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A Berry Special 2 Recipe Post (Vanilla Berries and Raspberry Cake Filling)

Berry Special Cake via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

I promised you the recipe for Vanilla Berries from my Hunger Games Party post so I made them again when we went camping.  The only problem is that I still didn’t get decent enough pictures of them to merit it’s own post.  The same thing goes for the raspberry filling that I made for my cousin’s (well, two cousins and my brother in law’s) birthday party.  I mean I couldn’t go.  It was my oldest’s 8th dance recital and at her studio she gets a big award for that one.  We didn’t want to miss it.  My aunt had already commissioned me though, to make my cousin’s cake and since she went a little different with the favors (a fruit filling!) I didn’t care how busy I was with the girls’ recital, I was GOING to make this cake.  (Yes, I realize that it is still a “plain” chocolate cake with buttercream but its like pulling teeth to get my family to go outside of the box with the flavors they use in their cakes so I was way gung ho.)

Berry Special Vanilla Berries

I made sure that the one night that I didn’t have to be at the recital with my girls, I was going to be making this cake.  I baked the cake that day, did hair, dropped them off, came home to make the filling and frosting, put the cake together, and with the crumb coat on made it back to pick up my girls in plenty of time.  (It’s a long recital.)  The next day was more of the same but this time the cake had to be finished, dropped off, and all kids dressed and ready to go by early afternoon and I still didn’t know how I was going to decorate it.  Did I mention that it was super hot that week?  Yeah, so after each step in the decorating process I had to put the cake back in the fridge to chill.  It didn’t help matters that I was SUPER paranoid that the filling was going to spill out at any moment.  It’s not because I didn’t have any faith in my recipe or my cake its just that sort of thing tends to happen when you absolutely have NO TIME for that sort of thing to happen.  Thankfully, even with the horrid heat in the car, with the air conditioning that wouldn’t cool completely because we were stuck in traffic but still stayed squarely on the cake during the drive (my poor babies) my cake stayed intact and it was delivered to my sister’s to be delivered to the party, on time.

The verdict was a big thumbs up.  And although no one took pictures of a slice (I have a blog to run here people,  you could help me out),  I was assured the filling stayed put as it should and didn’t spill out. It’s just one of those deep seeded fears whenever I am trying a new filling.

Berry Special Raspberry Filling via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

My GeekyLinks for this week are PLENTY so we’ll start now. Frakker Lacquer is now processing orders so I went and bought three bottles yesterday. I’m gonna have to buy more because how can I live my life without Little Green Man and Protocol Droid?  For any panels you may have wanted to see at Comic Con a really great resource is GeekNation.  However, its also worth checking out the Nerd Machine for some panels because I preferred the Orphan Black panel (skip ahead 10 minutes) from Nerd HQ rather than the official Comic Con one. (Yeah, I said it.) I know Clint and Darrell from Golden Spiral Media (my beloved Fringe podcast guys) were there and have a ton of coverage debuting this week and I am looking forward to it.  So far my favorite trailers coming out of the con are Catching Fire, Gravity, and Veronica Mars.  Have fun checking some of this stuff out!

Berry Special Cake with Raspberry Filling via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

Vanilla Berries

Ingredients

2 16oz containers of strawberries, washed and halved

1 6oz container of blueberries, washed

1 6oz container of raspberries, washed

1 6oz container of blackberries, washed

1/3 cup water

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1/2 vanilla bean (you can use vanilla extract but I don’t recommend it)

Method

In a small saucepan, mix the water and sugar together and stir over medium heat until dissolved. Stir in the vanilla bean paste and let the mixture cool to room temperature.
To use the 1/2 vanilla bean, slice it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.  Put the seeds and pod into the sugar and water. Once your sugar is dissolved and the mixture is cooled, remove the pod.
To use vanilla extract, make your simple syrup with the sugar and water and wait till the mixture is at room temperature before stirring in the extract. (Using this method you can sometimes smell the alcohol in the vanilla, not appetizing I know but it’ll do in a pinch.)

Mix all of the berries in a large bowl and when your vanilla syrup is cool to room temperature, pour all over your berries.  I tend to not use all of the syrup (I use about 90%) but I always make this amount “just in case”.  Stir carefully, cover and chill until ready to serve.  When berries are on sale and in season, it makes a great dish to bring to a party.

