Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Craving fall and cinnamon.

It is 72 degrees out, and all I want to do is run.

And that's not the truth.  All I want to do is bake something with pumpkin.

Or slip on some tall boots over leggings, or perhaps pair them with a belted shirt dress and a cardigan.

And a scarf, which I will knit myself.

I would like to feel cool, crisp air pass through my nostrils, and worry about Christmas presents and what day to spend with which relative this holiday season.

But alas, the temperature will soar to the mid 90's today, and I will (in truth) eek out all the use I can get out of my white cotton dress and strappy sandals.  I will purchase one of the city's last juicy watermelons and completely stuff myself.  I will run this evening in the 92-degree heat, and I will choke on every thick and dank breath.  This is my reality.

Yes, most of us are all over summer.  Although here in my corner of the South we are still wearing shorts at Thanksgiving, I believe relief from the 90's and above is in order.  And I believe the smell of cinnamon sugar, maple cream cheese frosting, and warm cranberry would do my soul (if not so much my figure) some good.

So in homage to eminent cooler days, I will share with you some Snickerdoodles.

The Snickerdoodle has never been my favorite cookie.  It is simple, and laying next to its chocolatey cousin, my hand gravitates toward the gooey warmth of Nestle Tollhouse Morsels.  Just saying.

But this is not a cookie to discount.  It is dense, chewy, and has just the right amount of warmth to aid in that afternoon that might need a cinnamon-y hug.  It would pair very nicely with an earthy Indonesian coffee, or even next to a cup of English Breakfast.

It packs a pre-winter punch- not heavy enough to really coat your bones, but so intensely reminiscent of sleigh bells, holly, and everything we love about that time of year.

   from Land o' Lakes
1.5 cups sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 3/4 cups AP flour
2 t cream of tartar
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1 t vanilla
1.5 t cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar

preheat oven to 375.  Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add the vanilla and eggs and mix until incorporated.  Whisk together the dry ingredients except the sugar and cinnamon.  Stir into the butter mixture, just until incorporated.  Place the mixture in the fridge for around 30 minutes.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar.  Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll in the cinnamon sugar.

Place the balls onto a cookie sheet, and gently press down to flatten some.  Put into the oven for 8-10 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.

So embrace what is to come, or linger at the table as the last few strawberries filter through the markets.  Or, perhaps put some lemon zest and blueberries in the Snickerdoodle dough.  Then you have both seasons covered.

Rachel Bee

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wedding pictures.

As most of you know, my littlest brother became a husband nearly a month ago, and the wedding was a full-fledged family effort.

I did hair and makeup, as well as bake cakes for the event.

Here I am trying to make sense of the front of her hair.

And here I am airbrushing her makeup.  I L-O-V-E my Sparmax airbrush.

So many people have never seen an airbrush used for makeup.  There was a continuous crowd building outside!

For whatever reason, I always make this face when I do pictures next to a client.  Scary.

And while we are at it, how about a picture of my brothers?

The AC went out in the house where we had the wedding.  The weather was mild that weekend, but there was so much cooking going on that it was so very warm inside.

Warm temps + makeup & cream cheese frosting = no good.

The front cake is a fluffy vanilla cake with cherry preserves and sugared cherries on top.  It was incredible.

The leaning tower of layers behind it is lemon poppy seed with lemon cream cheese frosting.  

I know.  Yum.

There was also a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake, which is always everyone's favorite.

There really couldn't be a more beautiful couple.  Despite the warm temperatures, the day was so low-key and unpretentious.  When I asked the bride how she was feeling before I did her makeup, she said "I'm great.  I'm going to go get married and then eat some tacos.  What could be better than that?"

Congratulations, the two of you.  Love you both.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trusting in my Creator.

I gave life a big eye roll last night.  I have been known to give very good eye rolls, so I'm sure life feels pretty bad right now.

And I don't even care.

Take that, life!

Three years ago the recession hit us as hard as anyone else, and life has been chock full of struggles ever since.

And last night we added a broken AC to the stack.  Hmm.  Silo.  Not "stack."

