Monday, February 14, 2011

Gerber Daisy Birthday Cake

 This is the first square cake I have made.  It is a three layer chocolate cake with chocolate Butter Cream Frosting. The recipe is posted below.  I watched a video and looked at some real Gerber Daisies and figured out how to do these.  I think they came out pretty good.  I also made the leaves and brushed them with petal dust in the color of the Gerber Daisies around the edges.  I used a kabob stick and rolled it along the edges that gave the leaves a veiny look.
I covered the cake with the Marshmallow Fondant.  The recipe is at I like it because it is easy to make and tastes better than store bought.  I used the gel food coloring and I like it much better than the paste kind.  I found the gel type in Michael's. They have lots of cake stuff if you are looking for something fast.  Otherwise you can order from lots of places on line. The colors blend better also.
I chose these colors because they are some of my daughter's favorite colors.  They look good together and bright and cheery.
The trouble with a square cake is the straight lines.  It has to look straight and even.  I had trouble doing this.  I need to practice to be sure and get the edges straight.  I think I want to find a different crumb coat icing.  One that spreads better and holds the edges when cool.  Otherwise the fondant takes on the curves and dents that are left by not getting the icing really smooth.
Chocolate Layer Cake
(From Southern Living Our Best-Ever Cakes & Pies Magazine, July 8 2008)

1 1/2 Semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (16-oz) light brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups all -purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (8-oz) container sour cream
1 cup hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at HIGH 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-second intervals.
2. Beat butter and brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until well blended (about 5 minutes).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.  Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.
3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add to chocolate mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition.  Gradually add 1 cup hot water in a slow, steady stream, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in vanilla.
4. Spoon batter into 2 greased and floured 9 inch round, 2-inch-deep cake pans.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes.  Remove from pans to wire racks, and let cool 1 hour or until completely cool.

Chocolate Butter Cream Frosting

1 cup softened butter
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter flavoring
1/2 tsp almond extract
8 oz semisweet chocolate
3 Tlbs heavy cream
4-6 cups powdered sugar
3-5 Tlbs more heavy cream

1. Chop chocolate into small pieces and place in microwavable bowl.  Add heavy cream.  Melt for 30 seconds.  Remove from microwave and stir until smooth.

2.  Beat butter and shortening together until smooth.  Add vanilla, butter flavoring, and almond extract 3 Tlbs heavy cream and one cup powdered sugar.  Blend well. 

3. Add melted sugar and blend well. Add the rest of the powdered sugar a little at at time until you get the consistency you want.  Add heavy cream a little at a time as needed.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Meeting Arnold Palmer

Don had to attend a board meeting in Riverside.  He is a Trustee for the La Sierra University Board. After spending a week in Death Valley golfing with the in-laws and another week with my folks in Central California we headed to Don's cousins place in Palm Desert.  We planned on staying with them while Don attended his meetings.  I have a friend that lives in the same town I do who has a second home in Palm Springs.  We golf together among other things.  I gave her a call to see if she would be in Palm Springs and to my surprise she would be.  We made arrangements to play at her course.  I knew she had a private membership to some place but didn't know where.

The Traditions - a private course designed by Arnold Palmer
The weather couldn't have been more perfect especially for golf.  Dianna came and picked me up and we headed to her home.  We drove up to a beautiful and immaculately kept gate and the attendant, with a huge smile, waved us through.  My mouth dropped open as we drove to her home.  The neighborhood was affluent and the homes were amazingly beautiful. I couldn't get over the array of colored Petunias planted in mass everywhere. We drove into her driveway, took the clubs out of the back of her car and loaded them into her golf cart.  After giving me the grand tour of her gorgeous villa complete with a view of hole 14 at the Tradition we drove to the course.

The men's membership was having their tournament so we had to wait until they were finished.  There is a little three par course wrapped around the driving range. We parked, pulled out four or five clubs to carry with us, (not allowed to drive the cart on that course) and we approached the first hole.  This was great!  The course was one of the most beautiful courses I have ever seen.  I just couldn't get over the flowers planted in abundance around the fairways and greens.  This is what heaven would look like to me.

Finishing the first hole we set up on the second tee box.  Dianna hit a beautiful drive and landed on the green several feet from the pin. As I approached my ball I hear Dianna whisper, "There's Arnold Palmer."  She said it matter-of-factly.  I ignored her, thinking she was kidding.  We always joke with each other and we love to laugh.  I drove my ball and it fell just short of the green.  Then I looked and saw a man in a cart sitting to the left of the green watching us.  "Come on, I'll introduce you!"  Picking up my clubs I followed her over to his cart.

"This is my friend Sue Kanen. She is visiting me from Colorado.  Sue, this is Arnold Palmer."  He smiled broadly and held out is hand.  I gave him a hearty hand shake.  "I thought I would watch a couple of women play golf for awhile. How are you?"  he asked in a warm and friendly voice.

