Cook & Bake with Me(z): Lemon Blueberry Cake

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Happy May 2015! Remember when I said I’d be blogging more often? Well, as usual, life’s events have been getting in the way. I’ve come to accept the fact that my blogging schedule will continue to be fluid, just as my life has been these past couple of months. I hope you understand 🙂

It’s just that I’m going through a fair share of transition in my life and sorting all of that out is time consuming! I finished my undergraduate studies at SDSU this past December, started training for my first half marathon scheduled in July, had my last day at my internship in April, I started doing some freelance PR on the side and as of two days ago, officially moved back to the South Bay. On top of that, I am currently sitting in bed awake at 2 a.m. because I’ve been sick for the past couple of days, which has thrown my sleeping schedule off. I always seem to be getting sick just before or during important life events. I think this time around it was because of the 90 degree heat spike, all the dust from the moving process and all the stress that accompanies that.

Anyways, I intended this baking-related post to be written just after the Easter holiday, but as you can tell, that did not happen. But regardless of the poor timing, let’s get to it!

Holiday seasons always bring the wanna-be-baker out of me and Easter was no exception. A couple days before making the trip home for the weekend from San Diego, I thought about what type of treat would be tasty and easy to consume (as we have a handful of kids in the family). I thought about making traditional rice-krispy treat/shredded wheat Easter egg nests, but all the recipes I saw included some type of chocolate. Anyone that knows me is aware that I’m not much of a chocolate fan. If it’s not dark chocolate, I pretty much stay away from it. Yes, just add that to the list of odd things about me. It’s a long list.

Anyways, I wanted to challenge myself by making something different, which is when I stumbled across this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction for a lemon blueberry cake. I enjoy blueberries, but let me just tell you, I don’t prefer lemon-flavored baked goods and I am not too keen on cake in general. This cake changed my mind. I decided to try it because I know my older brother enjoys lemon-flavored pastries, so I figured, why not. He actually helped me decide what to bake and helped me throughout the process. Mind you, prior to this, I had never made cake from scratch, let alone a multi-layered cake, which it ended up being.

The Cake

My wanna-be baker longs for a Kitchen Aid mixer for situations like these. Luckily, my aunt, who bakes quite often, had a hand mixer for me to borrow, along with majority of the tools I used for the post-baking process. Maybe one day I’ll have room in my cupboard for my own mixer, but for now, I’m fine with borrowing the needed supplies. This recipe calls for the usual ingredients for a regular vanilla cake, but with the added lemon and blueberries of course. For the exact recipe measurements, click here.

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The Frosting

Frosting sweetness-level is important to me. The main reason I don’t usually enjoy cake is because the icing is usually way too sweet. I think icing should be complementary to the flavors of a cake as opposed to overpowering. That’s why I like cream cheese frosting. I think with the tart flavors from both the lemons and blueberries, this frosting added a dimension of subtle sweetness. Not the healthiest choice, but who said this was a healthy recipe to begin with? Holidays are meant for a little indulgence. Again, for exact measurements, check out the recipe I used here. I know for a fact I reduced the amount of sugar I used for the frosting, but feel free to do as you please in terms of sugar-content.

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The Baking

The oven at my house is ancient and it infamously has one temperature: BURN. This element is a contributing factor as to why I don’t bake as often as I’d like to. Along with the Kitchen Aid mixer, I will one day own an oven that doesn’t lie to me when I set it to 350 degrees. Both my brother and I thankfully kept a watchful eye on the cake as it baked and while the pictures below look like they are on the verge of being on the burnt side of the baking spectrum, considering our scary oven, I think they turned out well!

I baked the cakes and made the frosting the day before the party, so both would have plenty of time to set and cool before working on the decorating process. I believe it took about 25 minutes for the cakes to bake. The suggestion is to bake until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake.

The Final Presentation

I used a cake slicer in an attempt to even out the layers, but the cake still turned out a bit wonky. Oh well! I think it added a Alice in Wonderland charm to it 😛 I ended up cutting each cake in half to make four total layers in the end. I used a frosting knife to spread the icing out between each of the layers and on the outside of the cake. Watching lots of Cake Boss episodes made me think I could spread frosting on a multi-layered cake like a professional. I was definitely wrong. It’s so difficult! Good thing I had the cake set on a spinner so it made the process slightly easier. I put some lemon zest and blueberries on top to give it a little pop of color and I loved the way it turned out! The colors definitely exuded spring time 🙂

The cake itself turned out to be on the denser side, but it did no lack on the flavor. My aunt says it may have been due to over-mixing the batter. I actually liked the density because it gave the cake a richer texture, which isn’t typical for most cakes. When I think cake, I think airy and fluffy. Prior to serving it out at the party I got a little nervous, as it was my first time baking a cake. But everyone ended up liking it! The kids ate it as-is and some of the parents enjoyed it with some hot tea. People even came back for seconds!

It was definitely fun to experiment with cake-making. I for sure want to try this recipe again in the near future. My brother’s girlfriend really loved the cake, so maybe I’ll try my hand at making some cupcake versions for a future birthday of hers. We’ll see 🙂

IMG_2064As I’m writing this I notice that it is now 4 a.m. I am definitely back to being an insomniac. As always, if you end up trying this recipe, please share your thoughts and pictures with me! I like seeing what other people come up with. Also, I appreciate those who have been commenting on my posts, it makes me smile to know that there are people out there that actually take time out of their day to read my ramblings, so thank you!