"Whirl, whirl, whirl, ker-splat."  That's the same noise we heard last year when the heater broke.

A head shake.  And eye roll.  Practical life can be such a pain in the rear end.

P went to bed, and I stayed up.  I stayed up and worried.  I stayed up and cried, because I was tired.  In those moments, it is so easy to become self-absorbed.  It is so easy to feel sorry for myself, and to wonder "why."

And in my moment of despair, I remembered what God said to a very desperate Israel in Isaiah 43.  "I am the Lord God who formed you, created you, redeemed you, called you by name, and you are mine."  He goes on to encourage Israel; and to remind them of how enormous He is, and how small their problems are.  He says that before we ever knew him, he gave us his surname.  In line with Galatians 4, when God encourages Christians in this way, he is reminding us of our sonship.

I am his.  I have his last name.  I can absolutely call him, "Daddy," and I have an inheritance in him (Gal.4:6-7).  And just as I would walk up to my dad and ask him for ANYTHING that he has to give, I have the privilege to ask God for anything He would have for me.

But as much as I was taught by the "name it and claim it " crowd of my youth, I don't necessarily believe that God is going to drop a new AC in my back yard if I pray for it (although I wouldn't try to give it back if that happened).  In my age, I have learned that this is an opportunity for me to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5), and for me to lean on Him in my desperation. It is not a time for worry, or weeping, or why's.  It is a time to trust, and believe that God has something beautiful in mind.

For his girl.  And for his girl's sweet family.

After all, it was his kindness that led me to repentance (Romans 2:4).

And I love him because He loved me first (1John 4:19).

I serve a good God.  He is good!

And now, to take the focus off of myself and my issues-

I made this cake for a friend's friend's birthday.  But at the sight of it's pink sweetness, I think of another friend.  Congratulations, Melissa, on the birth of your sweet girl!

If there is ever a woman who could be a gracious mother to 10 children, it is Melissa.  She had a successful natural childbirth, and what is more- she and her husband decided to wait to find out the sex of the baby.  Her little girl was born just over 24 hours ago, and I am sure she is stunning.

I can't wait to meet her.  Melissa, you deserve all the sweetness that little one can give you!  Congrats again!

Have a great day, everyone.  Spending my whole day in my... er... someone else's kitchen!

Rachel Bee

Monday, August 22, 2011

Carrot Cake for breakfast, S'mores Cake for dessert?

Carrot cake yogurt.  Do you know it exists?  I do, because I saw some yesterday and decided it was good enough for breakfast.  I just finished some, and do you know what it tastes like?

Carrot cake!

How can yogurt taste like carrot cake?  What is the tell-tale flavor of carrot cake, that when the folks over at Publix dropped it into a tub of yogurt these food scientists looked at each other and decided a big, nerdy high-five was in order?

Down low.

Too slow.

Carrot cake.  Snort snort.

Well done, food geeks, and I suppose this would be the time to transition to a beautiful recipe for carrot cake (but I have never been much for transitions).  Instead, as promised in a previous post, I have pictures of my S'mores Cake.

S'mores Cake

Ooey Gooey S'moes Cake

One might remember this cake from a post I did just after Christmas.  I remember talking with my dad about baking a graham cracker crust into cake.  Would it work, I wondered?  Then I went gawking, and I discovered that I was not the first person to wonder. And what's more, S'mores Cakes and cupcakes have been seriously over-played.


So I am sure if you are a food blog follower, the last thing you want to see is yet another version of the S'mores Cake.  If you are not, and you think that buttery graham baked into a rich chocolate cake, topped with light and creamy mallow frosting sounds supremely decadent and amazing, then read on.

S'mores Cake with piped rosettes

For whatever reason, I did not post a recipe for this cake on the last go-around.  It really is as simple as making a graham cracker crust, pressing it into the bottom of a cake pan, and then pouring cake batter over it and baking as per usual.  But since I recognize that what is simple for a girl who bakes 5 cakes a week is not so simple for someone who doesn't.  So here we go.  A recipe.

