Almond cookies are often given at the end of the meal at Chinese restaurants, though their fame is overshadowed by that of fortune cookies. Face it, almond cookies- we could all use a little advice. Gelt is (are?) gold foil-wrapped chocolate coins given to Jewish children during Hanukkah.
Take the Terry's Favorite Almond Cookie recipe from Veganomicon (secret ingredients to their deliciousness: peanut oil, brown rice syrup, toasted sesame oil), roll dough and cut out using a gelt-shaped cookie cutter (a circle), and sprinkle generously with gold "Disco Hologram" edible glitter (leave some cookies plain because that glitter may be "edible", but who knows what's in it).
Eat all the dough scraps. You won't regret it. Don't take it personally if only a tiny fraction of your cookies get eaten. And as the sweet old man at the Indian grocery store said to me, "Enjoy the Christmas!"
My friend Mike and I go out for burritos & margaritas ('ritos & 'ritas) about once a month, so when his birthday arrived, I wanted to make a cake that related, somehow. (Actually, I think I promised him a cake-filled burrito baked into a cake...) A burrito cake seemed out of my skill/patience level, so margarita cake it was! Is such a thing possible? Of course, and of course the PPK girls have mastered it in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. But, even though I love Mike, and cake, and margaritas, I was only feeling ho-hum about this endeavor: I guess I'll bake some cake.. But a birthday and a recipe this good deserve something special, over-the-top, and a little bit trashy! And so..
I baked the cake into margarita glasses. Safety Alert: I had no idea if this would work, and no idea if it would work for anyone else. I picked out sturdy looking glasses at the thrift store, so maybe they were sturdy or maybe I just got lucky. This might be really dangerous! But it worked perfectly. I stuck a cookie sheet in the oven, filled each glass and set it carefully on the sheet, and baked them for a bit longer than the recipe said (because they were each about the size of 2 or 3 cupcakes).
These are truly margarita cupcakes- there's tequila in the cake and the frosting (the cake is obviously cooked but the frosting is not), and the zest & juice of a million limes. I just bought 2 tiny bottles of tequila from the corner store, using the darker tequila in the cake and the lighter in the frosting. Why? Whim. When I use my darling but far-from-industrial-strength mixer, buttercream never comes together perfectly. It was a bit more wet than fluffy, but it tasted sooooo good. I spread a thin layer on the top of each cake, mixed together lime zest, sugar, and kosher salt, and made a "salted rim" on the outer edge of the frosting.
And then put each one in a sparkly hologram clashing green gift bag from the dollar store, threw in some crinkle-cut paper "easter grass", and tied on a compostable fork (just in case). Still, something's missing...
Of course, glitter tattoos and skull stickers for all, from the quarter-machines at the corner of Valencia & 16th. Possibly the most wholesome tequila-&-tattoos birthday celebration ever.
Another little embroidered cake from the archives, made a few years ago for a friend who makes cakes based on her paintings, & vice versa. The original cake can be seen here- don't you just love that magical little city (mountain range?) on top? I picked this cake partly for the amazing combination of white-red-yellow-pink-brown, and partly/mostly because I will sew anything if I get to do French knots. What's cuter than a perky little dinner-roll-like bundle of thread?
I got hooked on French knots after seeing the nutty amounts of them being cranked out over at Posie gets Cozy, like on this pillowcase, or this pillow. I still aspire to do some project requiring thousands of French knots, but haven't come up with anything yet. Any ideas? Please help! French knots are my anti-drug!
There's a nice tutorial from the Purl Bee, if you'd like to be as nerdy as I am...
Hold the phone. I was already to hit "Publish", when I remembered What I Hate About French Knots! They're like... remember how Christmas lights used to be wired in series, so if one burnt out all the rest went out, too, and the magic was over? Well, that's how French knots work. There you are, just knottin' along, gettin' cozy with some Austen- Keira! Gwyneth! Aishwarya! Alicia!- and you couldn't be happier. But then, one of your knots is wonky, or too loose, or the thread gets stuck, and you can't just cut it off because they're freakin' sewn in series! What are you supposed to do? Start from scratch?
Hmmm... As always, there's a good chance I'm doing this all wrong. Though I directed you to a tutorial, I didn't actually read it. Everything I know about sewing I learned from a little free-with-embroidery-floss pamphlet from 1939. I love it, and I'm stickin' with it.
You know you have the perfect job (pastry assistant) when you read pastry books on your lunch break (current reads: the not-as-naughty-as-you-think-it-will-be-if you're-not-paying-attention-to-spelling Dessert Fourplay, and the deliciously wholesome Good to the Grain) and draw pastries when you get home.
