Category Archives: Year of the Cake

Last Cake (#52)

Baked Alaska, fire fun included

Tonight was the night, I have made the final cake. I bought wine based on the brands; Cupcake and Layered Cake, and Martinellis for the littles. After a nice dinner with family, I pulled the cake and ice-cream out of the freezer already assembled and ready for the swiss meringue and fire. A traditional Baked Alaska has a sponge cake but I made a brownie-type cake and used mint chocolate chip ice-cream because I thought my family would like the combination.

I was kind of avoiding the last cake… and I was not really sure how to end the Year of the Cake. I knew the cake would be a Baked Alaska and I thought about having a party with friends to celebrate. However, that just did not quite seem to measure up with the timing and my mood.In the end, I think that this fitting. The cake itself was delicious but not quite exactly right. I think I should have frozen the cake and ice-cream together for longer and worked to get a more billowy meringue. Now lighting dessert on fire was a treat. I enjoyed this much more than I realized. I used a propane torch (thank you Ryan) AND a shot of liquor lit on fire to double-flame the cake…which might have led to some of the meltiness.

Regardless, I finally completed a goal that took a year to do. I don’t usually keep resolutions quite so rigidly, but I did it. Maybe the secret is having a delicious goal or one that people will keep asking about so it helps to keep going.

Perhaps there will be a repeat of this cake and a party with friends. Or maybe I will find that an anticlimactic ending was the best way to conclude this season. And yet, I suspect that there is more to come with this Year of the Cake project. Yes, that’s fitting: more to come.

Almost the Last Cake

Mille Crêpe Cake slice served on a special and very fragile plate brought to me from Germany (Thanks Em!)

The last cake is coming. I have been thinking about this last group of cakes for a while. It is such a mix of emotions. It was fun to make a couple for my family- they played with the kids while I baked, there was a dishwasher to clean things up, and plenty of taste testers every step of the way.

What I did not anticipate feeling was this sadness that I find creeping into my gut. I was sharing this with a friend and the next thing that I knew, tears began to flood my eyes. It is almost a sense that when this last cake is baked, then my Grandpa is really gone. This was our last project together.

I know that I don’t talk about it very much and I think it is hard to explain because again, it is a mix of emotions. Taking care of my grandparents was one of the hardest things that I have ever done but it was an easy decision to make. Maybe I will never fully be able to calculate this time we have spent in Grand Rapids. In some ways, the move cost us our friends, our social circle and our lifestyle. In another breath these years in Grand Rapids have been a gift: we learned new ways of being ourselves, my children know extended family in ways that would not have been possible from afar, and we have friends and experiences we never would have known otherwise. I realized some years ago when we were trying to decide if we could continue to hack it here or if we needed to move on, that I wanted to stay for now. I recognized that if I could help my Grandpa reach his goal of staying in the home he built for as long as he wanted to be here, that it would be a major life accomplishment.

Shortly after he died, it finally dawned on me that the goal was destined to end with a death. Usually one gets to celebrate when they reach their goal but in this case, there was instead a collective sigh, some crying, and a funeral to arrange.

In some ways, my grandparents’ deaths were easier for us because we were there each day, watching his decline down to the last details. We said goodbye slowly over the years and even more slowly over the past year of living together. At the same time, I wonder if Ryan and I have actually mourned. I tend to try and take care of the emotional well being of my family members, and of course I always make sure that the children are okay. I tend to be a strong one, it is how I see myself and it is how I take care of others. I am a person with plans and goals and I take action, but I am also weary.

So I will make this last cake. I don’t know how I will feel or if I will feel a certain way but I do sense that this is part of a changing of our seasons, maybe not the very end of this chapter, but a shift all the same.



Buche de Noël (51)

Merry Christmas cake!

Buche de Noel


Second to last cake and I am out of key ingredients for the planned cake: melting chocolate and powdered sugar. At least I have butter. Normally I would either pick a different cake or run to the store. However, it is Christmas day so the stores are all closed and THIS is the Christmas cake I have planned.

Meringue mushrooms are already hardened and pearl sugar is waiting to make complete the snow flaked scene. What’s a girl to do? Chef Google tells me that my high powered blender or food processor will make powdered sugar and I already know that I can adjust for the melted chocolate with cocoa melted into sugar.

I can do this, I can do this. But first, I shall take a Christmas Day walk in the woods with my family.

It was a different sort of Christmas- we celebrated earlier in the week with my family in Wisconsin, so it was a fairly quiet, super relaxed, and non-snowy day at home.

For dinner we had meatballs (homemade, thank you Aunt Jan) with ostkaka, mashed potatoes (both sweet and white) and we tried something new: Cuban style Rice & Beans (Moros y Cristianos)… more on the rice and beans project for 2016 is forthcoming but this was our start.

And for that cake. After last month’s Pumpkin Roll went so smoothly, I did not hesitate to try making this chocolate roulade. However, it went totally different and was a big mess. I also learned that powdered sugar can be made in a vitamix but the stuff that I put through the food processor was certainly not smooth enough. Lesson learned. Spoiler: we still ate all the leftover frosting. (By leftover I mean that I might have made a double batch of frosting from the start.)

So the cake itself was not pretty, no one will ever know because this while swill cake roll was covered in chocolate buttercream frosting, twined with a fork to look like a log.

We (along with my Cousin Joyce) would probably have eaten the entire thing but I thought ahead and saved a piece for my friend Allison to try (who happened to be in town, win).

Next time, I will make sure to have all the ingredients ready and would probably start with a different chocolate roulade recipe. Still, it was delicious.