Raspberry Cake Filling

Ingredients

1 6oz container of raspberries, washed

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons water

Method

Make your filling by combining raspberries, sugar, water, cinnamon and cornstarch in a small saucepan.  Cook on low heat for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickend and the berries are a bit soft.  They are all going to break apart.  Set aside to cool.  If you would like more raspberry pieces, just do what I did and quarter a few and fold them into the mixture after it is completely cool.

I kept the seeds in my filling but I imagine if you did not want them you could press the mixture through a fine metal sieve.

Use to fill any cake or cupcake (or doughnut?) with raspberry goodness.

Sundays with Joy/Texas Sheet Cake

Texas Sheet Cake via NerdyBakerGrrr, I can’t bring myself to write this post.  It’s not the sheet cake, don’t worry.  It’s just that after two very hectic weeks, I am in the middle of what I consider only our second week of summer vacation and I am just trying to hang on to it.  Sure, camping was vacation but anything you have to prep and clean that much for takes some of the fun out of it.  I’ve been having fun these last two weeks alternately doing nothing and then deep cleaning corners of my house that have desperately been needing it.  I also decided three weeks ago that the most fun and rewarding thing for me to do over the summer (besides catch up on some sewing, which has been going well but there is still more) is to reorganize my craft closet.  I spent way too much time looking for stuff in there over recital and it is hampering my ability to catch up on projects.  I think that putting some blog props away in there would be a good idea too.  The two shelves that the stuff currently occupies is getting awfully cramped.

Texas Sheet Cake pouring

Pouring…

I also now realize what a crippling thing procrastination is.  I will put off lots of other things if I have a more pressing deadline.  But if I push back on a deadline it’s hard for me at that point to reprioritize and move on from there.  It just makes me push everything back and nothing gets done.   Procrastination was fine for papers in high school and even college but running a household?  Not so much.  And even though this is my blog and I’ve been “late” before, being two weeks behind for Sundays with Joy was just not something I wanted to do.  So I had to get it done.  Plus, we have ice cream coming up this week!  I bought a small ice cream maker for this summer so even though I may have to churn in batches at least I won’t be hand cranking a child’s toy like last year.

So in an effort to look forward, here is my cake from last week.  Can you believe I’d never made a Texas Sheet Cake before?  What the heck was I waiting for?  Super easy to whip up.  If you have just one hour’s notice before company comes you can have a from scratch cake baked, frosted, and cooling for them when they arrive.  It is no diet cake mind you.  There are reasons it is such a crowd pleaser.  My only issue was that the sheet pan I used was crooked and I didn’t realize it till after the cake was baked.  I had some very thin pieces but most of it was perfect.  If you’d like the recipe please buy Joy the Baker Cookbook: 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.

See?  Crooked.

See? Crooked.

My Geekylink for this week is aliens!  Well, no, not really but anytime anything like this happens I get all goosebumpy.  Also, if you have any alphabet learners out there, you might wanna check out my latest iGameMom review that posted just the other day.  Also, my friend Alyssa has embarked on the most awesome business adventure.  So if you are into some of the stuff that I talk about in this section and you like nail polish, I’d advise you to check out Frakker Lacquer!

TexasSheetCake via NerdyBaker

Sundays with Joy/Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies - NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

Where does luscious, mouthwatering, chewy, soft cookie perfection begin? Brown butter.

Brown Butter

I’m telling you, you totally wish you could smell this.

The bane of my existence as a baker is that my family’s tastes are just boring.  Sorry but they are (except my daddy, he’ll eat whatever).  Its just chocolate and vanilla over and over and when it comes to my husband the only thing he ever wants me to bake for him is chocolate chip cookies.  Thanks to Joy, I don’t mind so much anymore.  I am even a bit eager and I haven’t heard my husband complain, “Why can’t you just make me chocolate chip cookies?!” since before Christmas.  Ever since the first time I made these chocolate chip cookies for my family, I have only made these chocolate chip cookies for my family.  I can’t even tell you how many batches of these have already been sent to school for functions or just for us as a family to eat.  Split between the five of us that can’t be too many can it?  Some days I’ll send extra for sharing with friends at lunch.  Joy has made me very popular on the playground.

They bake up perfectly.

They bake up perfectly too!

