Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby Cake with Butter Cream Frosting

This is a cake I made for my great niece's birthday party tonight.  It was her first birthday on April 2 and she has had about 6 parties.  She is going to think this is a way of life. When Denice and Greg moved her Denice was sad that she was going to miss the first birthday so when Lindsey and baby Emery came to visit we just had to have a party.  Fun! is a good recipe to try but adjust it to high altitude by reducing, increasing flour and liquid, and reducing leavenings. The site to go to for adustments is

I was testing recipes at high altitudes.  This was a white cake with chocolate filling and buttercream frosting.  I brushed some amaretto on the layers before putting it together to help give it flavor and keep it moist, but it was too much and was still a bit dry in places.  That is a challenge at high altitudes, finding a cake that is moist.  Well, it was fun decorating it.  I found the recipe on line from New Mexico.  I will try it again and if it turns out better I will post the recipe.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Water Color - Getting Into Art Again

This is the view of the pond from our deck in the back yard.  Those are the San Juan mountains.  The day was blustery and had been raining earlier. The pond is home to several different water foul including red headed ducks, coots, ruddy ducks, and mallards.  In the reeds the yellow headed black birds and boat tailed grackles cackle at each other.  When I open my window in the early morning there is so much noise that I have to close it again if I want any sleep.  Blonde the fox and her sister like to look for bird eggs around the pond.  We also had beaver once but they have since been relocated.
I haven't painted for years.  I used to teach painting at Pioneer Valley Academy and Campion Academy and  to people in town that wanted to learn how to draw and paint.  But I never got into water color because, frankly it scared me.  Water painting is different than oils or even acrylics.  I like being able to move color around and work from dark to light.  Water painting is the opposite.  I have to work from light to dark and it is not easy to move around or correct mistakes.  But I like the fact that water color is cheap, easy to clean up, and doesn't take up tons of room to store.  It is easy to take in the car and paint on location without much fuss.  So, maybe, I have found my new medium and my art again.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cheap Smiles

One of the cheapest ways to get a smile out of my grandkids is to get them a musical card.  They have such cute ones these days.  They even have ones you can record your own voice on and sing their favorite song.  There are card with their favorite Sabbath School song on them like, "This Little Light of Mine".  I also have one with "Your Are My Sunshine." My boys have been amused for hours, months, and one even lasted a year.  They just loved those cards and I loved seeing the smiles when they open and close, open and close.  So why get other toys when you can just get a musical card.

Easter Weekend

Sebby is so handsome in his Easter suit.  He likes to wear his suit too.  He looks like such a little man.

We had a wonderful church service. The young people from the college and high school gave the praise service and I was privileged to help them with it. I love hanging out with young people.  I love their energy and willingness to help out. It was a very nice weekend.

Saturday night we took Easter baskets over to the boys instead of waiting for Sunday because Don and I were going to Taos with his sister and her husband and some of their friends.  It was loads of fun watching them tear into them and play.  Grandparents can really spoil their grandchildren.  Every time I go to the store I look for something for the kids and have to restrain myself from buying everything.  They don't need most of it.  I do try to get practical things but it's fun to get goofy stuff and watch them play or join in the play with them.  It is bonding.
On Sunday we all went out to brunch together and then Casey took the boys to an Easter Egg hunt at a friends house.  We had fun in Taos shopping eating and enjoying the drive.  All in all it was a very nice Easter weekend. 