S'mores Cake
1 recipe graham cracker crust*
1 recipe chocolate cake**
1 recipe Swiss Meringue Frosting***

Pre-heat an oven to 350.  Divide the graham mixture into two equal parts, and press into two prepared 8" pans (buttered and floured).  Pour the batter over the pressed crust, until about 2/3-3/4 full.  Yes, you will have leftover batter.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.  Be careful not to open the oven door before the 30-minute mark, as this cake tends to sink.  Check with a skewer for doneness.  Remove, and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes in the pan.  Run a paring or steak knife around the side of the cake to release it from the pan. The graham will want to crumble a bit, but no worries.  It will crisp up.

When completely cool, frost with Swiss Meringue frosting, and of course, torch with a small butane torch until a nice, spotty golden brown.  Top with melted chocolate and graham cracker crumbs.

*Graham Cracker Crust
11/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1 stick of butter, salted
1/4 cup of sugar

Mix the items together until combined.  Use as needed.

**Beatty's Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cups ap flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
1 t kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 t vanilla extract

1 cup hot coffee

Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well.  Being sure all of your wet ingredients (except the coffee) are at or near room temperature, combine in a large measuring cup (or any vessel that is easy to pour from).  Slowly pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing all the while.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and then slowly and carefully pour in the coffee.  Again, with a spatula, scrape down the sides and especially bottom of the bowl, and stir until somewhat uniform in texture (you might see a few bumps, but that's fine).  This batter is very thin.  Follow directions above to complete this cake.

***Swiss Meringue Frosting (aka Marshmallow Frosting)
6 egg whites
1.5 cups of sugar
scant 1/2 t cream of tartar
2 t vanilla extract

Combine the egg whites and sugar into a large, heatproof bowl.  Place the bowl over a simmering pot of water, and using a candy thermometer, heat until the mixture is at 160 degrees, whisking all the while.

Remove from heat, and whip on high while adding the cream of tartar.  Whip until you have glossy, stiff peaks.  Add the vanilla extract, and beat for a moment more, until incorporated.

So, there you have it.  S'mores Cake.  Perhaps you will have the kitchen patience to make it (and the husband to clean up your mess).  Otherwise you can give me a call, and I will make one for you.

Or perhaps there is a tub of S'mores yogurt out there with your name on it.

You decide.

Happy Monday.

Rachel Bee

Friday, August 19, 2011

Allergies, coffee, and cake from my camera.

Sneeze, sniff, and 3 more hankies later, I write to you from the pool of dust and pollen that is Augusta, GA.  Apparently Augusta is in a basin, and all of the pollen travels down the mountains and settles in my gigantic nostrils.  The dust- well, take two busy artists and place them in a very old house.  Add a tireless 3-year old, and you get a trio who doesn't dust often.

See?  My nostrils = huge dust and pollen vessels.  

PS- Not our bathroom.

PPS-  I am surprised my husband kisses me when I make this face.  Really surprised.

Anyway, I took some non-drowsy Claritin last night, and I woke up after a normal night of sleep with a head that weighs a ton.  One workout and four hours later (5.5 weeks left of P90X), I am feeling much better with a cuppa in my favorite cup.

As I mentioned the other day, I have been baking up a storm in my kitchen.  The only problem has been that when I finish a cake and it is time to deliver, my husband is usually at work and is not available to catch a picture.  Most of the time I don't even bother, but two cakes I made this week were so gorgeous, I just had to give it a try.

And I failed.  Miserably.  They are so out of focus that out of ten pictures, only one is even slightly acceptable.

This is my S'mores Cake, and probably the best cake I make (in my opinion).  Salty graham baked into layers of rich chocolate cake, topped in creamy marshmallow frosting is finished by a quick flash of the torch.  Don't you love the rosettes???  I am making another for a client on Saturday, and perhaps my sweet husband will take a moment to capture some images.  So thankful for his skills!

The other was my first attempt at a tiered cake, and although we had a bit of an issue placing one tier on top of the other, I'd say it went very well.

