Heaven & Hell

I had a really weird experience with 7-minute frosting about a month ago.

I have, on my wordpress dashboard, a half-written post about how I really messed up the frosting for my mom’s birthday cake. It was so unfortunate, I couldn’t bring myself to publish the pictures. I had crafted this amazing, sumptuous vanilla cake. It was all super-yellow irish butter and whole vanilla bean goodness. The batter was a voluminous mousse of what appeared to be lighter-than-air vanilla pudding. While it baked, a heavenly vanilla scent filled my apartment.

Deciding that this cake was perfect in every way, I set about deciding on the perfect flavors to accompany such a cake. I would turn some egg yolks (I have a bowl in my freezer containing no fewer than 2 dozen yolks…more on that later) into a raspberry curd fit for the finest vanilla gelato. I’d lighten the curd with freshly whipped cream, and make a giant raspberry whipped-cream sandwich on perfect vanilla cake. I’d top it with great swoops of marshmallowy 7-minute frosting. What could be better?

Probably nothing, if that was how it had actually gone down.

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Please bring me butter…peanut butter.

A long time ago, I was assigned this ridiculous orange rental car that i dubbed “the venga bus.” My boyfriend wanted badly to drive the monstrosity, so even though I had miraculously found a parking spot in front of his place, I let him take it for a spin around the block. Naturally, the spot was gone when we’d finished joyriding. We spent the next ten or so minutes driving around Roscoe Village, hunting for a place to park.

We ended up parking on a really busy road, having totally given up on finding a spot on a residential street. As we made the seemingly epic journey back to his building, a voice called out to us from the gated window of a garden apartment. Actually, the voice was in no way intended for us, but we heard it.

“You tell him, don’t bring me nothing with no butter in it!”

Nothing special there. Just a lady on the phone. Moving along.

“…No peanut butter!”

That was the beginning of what has been a long-cherished inside joke for us. Reading back over what I just wrote, I find myself giggling in very much the same way I did when I first heard that amazing woman. I also realize that it might be not at all funny to persons who weren’t there that night.

It was the gravity with which she explained exactly which kind of butter she did not want to be brought. That’s what made it so amazing. When I’ve had a few beers, that’s what makes me randomly remind my man not to bring me any peanut butter. Ever. For any reason.

The really funny thing is that lately, he’s been on a peanut butter kick. When I insisted he let me bake his birthday cake, guess what he asked for.


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namesake cake

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I spent many happy afternoons at the Baskin Robbins my grandparents owned. Oddly, I don’t remember eating that much ice cream. There was the occasional clown cone (my favorite!), and tons of Blow Pops that my cousins and I would grab from a cup that sat on the counter. Mostly, I remember the cakes. Chocolate jelly rolls filled with fudgy icing and mint chocolate chip ice cream, and birthday cakes adorned with lacy borders or plastic figurines of Disney characters.

When I decided to get into Pastry, my grandma gave me a wonderful offset spatula that she used at the store decades ago. I use it a lot, and I used it to make her this really cute birthday cake, which she loved. It’s a vanilla bean cake with lemon curd, and swiss meringue buttercream.

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