Sunday, August 21, 2016

Water Lily Cake: end of Summer treat

 Funny how a quick trip to the supermarket can be a sign that summer's inevitable end is on its way. Just last week, there among the usual grocery fare I spotted an enormous display of colorful Halloween candy; yes, pumpkins and candy corn in August!
 There was no denying the sad reality of the season's impending farewell and I was inspired to make the most out of these waning warm sunny days. 
I thought I'd celebrate with a sweet treat (of course) inspired by a favorite summer spot; a nearby park in lovely Bucks County, Pa where friends and family regularly gather to picnic and paddle.

photos CPaul
Nothing says lazy summer day like kayaking on peaceful lake surrounded by glistening water, trees, birds and other wildlife. 
I'm always especially struck by the abundance of waterlilies as I'm paddling along. 

Photo CPaul
So it seemed fitting to incorporate them into a fun cake, to serve as treat after a lovely day on the lake.
While you'll find countless elaborately decorated cakes online this semi-homemade option is much more simple in comparison but still fun and relatively quick to make with readily found ingredients.

Easy Lily Pad Cake
You'll Need
 a bakery or homemade cake in desired size and shape
(not a bundt as you need a solid center)
With a heat wave making our dog days of summer especially sweltering - I skipped baking and opted for a store-bought key lime cake in a cheerful green color
(Yes , it's Pepperidge Farm)     
any icing of your choice for accent
The green icing ripples on top were perfect for enhancing the water like effect. I simply piped frosting around outside to define edges
   
Piping gel
I hadn't had much experience with piping gel, which can be bought in clear form at a craft or bakery supply store and tinted to desired color. A quick online search, however, yielded countless easy DIY versions and after a few hits and misses, I opted for this recipe from food.com.
(Since I only had the brown vanilla on hand, I substituted a clear lemon extract and reduced corn starch to 2 1/5 teaspoons as the first batch was a bit thick)

   
simply mix, microwave, cool and color.

Piping gel note: for my small cake dimensions, I only used about a third of this recipe. While I was very happy with the water-like affect, piping gel didn't offer much taste wise, so a thin layer was enough for decoration without detracting from the overall flavor of the cake  
Decorations
marshmallows
green colored gum drop leaves
glittery yellow sprinkles if desired
fresh mint for garnish
I rolled green gummy spearmint leaves between sheets of wax paper and cut into Lily pad shapes
These can get sticky - but you can moisten knife with water for an easier cut and then simply set lily pads into piping gel
   Carefully cut marshmallows in half horizontally, then cut each half again to make four sections. 
You can dip cut edges in yellow cupcake sprinkles.
 Create water lilies of desired size by assembling with yellow sprinkled area as centers and arrange by gummy lily pads
Simply garnish with mint sprigs 
and serve with lemon iced tea

Wishing our readers
Happy Summer Days



Saturday, July 9, 2016

Let them Eat Cake! A Marie Antoinette Bastille Day Dessert


 Maybe it's the fact that I'm an avid francophile or maybe it's just an excuse not to take down my red, white and blue decorations, but I've always greatly enjoyed celebrating France's festive Bastille Day, July 14th.
Marking the famous 1789 storming of the bastille prison, a symbol of the oppressive monarchy, this holiday featuring parades, parties and patriotism, commemorates what many think of as the start of the revolution and ousting of the "ancient regime"
Of course Marie Antoinette was a key player during this time and though many now believe she never actually uttered the famously insensitive words "Let them eat cake" when informed of the poors' bread shortage, it seems the phrase will forever, if unfairly, be linked to her. 
To honor this most stylish, extravagant and perhaps misunderstood royal, why not create a dessert in her likeness for a whimsical way to celebrate a 
Bon 14th Julliet!

Marie Antoinette "Let them Eat Cake" Cake
Who can forget oohing and aahing over that classic girl's birthday cake featuring a plastic doll with frosted dress at so many childhood parties. Still as popular today (Disney princesses anyone?), this "slightly" more grown up version uses the same concept with a dollar store doll spruced up with some paint and regal touches. 

For Marie Cake Topper
You'll Need
inexpensive plastic doll 
(I found this mermaid version at a dollar store)
crafty accents: Feathers, lace, sparkle etc
multi surface craft paint
glue
I first removed her bottom half. Then using multi surface paint added some touches to her make-up 
(going more for 1789 than 1989)
I did her hair loosely in her signature pouf style and painted hair with a wash of white to simulate a powdered wig, adding some feathers and royal accents.
Paint and trim scraps become the bodice of her dress

for Cake
2 boxes Cake mix or homemade recipe
oven proof batter bowl and round baking dish or cake pan
I needed two cakes to create a taller "skirt" for better proportions for my doll but a shorter Marie may require just one batter bowl- simply measure first

