Thanksgiving 2014

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We had a fantastic holiday. We had stretchy pants, good friends, booze, great food, and weather mild enough to allow us to eat outside.

I am so grateful to have so many things to be thankful for. The only thing missing was my big boys, but they had a good time with the other half of their family.

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Baby Shower

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Just two weeks after the craziness of the holidays I was in charge of throwing a baby shower for our friends T & K. It is their first baby and as a mom of 3 boys, it was kind of fun to throw a girly party.

We had lots of yummy food and I spent all night the night before decorating. Guests wrote funny messages on diapers and advice and well-wishes in a notebook for the parents. We had labor-predicting bracelets as favors and a onesie decorating station. I made squares of my favorite fabrics from my stash into iron-on patches so our guests could create a wearable masterpiece. I also put out fabric markers and paints. We got 16 onesies that were definitely cute enough for Baby Sophia to actually wear. I was really proud of how everything turned out and I think everyone had fun. The parents-to-be definitely got a lot of great presents!
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Flourless Chocolate Cake With Buttermilk Ganache

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We have friends coming over for dinner tonight and I was lagging a bit with the dessert-making. I really had no idea what I was going to make.

That problem was solved when my sweet husband received a text letting him know that our guest thinks he might be gluten intolerant. C was making brisket tacos so corn tortilla, no big deal.

Since I hadn’t made anything yet I decided to make a flourless chocolate cake so our friend wouldn’t leave feeling stabby pains in his tummy. I think his wife will thank me later. 😉

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I had a nice bar of chocolate on hand so the cake was all set. I got to use an 8″ springform pan that my sweetie bought me when we first met, that I had yet to use for some reason. The batter came together well and went off into the oven while I put G down for a nap.

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I was feeling pretty pleased with myself when I realized I had used all the chocolate and had no heavy cream. So where did that leave me in terms of the topping for the cake? Determined to not be ganache-less I scrambled to find a solution.

I still had buttermilk from last week’s cornmeal griddle cakes so I could use a recipe I found on the King Arthur website, no problem. That just left the chocolate. I thought I had read that 3 tbsp. of cocoa powder plus 1 tbsp. of shortening= 1 oz. of chocolate. That sounded gross to me, but I mixed it up, added sugar to taste and poured the heated buttermilk over it then mixed in the butter.

It looked shiny and as ganache-y as any ganache I’ve ever made and it tasted good, no weird mouthfeel like I had feared. It thickened a bit as it cooled so I frosted the cake while it was still a bit warm.

One of my favorite things about ganache is you just pour it over and it hardens to a shiny, beautiful finish. That didn’t really happen here, as it cooled it lost it’s sheen but if it ends up tasting good then that works for me.

I sprinkled some crystal-flaked salt on top and threw it on my cake stand. I’ll let you know later what the verdict was. 🙂

*adapted from the King Arthur buttermilk ganache recipe:

3 ounces (by weight) buttermilk (I used about 1/2 c)
7 ounces (by weight) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
**since I didn’t have chocolate I used 21 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 7 tbsp shortening and 1/3 c of sugar
1/2 tablespoon butter, cut into 1/8″ pieces and chilled

INSTRUCTIONS:

Ganache is traditionally made with cream, but this works and has an interesting tang to it.

Heat the buttermilk until it just starts to boil, stirring occasionally, then add the chocolate and stir until fully melted.

Add the butter pieces and stir slowly.

Strain through a fine sieve and allow to cool. (The buttermilk will curdle a bit, this removes the lumps.)

^Mine didn’t seem curdly or lumpy so I didn’t strain. Plus, I didn’t feel like it. ^

**The verdict:

I was so pleasantly surprised to find that this cake turned out amazing. I was impressed with how yummy a flour-free dessert could be. The flakey salt on top was a MUST. A tiny piece each was plenty, it was so rich and chocolately. All the kids loved it too. This is a keeper, especially for gluten-free guests. I won’t use the shortening/cocoa powder thing next time, but in a pinch it works very, very well.

Piñata Cake: The Verdict

Well, the piñata cake was a hit! I was so amazed and pleased when the cakes just slid right out of the bowls. They looked great!

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I let them cool overnight, then filled and frosted them Monday afternoon. We had plans to have dinner at our friends’ house and I wanted to share the sugar bomb cake with them so we wouldn’t all die from sugar shock have leftovers hanging around.

It was a little heartbreaking to carve my beautiful cakes up, I have never done that and it was a little weird. I hollowed out the bottom bowl a lot but left most of the top intact. I love cake and could care less about candy (that is not chocolate) so I wanted to leave as much cake as possible.

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Easter candy was on sale last week so before my boys went to their Papa’s for the weekend I let them pick out a few things. They chose jelly beans, mini candy bars and Angry Bird gummies. They also chose Cadbury caramel eggs but those got lost in my tummy over the weekend somehow. 😉

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Once the bottom layer was filled I added frosting to the “lip” to secure the “lid” and plopped it right on top. It was perfect.

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After doing a crumb-coat (essential when frosting any cake) and chilling for about 15 minutes I was able to quickly frost the cake and decorate with copious amounts of sprinkles. (I made a huge mess, but I had to leave it because we were in a rush to pick up the boys and head to dinner)

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When we told the boys we had dinner plans they were disappointed because they thought that meant I didn’t make the cake like I had promised. Do they not know me?! I never renege on cake!

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All the boys ate impatiently and did the obligatory post-dinner playing before demanding that we cut the cake. Their friend J had already tried the wonder that is Pinata cake because his mom is L, is my friend who gave me the recipe.

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So even though it was delicious, this will always be a cake we share with lots of other people, and probably only on special occasions. But my sweet husband and I have already discussed ways to make this type of cake less sweet and more elegant. We were thinking yellow cake filled with pretzels and homemade malted milk ice cream and topped with salted caramel ganache. It would also be fun to make it square instead of round. You could even hollow out cupcakes and put things like fortunes or tiny presents in them.

How would you make this cake less playground and more dinner party?