Wizards of Waverly Place Cake

This cake was really stunning, and I am so proud of it.  My salon's owner has two little girls, with birthdays that are right on top of each other.  One asked for a Wizards of Waverly Place theme cake, and the other for Tangled.  I was going to attempt a big fondant monstrosity, but I felt more confident in my buttercream powers.

The theme of the cake is not obvious, but it fits in beautifully, I think.

Wizards of Waverly Place Cake

You can see the cups on the right, just barely, which have the peacock feathers on them.  One of the girls picked up the cup and said, "Oh my gosh!  It looks the same!"  Success.

As for the inside of this cake, they wanted "marble."  Marble.  Who do they think I am?

Apparently someone who can figure out a marble cake!  I tell you, putting this thing in the oven- I did not think it would work out.  At all.

And there is the top tier, getting it's crumb coat.

PS- I am not eating any sugar this month (I will explain later), so I took the cake shavings, put them in a baggie, and threw them in the freezer for later.

Yes.  I did.  In my house, no cake shaving goes to waste.

Now, I would love to give you a recipe for this marble cake, but I feel it is something I need to do in a tutorial.  I have tried to explain the process, but I think visuals are in order.

So, someone order a marble cake!

Please.  For the world.  

I hope everyone has a great weekend.  Squeeze someone you love.

Rachel Bee

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sugar-free pudding and an amazing weekend.

Good afternoon, my squishy little love muffins!

OK.  I stole that from someone this week.  I quite liked it, and I feel it needs to be passed on.

I am sitting here, frantically eating every drop of the science experiment that is sugar-free pudding, and I can't say that I enjoy it.  I bought the mousse-y one, and I have to mention that not only do I not care for the curdled, un-mousse-y-like texture, but I also do not care for the revolting sound it makes as I scrape it from the sides of my cup (which is also too small).

Why am I complaining about the size of something that I don't care for?  Well, this question I ask as I finish my 3rd container.  Three cups and 180 calories later, I might be satisfied.

And sick.

Regardless, these have been 2 incredible weeks, when the grace and favor of God has continued to absolutely astound me.  I have made and delivered 10 cakes, have done an exorbitant amount of hair, and received the opportunity to meet and work with an amazing crew of women from a national clothing retailer.  I say "amazing" as the people I worked with for their grand opening party here in Augusta were surprisingly gracious, caring, and generous- which gets me to thinking.

I am not a stay-at-home mom, although I respect those who make that decision (as I recognize it is not an easy one).  If I am going to be away from my son and pay someone to care for him, I want what I do to be both efficient and successful.  I believe that success is here, and that it is only coming more and more.  Unfortunately for some, success arrives partnered with a sense of entitlement- a "look at all I have done, so I have earned the right to get you to do this for me" mentality.  We become "too good" to engage, "too good" for eye contact, and "too good" for casual communication.   Although the women I met this weekend are supremely successful, and would have every "right" to opt out of normal conversation; I saw them interact with grace, generosity, and care.  The two makeovers I helped facilitate not only received new suits, but they also were given new undergarments and shoes.  These women engaged me in conversation about my journey into cosmetology, and then we spoke about cake and all things delicious.  Their mouths watered as I described my ooey-gooey S'mores Cake, just like any other girls I might have in my chair.

Why this interaction surprised me, I do not know.  Perhaps it is the fact that women who have sat in my chair before with nearly a third of these women's success have acted 3X as entitled.

Rachel: "Would you like something to drink?  Coffee, Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Water?"
Person:  "What?  You don't have Fanta Orange?"

If there is something I would love to take away from my last two weeks, it is that feeling of gratitude- that awareness that you are only one lay-off away from joining the ranks of the bankrupt and foreclosed upon.  If there is money in my pocket, it is not money to sit on, but it is money for generosity.  If there is a conversation to have, it is for listening and then for investment (if there is investment to be made).

Thanks, national clothing retailer, for an incredible weekend.  I learned so much.
And tomorrow, there will be pictures of cake.  Lots of cake.