I’m just gonna say it.  This is the last and the best chocolate chip cookie recipe you will ever need.  Thank you to Joy for posting the recipe for Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies this week for you all.  Do it, you will NOT regret it.   Then you could thank Joy for this magnificent recipe by buying her wonderful book.

My Geekylink this week is Geocaching.  I had read about it years ago and wanted to try it but never looked into it.  About a year ago I finally looked into it but without a GPS or a smartphone, I realized I really couldn’t do it.  My brother in law picked it up around that time but I hadn’t heard too much about his and my nephew’s adventures looking for caches.  So the other day, before our camping trip (armed now with a smartphone), I thought that might be great time to download the app and get started.  We only did it for one of the days we were on vacation but I hadn’t had more fun with my nephews or my daughters since well, ever.  It was like we all were all treasure hunters for a day.  For one I had to put my 10 year old daughter on my shoulders and give her a stick to reach it (and put it back) and we wouldn’t have found half of them if not for my nephews.  Since they had done it with their dad, they knew all the good places to look.  I was sunburnt and sore once we were done but it was totally worth it.

P1080349

Sundays with Joy/Peanut Butter and Jam Milkshake

PeanutButterJamMilkshake via NerdyBaker.wordpress

I know, I know a week or so late.  But hello?  Does anyone remember that I just got finished with a big themed birthday party?  Plus, I posted twice last week.  When was the last time that happened?  So yeah, even though last week’s Sundays with Joy was a very simple milkshake I really didn’t have the time to get it done.  That being said, this week’s recipe coming up is done.  Been done.  Many times over.  It will be made over and over again.  But you’ll have to wait for that.

This will also be made over and over again.  You look at this and think, “Ugh milkshake, so much mess.  It is two flavors!  It’s gonna take too long.”  Well, you’d be totally wrong.  This took a maximum of 10 minutes and I didn’t use my blender at all.  Joy tells you to but I have an aversion to mine so I just used my wand immersion blender and finished this recipe lickety split.  That is the best part.  It seems like an extra special treat that is super fun and requires special effort.  It IS an extra special treat but doesn’t require much more effort than a plain vanilla or chocolate milkshake (I also use my immersion blender for those).  If you have a peanut butter and jelly connoisseur, which if you have a husband and a few kids you probably have one or two, you’ll have a very happy milkshake drinker.

PeanutButterJamMilkshake3 via NerdyBaker.wordpress

I went with peanut butter and the raspberry jam (as Joy instructs) which I really enjoyed as opposed to strawberry because it seems like strawberry might be overpowered by the peanut butter.  The raspberry, which I am just OK with in a PB&J, was spot on in the milkshake.  Not too overpowering but you got the flavor.  It was almost perfect.  My only issue was the amount of milk in the peanut butter part.  Next time I’ll use just a smidge less.  Yum.  If you’d like to try it please buy Joy’s Cookbook 100 Simple and Comforting Recipes.  You won’t regret it.

You know what?  I am in a GeekyLink funk.  All my good shows (The Nerdist, Orphan Black, Doctor Who) have ended their respective seasons and even the crappy shows too (I’ll never tell).  I’m down to Netflix marathons of Doctor Who and Fringe.  Maybe I can do some catching up of Classic Doctor Who!  I guess it’s just as well, with summer almost upon us and all my kids home.  It’s time for family stuff like camping and movies and parks.  I do want to try geocaching with the kids this summer, though.  We’ll see how that goes.

How come condensation just makes some things look so much better?

How come condensation just makes some things look so much better?

Podcasts, I Am Addicted

Podcasts via NerdyBaker.wordpress.comMy “life” outside of baking stuff, blogging stuff, and kid stuff mostly comprises of me cleaning/organizing the stuff of five people. When I can find time to do it, and can really get focused and do it well, I am listening to podcasts at the same time. I am addicted.

It started with  Joy the Baker Podcast.

And quickly spread to Kevin Smith, which means most of the SModcast Network. I subscribe to Smodcast, Hollywood Babylon, Last Week on Earth with Ben Gleib, Plus One, Smorning Show, Smoviemakers, and FEaB (also from Nerdist). If I have extra time, I’ll listen to a Jay & Silent Bob Get Old. There are way more…

The frickin Nerdist and that whole thing. “That whole thing” being that whole YouTube channel & Chris Hardwick empire but I just subscribe to the Nerdist podcast and You Made It Weird With Pete Holmes from them.