We chatted a few moments and as we walked back to finish our hole I threw back over my shoulder, "Very nice to meet you."   I made my chip shot a few feet from the hole and made my putt for par.  All the while Arnold was watching.  When we were finished we waved and went on to the next hole and he drove on to his home on the other side of the tee box.

Now this is Arnold Palmer nicknamed "The King" of golf.  He is in The Big Three of world famous golfers along with Jack Nicholas and Gary Player - men who are credited with popularizing golf and were at the forefront of Televised golf tournaments.  He has designed dozens of courses and is in the World Golf Hall of Fame since 1974.  He was awarded the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 among numerous other awards. He still plays in some senior tournaments, makes appearances, flys (I think he has a pilots license, has written several books and numerous articles, supports charities (including a hospital) survived cancer - and I just talked to him as though I had known him all my life. 

The magnitude of what just happened hit me a few holes later and I called my son and told him that I had met Arnold Palmer.  "NO WAY!"  I told him what happened and he exclaimed, "Did you get his autograph!" After telling him that I didn't he proceeded to tell me, "Arnold Palmer is one of the greatest men that ever lived! He is greater than any of our presidents.  There is no drink named after Bush or Obama, but there is a drink named after him!  I can't believe you didn't get his autograph! He is my idol!"
I couldn't believe my son has an idol that is 81 years old.  My son is 25.  But that's what makes Arnold Palmer so great.  He is a legend. A mentor in every sense of the word the entire world of golf will see him as such long after he is gone.  I felt privileged to meet him and appreciate immensely his contribution to golf and humanity. And it's not like I won't see him again...I've been invited back to play with the ladies in the Fall.

Jack Nicholas and Arnold Palmer

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bugs Bunny's Favorite Vacation Spot

Golfing in Death Valley, CA

 Death Valley is in the eastern desert of California.  Don and I honeymooned there 35 years ago.  It's  nice, mild weather, and beautiful desert.  But in the summer it's not so nice.  It can get to 130 degrees F and melt the skin right off the bone.

We have gone there once a year for the past 10 or 12 years to golf with the in-laws in January.  The golf course is dormant then and the greens are like putting on cement.  But the views are beautiful. It's also the lowest spot in the nation at about 214 Ft. below sea level.  When we had our plane we used to fly in and land on the western side of the golf course, get out and push our clubs over to the tee box for our first game.

We stay at Furnace Creek Ranch.  It's down the hill from Furnace Creek Inn which is way more expensive and was featured on Places of the Rich and Famous.  Don and I spent two nights there on our honeymoon and the rest at the Ranch.  They have a nice warm water springs pool, horseback riding, bikes to rent, hiking tours, and of course golf.  They also have three restaurants and a saloon.  The meals are pricey but if you eat at the golf course grill you can get a pretty decent cheeseburger with chips or all beef hot dog, among other items. We ate breakfast in our room.  There are refrigerators in each room but no microwaves. And they don't allow cooking in your room.

We at the rest of our meals at the cafe.  The food was okay but once again it's pricey for a cafe.  If you choose to eat in the steak house the meals are around $25.00 per plate. I don't think that includes salad or soup or drink.  Just the main dish. Desserts are good and run around $7.00 a serving. Fountain drinks are $2.50 on up and Bar Drinks are $7.00 on up.  Coffee is $ 2.75 a cup.

The scenery is spectacular.  The hills are "painted" in so many different colors.  There are several sites you can visit like Scotty's Castle.  This is an amazing place as well as the story behind the castle. You can go online to see what site there are and where plus the cost if there is one.  There is a fee to get into the valley because it is a National Park.

In January and February, well, the winter in general the climate is generally mild.  It can get into the thirties which it did while we were there, but it warms up during the day.  So golfing is really quite pleasant.

The one thing that happened to us again this year was that the power went out.  There were strong winds one day and apparently blew some lines down.  It happened the year before last too and we were out of power for a day and a half.

There is a general store there so you can buy groceries, but there isn't much of a selection.  The prices are high and the gas was $4.35 per gallon.  Needless to say we filled up before we drove in and we were able to get to a better place for gas outside the Park.

They have recently renovated the motel rooms.  They are pretty nice now. A room with Golf Package is $210 per night.  That is all the golf you want. Golf is around $60 per round. So not to bad a deal. We enjoy going there every year and come back refreshed. 

Don's parents, Aunt and Uncle, and sometimes others come.  Don's cousin came with this wife and daughter and we took our son with us this year.  A couple of friends came up for two days as well.  We had a great time seeing everyone. We will probably keep the tradition going for several more years. I hope to take the grand kids there soon.  They'll love it!