The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cake–Redux!

Practicing rosettes
Practicing rosettes, stars, beads, and what my classmates called “poops”

Six months after my cake decorating fiasco and with cupcake-decorating and cookie-decorating classes under my belt, I was ready to try again: this time with adult supervision. I signed up for a two-part, six-hour cake decorating class. I’m not sure why I ever thought I could casually decorate a fabulous anniversary cake. Like brain surgeons who decide they’ll write a novel “when they retire,” my goal was a bit of an insult to pastry chefs.

There are only four great arts: music, painting, sculpture, and ornamental pastry. –Julia ChildRead More »

The Lousy Cook Makes Bread

Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)
Happy first birthday, sourdough starter! (Those bubbles are yeast farts.)

Before there was cake, there was bread.

Breadmaker sourdough loaf
First perfect breadmaker sourdough loaf (July; yes, after half a year of trying)

It all started with the potato bread. Seattle has amazing fresh bread choices, but the prices are as high as the quality. My son particularly likes the potato bread, a soft white bread with a caraway tang, but an active fourteen-year-old can put away a lot of bread, which quickly adds up to a lot of dough.Read More »

The Lousy Cook Makes a Fruitcake

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My brown Caribbean Black Cake (if I’d burned the sugar as the recipe required, I would have burned the house down, so I substituted dark molasses)

The first time I used my new KitchenAid mixer(s), I might have gone overboard. I threw out my hip while making a fruitcake.

The day started out by finally making The Fruitcake. To be specific, this was a Caribbean Black Cake six months in the making. I’d read about it in Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking the previous summer, the same week I watched the Great British Baking Show and decided it wouldn’t be too difficult to make my own 30th anniversary cake. Colwin’s Caribbean Black Cake recipe stresses that the cake must be extravagantly decorated (“colored icing, flowers, swags, and garlands”), as it is typically for weddings. Also, the cake recipe includes two bottles of booze. Sounded like a good starter cake for me: a cake Colwin confessed that she herself had not attempted to make.Read More »

Santa Visits the Lousy Cook–Twice!

(A very late post! Pretend it’s still 2016: a nice thought in oh so many ways.)

Cookie "dough" in Grandma's mixing bowl
Cookie “dough” in Grandma’s mixing bowl

(Note: I wasn’t paid for this post by the advertising department of a certain kitchen appliance, but I should be. I’m open to offers.)

I left my holiday cookie decorating class full of resolve to practice the decorating skills I had learned, instead of shoving everything into the fridge like after my cupcake decorating class two months ago, where it all still sits, untouched. But the day after the cookie class, I ran into trouble with Step One: making the actual cookies. My dough looked like wet sand. I posted to Facebook:

Sugar cookie dough is in crumbles. Mixed with my old hand mixer. Supposed to be in fridge for two hours but it’s literally a bunch of crumbles. Add more egg?Read More »

The Lousy Cook Takes a Cooking Class

Curry! Amanda Coba teaching at The Book Larder, recipe from Anna Jones's "A Modern Way to Cook"
Curry! Amanda Coba teaching at The Book Larder (Anna Jones recipe)

Hot on the heels of acquiring my first new set of pots and pans since 1987, I signed up for a cooking class.

My 30-year-old pots were a gift from my parents, in hopes, I think, that I wouldn’t move back in with them. Again. Rather impressive that I’ve used the same cookware since the advent of Prozac and The Simpsons, though my set has dwindled to three pots and two lids (two pots have no lid; one lid doesn’t match any pot, but I hate to toss the lid, since it’s good for extinguishing fires). Especially impressive since it’s glass cookware for a klutz (the other day the Man I Married asked me if dropping things was a sign of MS, and I asked him if insensitivity was a sign of divorce).Read More »

The Lousy Cook Decorates a Cupcake

POTENTIAL!
POTENTIAL! (The Blank Page)

There’s something to be said for starting small, so a noncredit (shocking, I know) cupcake decorating class at the local college caught my eye. Scaling down expectation while learning a new craft might be a good idea. Surely I could take the skills learned on a cupcake and inflate them for use—like, the next day—on a multi-tiered wedding anniversary cake with a bottom layer as big as a garbage-can lid?Read More »