Happy New Year! I hope everyone had fun and restful holidays. I'm excited to get back to cooking and blogging - I got a lot of great kitchen gifts that I'm eager to try out and tell you about. Before I get to the presents I received, however, I want to tell you about the gift I gave my parents.
For the first time, my boyfriend and I decided to spend Christmas together, with both of our families. This meant complicated flights (my family is in New York, his in Florida), multiple Christmas meals, and some sacrifices on both ends. We planned to spend Christmas Eve with my family and spent Christmas Day with his (key word planned).
Anyway, this all meant that I'd be missing Christmas Day at my house, which my mom hosts every year and includes a cocktail party with friends and a big dinner with family. So for a gift, I decided to bake a special dessert for everyone to have on Christmas Day. It would take a load off Mom's cooking schedule as well as remind them that I'd be thinking of them during dinner. Yes, cheesy, but also a lot of fun to put together and plan for!
I picked out a pretty red cake stand at Williams-Sonoma, so that there'd be a lasting gift involved. Then I set about to finding a cake to make - it was time to put my baking "skills" to the test! I changed my mind about 47 times, but kept coming back to Smitten Kitchen's Almond Raspberry layer cake. It was a big, three layer cake that would be impressive and special, plus my family loves raspberries. It definitely wasn't that Christmas-y of a dessert (probably fell more into the category of birthday cake), but I decided to ignore that fact and push on.
For the frosting, I wanted to do vanilla, as I'm not really a chocolate frosting person (not that I would be eating the cake, but this is the way I think). I settled on Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Buttercream recipe, which was easy and delicious - plus it stored well at room temperature for a few days (Recipe below).
So. Once I'd picked out everything, the hard part came. How in the world to make this. It took me a while to figure everything out, but in brief: I made the three cake layers five days in advance at my apartment using an extra cake pan borrowed from Lea. I wrapped them super tight and put them in the freezer. I made the frosting three days in advance at my apartment, put it into two air tight containers and kept them at room temperature. Everything was transported to my parents' house on the 23rd and appropriately hidden. On the 24th, I took advantage of the one hour my parents were out of the house to assemble and frost the cake, including the raspberry layers and the writing, which I did with melted chocolate chips. Upon their return, I surprised them with it, then promptly covered it in saran wrap to keep it fresh until the next day.
And? It was a success, if I do say so myself. And I can say so myself, because with a canceled flight, I actually got to eat it!!
Even my brother liked it!
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
6 to 8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract (substituted for 2 teaspoons vanilla)
Using an electric mixer, blend the butter with 4 cups of the powdered sugar, the milk, and the extract. Once combined, gradually blend in powdered sugar (1/2 cup or so at a time) until you reach a desired consistency. Store in airtight container at room temperature.