmas, and are experiencing wonderful New Year.  Oh, and why not?  One last picture of this gorgeous cake...

Wow.  Make one.

Rachel Bee