I love the honeymoon phase of a new job! Comin' in early, stayin' late, being a super-nerd.... And the nice part is that the love affair with a good job doesn't crash & burn after the honeymoon- it matures, and deepens. And maybe, eventually, you even get good at the job and don't spill so much or make the wrong cake recipe!
One day we were talking about a dessert based on Luc Tuyman's St. Valentine, and the challenges involved in avoiding ending up with a grey cake. But I think I'm pro-grey cake! I'm not sure, since I've never had the chance to eat one, but a delicate cloudy gray cake might be lovely.
Or super-gross. Probably gross. I'm new at this.
So I started drawing grey cakes, realizing once again that I don't have a lot of bright ideas about how cakes should be decorated. Dots & flowers & swags: that's pretty much all I've got.
I've been so busy at my new-la-la job, there's been no time to think of a project to do, let alone, like, do it. And take pictures of it, & write about it, and maybe even come up with a zippy title.
Hmmm...maybe it's not the lack of time that's the issue, but the fact that my brain is all used up learning all new thrilling things! Today was my second day, and when I got home I showered, ate a family-size salad, and watched approximately 14 episodes of Arrested Development, 30 Rock, & NewsRadio. That's it.
So, here's a little cake-in-the-meantime. Last year I had a great plan to embroider cakes for all my little baby cousins' birthdays. Such a sweet idea, I know. Of course, this is the only one that was ever finished, for Megan, daintiest of fairy queens.
And these were the sketches I started with, which are really making me want to draw some more cakes. I think I stopped making birthday-embroideries because I couldn't think of cool enough ways to doll up cakes. That seems inexcusably lame. I'm on it!
"Spend some time in the kitchen with your friends" by Brooke Budner
There have been many projects & messes happening around these parts, but since they either will be published or I have a dream they will be published, I can't talk about them! Here are some hints: Barbie's dream closet, emergency poppies, Plasti-Dip fumes, as many baskets as I can carry, & the definitive guide to R.V.s from 1983.
There have also been days when I absolutely could not bring myself to make anything. Just couldn't handle it. Does that happen to you? On days like that, and so many others, thank goodness that other people make things. Desperate for some beauty on my walls, but lacking both patience and dollars, I found ways to get my three current favorites up on the cheap & the quick & let's face it, the dirty.
The charming print above is by urban farmer Brooke Budner, of The Greenhorns. I found it at Gravel & Gold but if you're not in San Francisco you can buy this one and others- bikes! tools! produce!- from Brooke's Etsy shop My poster hangs above the sink and is the perfect thing to stare at while washing dishes. Everyday I see something new, and am reminded of the oil lamps my parents use during the holidays, or the collection of eggbeaters I used to have. I just stuck the poster up with a clip, figuring my love will protect it from splashes.
"Prairie kitchen Helpers" by Screech Owl Design
Screech Owl Design does some of the loveliest printing I've seen- subtle colors & rich inks on luxurious cotton paper. I love the naturalistically-rendered birds in modernist settings, especially these two little chefs and that amazing stove. That's an Aga, right? Like in Raffaella Barker novels! I bought this card a year ago just to put up in the kitchen, & it's finally on the wall thanks to a 50cent office clip. I'm now one step closer to that house (& Aga) in the English countryside.
"I made this for you" by Leah Rosenberg
And finally, glowingly, a poster by dear Leah, one of an edition of 1000 posters made with the intention of being given away. Isn't that lovely? This is technically the back, but you can see the bright stripes of paint on the proper side showing through. I am quite fond of grey, so that hint of color is just right for me. In a moment of picture-hanging inspiration, I attached it to my eyesore-fusebox with magnets. Why did it take me four years to figure that out? Magnets!
I don't even know what to say. How is a person supposed to deal with all that cuteness? Michelle is the pastry chef for Range, and is as delightful as she looks. Just look at that magical world she's created! Yes, created. Michelle did not just stumble upon a perfectly preserved vintage dream kitchen- she & her husband installed the tile, counters, & cupboards, and carried the rest home on their bikes.
And, the dress, the look! The apron, the sparkles, the tattoos! Seriously. I can't even type full sentences. The little handmade potholders on the stove are crocheted with skulls!
This was my very first styling opportunity, under the guiding vision of the tireless & talented Leilani- see her blog here, her work with ReadyMade here, the best of San Francisco design here, and oooh, this one is a particular favorite. Tireless! The photographer Joe was a mellow dream to work with, and he takes such pretty, pretty pictures. It was a fun day, if you can't tell. My first gig & I'm spoiled for life.
So, did the final photo turn out anything like my preliminary sketches?