[San Francisco, September 2011.]
Currently, slowly consuming a piece of cake I baked for a coworker’s mumble mumble th birthday — chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache and frosted with coffee buttercream. It’s delicious, and immediately after I finish it I will eat a plum to make up for all the butter. No photo because to be honest it wasn’t one of my prettiest cakes, although what it lacks in appearance (a bit scruffy this time, especially after withstanding a packed bus ride) it makes up for in taste. Eating it reminds me of another baking project looming on my horizon: a wedding cake. Specifically, mine.
I’m getting married in a few weeks. Have I mentioned that before? Probably … though I tend not to dwell on it too much, preferring instead to put my head down and plow through the (seeming) mountain of to-do’s. That was the point of all that blackberry jam I just finished off in my little apartment on Sunday, and I won’t bore you with the details of how much I obsessed over what kind of jars (Weck), how large (about 5 oz.), to attach ribbons or not (not), could/should I make my own labels or farm it out (farm it out; I have neither time nor patience for such things right now). Though I claim I’m ‘not really a wedding person’, an enormous amount of mental energy has gone into planning what essentially will be a 6-hour event, with a few others sprinkled there in before and after — but one thing, strangely, I haven’t obsessed about at all is the cake.
And why should I? I have tried-and-true recipes courtesy of Alice Waters; I’ve baked two wedding cakes (technically three, since I went overboard for my brother’s wedding and baked two) in the past year-and-a-half, one of which was done in said small apartment kitchen; I bake so regularly I feel like it’s my second job. I do worry slightly about transporting it an hour from the city into the country — but I’ve delegated that delicate task to my very reliable brother and sister-in-law and I’m sure it will be fine. Anyway, what’s a little dented cake between friends?
This is what I’m planning: 5 tiers in 6,8,9,10, and 12- inch layers. The nine-inch will be chocolate cake filled with chocolate ganache (for fun!); the rest will be the 1-2-3-4 yellow cake filled with alternating ribbons of homemade lemon curd and blackberry jam. All will be frosted with vanilla-laced butter cream.
Well I think it sounds nice …
I know it seems rather nuts to want to bake your own wedding cake, but I’m looking forward to it. So much so that the second thing I said after ‘OK!’ to my true love’s ‘will you please?’ was ‘I mean, YES, but can I make the cake?’ True story. Fortunately for me, as well as for my guests, he wisely agreed, knowing how I am.
(It’s nice to be known.)
It also probably seems rather nuts to make such a large amount of cake but! There is a reason for it. You see, I am a big fan of leftovers. Big fan. So I’ve procured some of those (recyclable, compostable) take-away boxes and will send pieces of cake home with whomever wants some as the night wanes. I’ll probably be sick of cake at that point and will be glad to foist it off on my unwitting guests (or witting; some coworkers have already logged requests for slice size). Thinking of that cake being enjoyed and savored in the days after the party — of my guests taking home little bits of my appreciation and love for them — makes me happy.
I can’t wait to get to baking (soon, soon).
Speaking of leftovers, I’ve been cooking and not photographing some pretty delicious dinners of late, including a smashing chard and heirloom tomato soup with white beans I made in less than 20 minutes last night after surviving the horror that is the Powell Street Sephora (served with cheddar cheese quesadillas). Luckily I do have leftovers of that so I may photograph it properly and share the recipe soon. Over the weekend I made pesto and greens beans and stirred it into whole wheat spaghetti, with corn on the cob on the side. Sunday night, after making and canning 23 jars of blackberry jam and sitting in the sun for a few hours, I was properly exhausted and didn’t feel much like cooking — so I made mashed potatoes with buttemilk and scrambled us up some eggs with feta, spinach, and tomatoes.
But the best leftovers, lately, involves a carrot soup I can’t stop making. It comes by way of Joy the Baker, and is a slight step outside of my comfort zone. I don’t tend to like carrot soup — carrots in soup, sure, but not straight up carrot soup. It always turns out too sweet for my taste. This recipe, calling for coconut milk, surely would follow that pattern — but then all that fresh ginger made me pause. I’m pressed for time these days and my cooking is in a slight fallow phase as I churn my way through weeknight stirfries and beans on toast and the like — and I’m trying to shake myself out of it. I decided, why not, to go for the carrot soup.
Plus — have you seen the produce at Bay Area farmers’ markets right now? If you haven’t, I’ll tell you: fat heirloom tomatoes literally bursting out at their seams, piles of gorgeous and tender corn, little sweet beets, carrots in great bundles, summer squash (!), chard … Needless to say, we’ve got it good. So I’m trying to cook from it and to get inspired by it — because despite the slight ‘decision fatigue’ I’m experiencing, if there’s one thing I never fail to get excited about it’s cooking. And I’m excited about this carrot soup. I added a lot of chopped garlic and a few small potatoes, upped the ginger, slipped in a pinch of chili powder, and called it a day. It turned out firey (but not too) and smokey and not-too-sweet — perfect for fall, and Indian Summer too.
Soon, free-bird time again. But until then, carrot soup.
Fresh ginger is imperative here — don’t be tempted to use the dried stuff. It really won’t taste the same.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
5 tablespoons minced ginger
pinch cayenne pepper or chili powder
2 small red or white potatoes, peeled and quartered
4-5 cups diced carrots
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup light coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add ginger and saute for another 4 minutes, until softened and fragrant. Add the pepper or chili powder, potatoes, and diced carrots and stir well. Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat,and simmer mixture until carrots and potatoes are softened, about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. Stir in coconut milk. Add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat gently on low heat and serve.