Monday, April 5, 2010

Earth Ships

This is an interesting house built to be as self sufficient as possible located in Taos New Mexico. 
Much of the structure is built with recyclable material like pop cans, glass bottles and tires.
The houses face south to utilize the sun for passive solar heating.  Water collector systems are set up on the roof and higher places.  
Because of the passive solar and water collection processes the solarium is used to grow plants for food year around.  
These homes, one would think, would be pretty cheap to build and they can be made nice inside.  We took a tour of this one a while back, but not this time. Actually the homes can run from around $100,000 to $450,000. So they can actually be pricey.
They seem to be adding on some new part with "art" style buildings.  If the people that build these homes are trying to blend in with the earth they have failed here.  This earth ship that we were allowed to tour wasn't that appealing to look at up close.  I didn't think it was built that well.  They use some type of "cement" or "concrete" to put the walls up but it didn't look like good quality.  I am sure there are others that are built better.  They were in the process of building a convention earth ship right across the road that did look a bit better.  For $130 a night you can rent it.

There is a big pile of "building materials" that looks more like a trash heap that is constantly being "fed".  There is no landscaping, but there was a lot of trashy stuff laying around.  I did enjoy the art work on one of the "gates".  They used colored glass bottles and created a pretty pattern.  
Being self sufficient and growing your own food will help weather the storm in this current economy.  But in the looks department....not there yet. It was interesting to walk around the place. There seems to be quite a few of these homes just west of Taos New Mexico.  Some of them look pretty nice from a distance. 

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Chocolate Cake With Chocolate Mint Ganache Filling and Fondant Icing

I can't believe I did this fondant covered chocolate cake.  I've wanted to do a fondant icing for some time.  I don't really like the taste of fondant and I don't like the expense.  But they always look really good when decorated and they keep pretty well in different weather so I wanted to try it. I found a homemade recipe on line -  just look, there are several good ones.  Just type in "homemade fondant recipes." The one I found used mini marshmallows and  powdered sugar. You can find it at 

Then I needed a cake to put it on so I looked on line for a chocolate cake with high altitude instructions because I live at 76oo ft.  I found a perfect recipe and it baked beautifully. You can find it at I didn't use a box cake recipe because when using fondant I wanted a cake that was a bit more dense then the customary box cakes.

After baking a cake I realized I need to "crumb frost" the cake with a butter cream frosting.  I bought a box of Wilton's Butter Cream Frosting and though it's a nice texture it's expensive for the amount it makes.  So I looked on line again and found a butter cream icing recipe that pros use.  I used Crisco instead of butter and added 1 teaspoon butter flavoring.  I wanted the icing to be white and butter tints it slightly yellow. I also added a tablespoon of powdered meringue to the mix. I think it gives it some lift for decorating flowers.

I evened the layers out with a cake trimmer.  Handy little tool that does an amazing job at squaring the cake.  Then I made my ganache.  I used one 12 oz bag of Nestles chocolate and mint chips and 3/4 cup cream.  I put this in the top of a double boiler until melted and smooth.  Then I put a rim of white butter cream around the edge of one of the cakes.  This helps hold in the filling so it doesn't squish out the sides when you put the top layer on. Inside the ring I poured the ganache filling.  I added the top, frosted the cake on top and sides and tried to get it as smooth and even as possible.  Then I put it in the fridge to cool.

It took me four times to roll out my fondant to the right texture. It has a tendency to absorbed the powdered sugar that I sprinkled down like flour under pastry dough. I had to keep putting powdered sugar under the fondant as I rolled it out.  I also had tears at first.  But adding very small amounts of water and kneading the fondant again I was finally able to find the right balance and got a smooth roll out. I rolled it up carefully on the roller.  I got the cooled cake from the fridge and laid the fondant over it.  I smoothed it out and trimmed it off the bottom. I had to be careful smoothing the fondant because it will stretch a bit.  I patiently worked it until I got a smooth covering. I was amazed that it turned out somewhat like it should.

With the rest of the butter cream frosting I made leaves and flowers and trimmed out the cake.  Now this whole process took me several days as I started with the fondant, then made the cake, then did the decorating.  I can't imagine making a cake like this in 8 hours like the folks on Food Network challenge do.  I realize they have to bring lots of stuff already done, but still decorating the cake takes the longest.  All in all it turned out pretty good.  So, yes.  I will try doing this again.