With limited talent for scratch baking I opted for a store mix, French Vanilla seeming appropriate.
I prepared the two boxes of mix (one for the batter bowl), and one batch for the round pan 
Plus I had batter leftover for a pan mini cupcakes!
Keep an eye on the cakes and bake until done-
my batter bowl cake caved in slightly but worked fine
 the batter bowl mix took about 50 minutes while the others 20-30
once cooled I stacked the cakes and "glued" together with a dollop of ready made icing 
The bottom cake can be trimmed but I kept it as a little flounce

for decorations
icing glaze recipe
2 cups confectioner's sugar
6-8 teaspoons corn syrup
6-8 teaspoons milk
1/2 teaspoon desired flavoring  
spray coloring
ready made decorative icing
doilies
printable 
I had used the icing glaze and stencil technique previously in my Jane Austen tea party post.
Mix icing glaze  ingredients until blended and glossy, increasing corn syrup and milk if too thick
gently pour over cooled cake and let dry completely

gently lay doily over skirt, spray and then carefully lift

repeat on other areas of cake, shielding overspray with a paper plate

add some more ready made icing accents, sprinkles or candy cake decor touches
pop doll top onto chopstick or skewer and insert carefully into center of cake 
camouflage where doll and cake meet with some icing accents
made with images from the fabulous Graphics Fairy

cut out printable, tape onto skewer and insert
NOTE:
To preserve her dignity you can retire the cake to the kitchen to carefully remove Marie (she can be fragile) and cake sign and then slice onto individual dessert plates before serving

Of course the fun part is using your own creativity and favorite colors for the Queen's look. For fashion inspiration there are hundreds of images of the famous queen. 
These images are from my Pinterest page "let them eat cake".
 For sources and more images of Marie and her world click here
or
For unique and entertaining insight on this fascinating historic figure, find more info and fabulous podcasts at 
The History Chicks


Why not Put on some french music and serve with Champagne (of course) 
 and add some sparkly accents francais!

www.unesco

VIVE LA FRANCE!





Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Fourth of July Floats: Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream Treat


Funny to think that ice cream, the classic summer sweet we love so much today was also a favorite of our founding mothers and fathers. Benjamin Franklin, George and Martha Washington and Thomas Jefferson all indulged in the frosty novelty of the time. So what better treat to serve on America's Birthday than America's favorite dessert?
Where colonials laboriously hauled frozen blocks from their ice houses, for our version we'll take advantage of modern conveniences (the freezer) to whip up this easy four ingredient no churn recipe.
I used this deliciously simple recipe from the fabulous site instructables and decided to add some seasonal ripe cherries; yummy on it's own or nostalgic popped into tall fizzy float.

Cherry Vanilla No-churn Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
14 ounce can condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
10 ounce bag frozen cherries

Let cherries thaw just slightly and roughly chop in food processor or blender
some whole cherries may remain
Whip cream into soft peaks in chilled bowl 
stir vanilla thoroughly into condensed milk and fold into cream
gently stir cherries into mixture swirling but not over-mixing to combine in a marble pattern  
pour very gently into loaf pan and lightly smooth surface
(handle carefully to keep as much air as possible in the mixture)
I had enough ice cream to fill another small glass bowl (yay)
cover with plastic wrap and freeze 4-6 hours or overnight
let soften slightly before scooping

Enjoy!
serve as is or top an icy coca-cola for a refreshing float


Ice cream fun facts 
The first American ice cream parlor opened in 1790 in New York City

Ice cream wasn't always a sweet treat! First Lady and avid ice cream fan Dolly Madison enjoyed oyster ice cream while other flavors included asparagus, parmesan and chestnut.

"Iced creams of great variety" were listed on the menu for a Pennsylvania Fourth of July celebration in 1791

Ice cream was such a hit that large estates including Mt. Vernon had their own ice cream machines

Ancient Romans enjoyed a version with ice brought down from mountain tops

I found these and more interesting information about food history plus an authentic historic recipe from Chef Walter Staib at the fascinating www.pbsfood

From our home to yours
Wishing our U.S. readers a 
Happy July Fourth
and our international readers
 a sweet summer!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happy Memorial Day!

Wishing our US Readers 
A Happy Holiday Weekend!
PennyWise will be kicking off summer with new seasonal projects, DIY's and recipes so please check back!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Memorial Day: Colleville-sur-Mer American Cemetery

 Last Year I had the honor of visiting the beaches of Normandy, France and the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, a place of rest for those lost in Europe during World War Two. Although not typical of our posts, I thought Memorial Day a fitting time to share some photos of this both heartbreaking and breathtaking place.
 The bronze statue entitled Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves

 9,387 Americans of different faiths, including three women, rest here.

 
 The names 1,557 lost and not recovered are listed on the memorial wall circling the central garden. 
A time capsule with reports of the Normandy landings is sealed and buried by the visitor's center and is set to be opened June 6th 2044

   
The land is perpetually granted to the U.S. free of charge

Trees line the bluff overlooking the water. 
The grounds are impeccably maintained

 Approximately one million visitors a year pay tribute here

 Arromanches, France, outside the D-day Museum 

Bunker with wildflowers, Normandy France


Wishing all our U.S. readers
 Health and Happiness this 
Memorial Day
and 
 to our readers overseas
a Happy Start to Summer


The graphics fairy