Sincerely,

❤ Mez

 

Cook & Bake with Me(z): Concerning Movies about FOOD

First of all, for anyone that actually reads my blog,  THANK YOU. Thanks for your patience and for the piece of your being (how ever small or large) that desires to read the stream of consciousness that is this blog. I feared that once the semester began I would fall into a dark hole inhabited by bloggers that have gone on a hiatus…and in fact, it happened. But fortunately, I found a way to climb my way back into the light. (insert scene from The Dark Knight Rises of prisoners attempting to escape The Pit) Hopefully I will be posting more often, but no guarantees due to the insanity that is my current schedule. Anyways, on to the blog post!

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Not-so-recently, my friends and I watched a movie called The Hundred-Foot Journey…and I loved it. There is something “feel good” about movies concerning food. I believe it’s partly to do with the fact that food brings people together in so many different ways. A lot of memories are made over a meal, snack or what have you.

This movie brought back the same feelings I experienced when I watched the Disney Channel Original: Eddie’s Million Dollar Cook-Off. Does anyone else remember that movie? It was about a kid torn between two very different passions: baseball and cooking (classic Disney move). It was one of my favorites growing up.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is similar in that it touches on cooking as an art to be pursued, especially when put into new and unfamiliar surroundings. It’s a story about finding a balance between the old and new. I highly recommend it if you are in the mood for something uplifting and inspirational. It was beautifully written in my opinion. So, go watch it! Right after you finish reading this though 😛

After watching the movie, I immediately went home and watched Julie & Julia, another cooking movie. It’s a movie that I had wanted to watch for a while, had the DVD but for whatever reason never got to…until that evening. It’s a story about  a woman who decides to cook her way through every recipe in Julia Child’s cookbook and challenges herself to finish it in one year. She blogs ever moment of it in her blog series called: The Julia Child Project. I thought it was a cute and unique story. However, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I enjoyed The Hundred-Foot Journey though, I don’t know why. But regardless, I recommend watching both if you haven’t already, both have inspiring story lines. I linked the trailers for both movies to their respected movie posters, shown below. Check them out!

Click for The Hundred-Foot Journey's Trailer :)Click for Julie&Julia's Trailer :D

 Channeling my inner baker 

To be honest, I forgot if the following was a result of watching The Hundred-Foot Journey and Julie&Julia, or if my subconscious somehow knew the inspiration I would experience from them, but regardless, I decided to take a stab at making apple crisp that same week! I wouldn’t say I am a horrible baker, but I am in no way a professional one either, so it was definitely a fun experience making it from scratch. I followed a recipe I found online that used the following ingredients and supplies:

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 (Here’s the recipe if you’d like to know the details: Healthier Apple Crisp)

Funny story about those apples. So, if you click the link to the recipe that I used, you will see that it calls for 10 CUPS of sliced and cored apples. But of course, being me, I read that as 10 APPLES. As a result, I cut WAY too many apples in the end. My mom was not too happy with me for wasting her apples. Sorry Mom!

Here’s how it looked after mixing in all the ingredients together…minus the large bowl of extra apple slices:

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After baking for 45 minutes to an hour, here is how it came out! I realize now that it looks pretty much the same as the “before” picture….Oh well:

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Like arts and crafts, cooking and baking can be therapeutic for me. Although, if I’m working under a time crunch, it definitely is NOT a relaxing activity. Luckily, I took over the kitchen at my leisure that evening, so all was good!

I tried to be fancy and plate it before serving it to my family. I decided to pair my apple crisp with good ‘ol fashioned vanilla ice cream, as I feel every apple crisp should. I figure that if the apple crisp turned out to be sub-par, you can’t go wrong with the vanilla ice cream right?

So how’d it taste you ask? In the words of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes:

“Surprisingly, okay.”

I actually thought it turned out pretty well 🙂 My mom and brother thought it was good as well, but they did offer me some suggestions for the next time I attempt an apple crisp. My mom suggested I bake it for longer and at a lower temperature so the apples turn out softer than they did. I blame our ancient oven for this one. I swear it only has one temperature: BURN. As a result, the topping did crisp faster than it should have, while the apples below didn’t have enough time to soften. As for my brother, he wanted more of the crumbly topping, which I completely agree with. You can’t go wrong with more crisp on an apple crisp!

Your turn. Yeah, you!

I know many people associate apple pie or apple crisp with summer, which is when I baked this. Personally, apple crisp reminds me of fall/winter holidays and  it’s officially fall here in California…so it’s a perfect time to try this recipe out and enjoy it while watching The Hundred-Foot Journey and Julie&Julia! (or any movie of your choosing…don’t let me run your life!)

Enjoy channeling your inner baker and imagine the following in Julia Child’s voice: “Bon Appetit!”

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Well, that was the first of many Cook & Bake with Me(z) posts. I like trying my hand at new foods, so look out for more posts like this. If you don’t already, try your hand at cooking or baking, it’s fun. Let’s be amateur foodies together!

❤ Mez