Rachel Bee

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Going to the chapel...

It is 11:28, and I am awake.  I have been up for 20 hours, and that's a long time. Ten of them I spent at work, and my lats are telling me about it.  I actually looked at my last guest and said, "Your hair looks pretty clean.  Do you mind if we cut it dry, because my back is just too tired to shampoo and blow it out."

Not my most professional moment, but kudos for honesty.  Does it help that I gave her a huge discount?  Hmm...

We are almost packed, and four hours of sleep separate me from hitting the road with my family to celebrate my brother's wedding.  I have baked cakes, and my husband is elated with arranging the car just "so," for fear that my cakes will be squashed.

This is how cool my family is:

I am baking cakes and doing hair and makeup.

P is taking photos.

Dad is officiating.

My other brother is still single.  Perhaps he should marry a florist.

Anyway, look out for pictures, coming very soon.  Pray that all cake transport goes as planned.  Pray for our safety.


Rachel Bee

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cinnamon-sugar and some old gym shorts.

I believe that nearly spec of clothing that I own is dirty, and that is saying a lot.  I have many a garment- almost all of them patterned in some way, but this was not always the case.

When I was young, God made monthly miracles of my parents' salaries, and they provided for the three of us well.  I always had clean clothes to wear- rarely if ever second hand- but I didn't have many (in my 12 year-old opinion).  Jr. High was brutal to me, and I was well aware of my insufficient (in their eyes) wardrobe.  One night in tears, I cried to my dad that I didn't have enough clothes.  He was probably heart-broken, but the two of us grabbed onto the bar in my closet and prayed that one day it would be full.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and it has happened.

But someone, please come do my laundry.  Please?

So today I have on my high school gym shorts, coupled with an old white v-neck t-shirt.  Surely I have something that is not smelly available to greet the public in, but it will have to be creative.

All of this to say, I remember wearing these old shorts, nearly three times a week.  They never got very sweaty, as I was not the type to over-exert myself in PE.  Never-the-less, there we all were- lined up in purple or green shorts- donning some dumb t-shirt declaring something clever like, "oh this learning; what a thing it is!"  We met to run "big laps," and then to play some ridiculous sport like badminton, gymnastics, or archery; or take a semester-ly walk to the bakery for some hot sugar bread.  I hated these shorts (unless there was sugar bread involved).  I constantly forgot them, and had a pile of demerits for leaving them at home.

In all of my running this morning, I believe something sugary is in order- and I think Ms. Howard would agree.  Sorry, it isn't Moravian sugar bread, but how about some...

Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping?

There is a lot of hype right now about "donut muffins," when you take a muffin, dip it in butter, and then completely cover it in cinnamon-sugar.  When I set out to make these, the donut muffin was my desired end.  I did it with one, and I could not believe the vile amount of butter it sucked up.  I wanted so badly to take a bite, but I couldn't do it.  So, I decided to dip only the tops instead.

Oh. My. Goodness.  Heaven.



But do eat these straight away.  The cinnamon-sugar forms a hard crust for the first couple of hours, but then it gets a bit soggy on top.

Pumpkin Muffins with Cinnamon-Sugar Topping
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 + 2 tbsp light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 t vanilla
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup cake flour
1/2 t baking soda
pinch of baking powder
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t cinnamon
1/8 t ginger
pinch of cloves

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

Set the oven at 350 degrees.  Prepare a muffin pan with 9 liners.  Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl often.  Add the egg and mix well.  Add the puree and vanilla and mix well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Add them to the butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk (beginning and ending with dry).

Bake for @16-18 minutes.

Pull out of the tin immediately, and let cool on a rack for 3-5 minutes.

In the meantime, melt the butter, and place the cinnamon sugar into a shallow dish.  Dip the tops of the muffins in the butter, and then into the cinnamon-sugar.  Place back on the rack.  Repeat until you have finished all of the muffins.

Enjoy.  And you will.  Believe me.

Dig out your old PE shorts, and get some stuff done today.  Maybe even some laundry.

Rachel Bee