Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A day in the kitchen

Today was fantastic. I must say, I truly love living in my own place with no roommates (no offense to my former roommates). It is so nice not sharing a fridge, cupboard space, bathroom, and dirty dishes with anyone else. I didn't cook a lot in my old place for a couple reasons: I was pretty busy with school, and all of the stuff in our apartment (including, actually maybe especially the oven and stove) was old, unreliable, and dirty. My new place is gloriously new and clean, and everything in it is my own! It's such a contrast. I decided that, since Kimball works all day, and I don't, and we only see each other for about 3 hours when he gets off work each day, that I'd start cooking us dinner. 

I spent a good part of yesterday grocery shopping, menu planning, and recipe reading to figure out what we could have for dinner for the next two weeks. I'm very excited to finally do this. The stars have aligned perfectly. Since my mom is traveling her heart out right now, I've been lucky enough to borrow her car for three weeks! I've never had a car. Not ever. This makes cooking difficult. Previously, trips to the grocery store included walking for 25 minutes to and from the nearest grocery store. I'd walk there with an empty back pack, purchase only what I could carry, and what wouldn't break, and I'd walk home with about 30 pounds of food squished into my backpack and whatever bags I could carry. It was exhausting, and stressful. There were so many days where I'd get home only to realize I'd forgotten to buy toothpaste, or something essential for a recipe I'd wanted to try. It was tricky, but now with a car, free time, a fantastic little kitchen, and a hungry man showing up for dinner, the conditions for cooking are perfect! 

Most of my menu selections come from Mel's Kitchen Cafe. It's a food blog that I am starting to love. 

Today I made sweet & sour chicken, with baked brown rice (yeah, you bake it! So easy!) and broccoli It was such good meal! I take no credit; I followed a recipe. 

For a little treat, I decided to bake a cake for Kimball to congratulate him on making his app (it's not out yet, but it will be soon). He LOVES chocolate, so I wanted to make the best chocolate cake there was. I recently got a lovely little cake stand from a friend as a wedding gift, and I have been anxious to put it to use, so I decided on this Unbelievable Chocolate Cake, and this Magical Frosting (the chocolate version). 

It took me all day. And part of yesterday. 

The frosting is very finicky, and you have to make it halfway, where you get it boiling, and then you have to cool it to room temperature - not too cold (which took all night... luckily I started yesterday). Next you mix in little chunks of butter (a lot) and mix them in completely, which was seriously a challenge by hand with a very unruly whisk (I do not yet own any sort of mixer), add melted chocolate, which has to be at room temperature (so tricky! You have to get it right before it hardens... I melted it down and waited for it to cool three times before I caught it in time). 

Anyway, it was exceptionally complex compared to anything I've ever done. I'd never made a layered cake, but I figured if I was going all out, I'd better go all out. I don't own any cake pans either, so I bought three little tin foil ones. They were 8" pans, but my cake stand only caters to a 6" cake, so once they were baked and cooled, I had to trim them down to 6" using a little plate as my guide.

I also had to trim the tops to make the cakes flat. This would normally require a bread knife. As luck would have it, I don't have one of those either, so I used this handy little lettuce knife. It worked quite well, actually. 

Mel suggested lining the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, (which I did have! and I'm so glad I did.) The cakes slid right out of the pans and stayed in their proper shapes while I transfered them to the cake plate. 

I watched a tutorial on Martha Stewart's website on how to frost a cake (I know... I'm very much an amateur). I didn't have time to do all the steps she suggested, but it still worked out okay. 

I couldn't be more pleased with my lovely little creation! It ended up looking like a real cake! I'm glad I did chocolate frosting... it makes it harder to detect all the chocolate cake-crumbs in there. 

I put it in the fridge (because the frosting is basically chocolate-flavored butter, and it was beginning to get melty), and I saw a box of strawberries Id purchased earlier, so I decided to top it off. So cute. 

Kimball LOVED it. He was so giddy, and happy, which made me giddy and happy. We ate our cake in bliss. It is seriously sooooo good! I wish I didn't know what was in it. We still have tons leftover for the next few days! (but we have to work out every day or it's strictly forbidden). 

After cutting the edges and tops off my three cakes, I had SO much leftover cake, so I decided to make Cake Bites (even though I don't love them, and I think they're over-rated and over-priced) For those unaware, they're easy to make - you mix crumbled cake with frosting, roll the gooey mass into a ball, and dip it in chocolate. You can also mash up Oreos with cream cheese, and dip them in chocolate if you want your heart attack earlier in life. They're very intense and very rich. I made mine extra tiny, and after I ate one I had to have a full glass of milk. 

I'm going out with a bunch of my lady-friends tomorrow, so I plan on giving most of them away. I have about 75, though, and I only had enough chocolate to dip about 30. I may freeze most of and save them for another day when chocolate isn't so plentiful in the house and I need a little sweetness. 

What a fantastic day. I should have photographed the dinner - that sweet and sour chicken was quite involved as well. I spent about 7 hours cooking and baking and doing dishes today (I used all of my silverware and measuring spoons/cups at least thrice). 

Call me crazy, but it was heaven!


  1. that cake looks divine! i love that you used a lettuce knife - i think those are so funny. we have one and i actually totally love it (and works really well!).

    glad you're having so much fun with your car, free time and new solo apartment!!

  2. wow, i feel bad that i came home and took away your car. You really need a car. I don't know how you do it without one.
    I loved seeing your apartment yesterday and love it that you can cook and clean and do what you want and it will stay that way. I bet it is heaven.
    Can't wait to be invited for dinner! sound yummy!