Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Piñata cake and aging

Next week I'm turning 27. It's a strange feeling. A feeling of comfort. The realization that I'm not anymore in my early 20s and I really like it. I am not the person I used to be a few years ago. And despite the common sayings, I think women do improve with age, just like men do.

I have recently read 'Winter Journal' from Paul Auster. I can't think of a better time to read such a wonderful autobiography, as now that I'm about to turn a year older. If you have never read any of his novels, I strongly recommend you do. Perhaps you won't like him, perhaps you will fall in love with his words, just like I did a few years ago.

I'm a picky reader, that's for sure. Growing up with two much older sisters, one of whom is a librarian, certainly shaped my taste for literature. But style aside, the wonderful thing about this book, it's the way in which it conveys the idea of aging as a learning process. In a way. I doubt Mr. Auster intended for it to be a lesson type book. But the comfort with which he embraces the winter of his life, is contagious.

I am nowhere near close to that winter. And yet I am glad to look back and see that I've slowly evolved into the human being I am today. I am glad to look into the future and know that constant evolution is normal, necessary and beneficial.

In a way, my palate has evolved quite a bit as well. When I made this cake (for the boy's labmate, who was about to return to Mexico), I realized how much my sweet palate has changed. This cake is quite simple. Plain white cake with a raspberry preserve filling. Topped with cream cheese frosting mixed with a good amount of food coloring. There's nothing wrong with that. And I will, not modestly, say it was delicious.

And yet it's not my type of thing. Granted, that's irrelevant, since the cake was for her and not for me. Not to say I didn't enjoy it. But I also realized that the sweet-toothed-little-girl who loved to eat cake at any occasion, is long gone. Me, I am more the type of more subtle sweetness. Muffins, biscotti, pies without tons of sugar and homemade ice cream are more my type of thing. I blame age. I blame my newly acquired taste for spicy food and the drive to make baked savory delights instead of sugary cakes.

However, the cake didn't make it to the end of our weekly joint group meeting with another lab. Some folks had seconds. Some had thirds. So by all means, do make it. With or without frosting. With or without coloring. If you can, use homemade preserves. If you like very sugary frostings, up the sugar and down the cream cheese.

By the way, in case you hadn't realized yet. This cake is an attempt to mimic a pinata donkey. We couldn't have a pinata party in our conference room, so we settled for the cake. I hope you enjoy it. Donkey or not.

Pinata cake or white cake with raspberry preserves and cream cheese frosting

White cake
from Leite's Culinaria

  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pans
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk, or 1 cup whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour your pans (either 2 9 inch round pans or a large 13x9). In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and the sugar until fluffly and slightly pale. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until combined. Add half of the buttermilk or milk/lemon mixture to the cake and mix until combined. Mix in half of the sifted ingredients and then the rest of the buttermilk. Finally, add the rest of the dry mixture and mix until combined. Do not overmix or the cake will be dense. 

    Pour the batter in the pans and bake for 20-30 min until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pan for about 10 min, then remove from the pan and cool in a wire rack for about 1 hr. 

    Raspberry preserves

    I prepared this the exact same way as the blackberry jam.

    Cream cheese frosting

    12 ounces cream cheese (for a sweeter frosting 8 ounces)
    1 stick of butter
    2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (for a sweeter frosting, 3 cups)

    Before combining the ingredients, make sure all of them are at room temperature. With a hand mixer, start by creaming the cheese and the butter together. Once the mixture is homogeneous start adding the confectioners sugar slowly and keep beating until the frosting is fluffy but has enough body to be piped. For coloring, divide the frosting in bowls and add food coloring as desired. Transfer to piping/ziploc bags and decorate as desired. 


    Maria said...

    And because you are changing and I love you, we feel it and like it! You're such an amazing person and I'm grateful to have you as a friend.
    Happy early birthday!
    And congratulations for the amazing decoration you did in this cake!

    Rachel said...

    Hey I'm turning 27 next week too! Happy birthday!
    It must have taken forever to frost this pretty cake. It reminds me of a donkey pinata that my third grade best friend had at her birthday. She was really sad when we broke off its head...
    Anyway! I could go for this as my birthday cake!

    Adam Kaplan said...

    Love this!

    I work with AllFreeCopycatRecipes and have been trying to contact you. Please email me if there is a good way to reach you. Thanks!

    Adam Kaplan

    Simba Zhao said...

    which makes my mouth water properly. I like food with this kind of lovely looking.


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