My beloved and so ENTIRELY missed The Fringe Podcast. There was a Fringe Marathon a couple weekends ago and I was SO tempted to go back and revisit some episodes. That day will come soon enough.  Thankfully the dynamic duo of Clint and Darrell will be back soon with an Almost Human podcast.  The show is untested but I will watch and listen because the Golden Spiral Media community is THE BEST!

Doug Loves Movies can make me laugh at loud…or get really annoyed at Pete Holmes who is way more calm on his own podcast and it helps me keep my movie trivia skills sharp.  

The guys at Bald Move. Then they got their network. For me, it began with Breaking Good, the Mad Men Happy Hour Podcast, Watching Dead, the now defunct Justified podcast that ended up becoming the TV Podcast which kinda just ended up a Justified podcast (long story). Then they got some affiliates and I am currently obsessed with Up Yours Downstairs, a Downton Abbey podcast currently covering Mr. Selfridge during the break, and The Because Show, just some awesome, honest, NSFW ladies from So Cal.  

IMG_2884For my Doctor Who fix, I like to listen to Traveling the Vortex.   I had to find a new one because I realized I hated the one I was listening to so I began listening to Keith, Glenn and Shaun. I like them because the vibe of the hosts and listeners reminds me of the Fringe Podcast community. I listen to new episodes dealing with the current series first and am slowly going back and listening to them all in order.

Filmspotting for movies I can’t get to yet. SVU (Streaming Video Unit) for things I can.  Also, don’t tell my friend Jennifer but these two podcasts are what help me continue to beat her picks during our Oscar party without me seeing all of the movies.  SHH!

Some others I’ve had to unsubscribe to (or I would go crazy trying to catch up) but have gone back for specific guests and what not. Some I have listened to only once or twice maybe for a crossover episode or something. Yes people, crossover episodes!

I have learned to skip when I get too far behind but a big baking or chore weekend helps me get caught up. I am also at that point where if I add another, one has to go.

I DO love them though. Absorbing information/entertainment while doing repetitive mindless tasks means I can totally do two things at once!  Kinda.

Hunger Games Party

I saw an invitation online and I just made my own version of it using some clip art and a Hunger Games font.

It begins with an invitation…
I made my own version of an invitation I saw online using some clip art and a Hunger Games font.

There are birthday parties and there are birthday parties.  I tend to go over board with each but if I have a theme and I want to incorporate food into that theme well, watch out, momma is going to be out of commission for awhile because she is going to be crafting and baking up a storm for a few weeks.  And so it was with my oldest and her Hunger Games themed 10th birthday (and promotion, since her birthday fell so close to the end of her school year and now she’ll be off to middle school).  Also, this party was going to be big because we would be including friends as well as family.

As per usual, it all begins with a Pinterest board.  This allows me to have a place to compile overall party ideas, decoration ideas, game ideas, food ideas.  Then I have to decide between what I want to pull off as opposed to what I can pull off.  Lists help me accomplish all of this, crossing off and adding and crossing off and adding some more till I get a halfway concise idea of what is going to happen for the party.

The most effective yet simplest craft EVER!

The most effective yet simplest craft EVER!

So it began that I decided to make the food for the party so as to have it more in the spirit of the book.  I figured that I would find some crock pot friendly recipes suited to my needs.  I also knew that I would be making TONS of bread so I needed recipes that I could freeze well either before or after baking.  I found two great ones!  One I adapted a few different ways to make “different” loaves (white whole wheat, white, mixed flours and one with wheat bran sprinkled on top).  I’ll post it soon.  I make it often but I wanted to get it down and messing with all these variations helped me with that.  The other I follow just as directed because it is spectacular and may be a new candidate for Justin’s Sandwich Rolls!  I also made these because it came with three variations on the same dough and the dough kept for four days in the refrigerator.  I wanted lots of different ones because bread (including various breads from all the districts) features prominently in the book.  The make ahead dough and breads really made the whole thing I was going for possible.  I served the sliced french bread with goat cheese mixed with basil, goat cheese with sliced apples, and butter for my appetizers.  I also put out the different refrigerator rolls.

HungerGamesPartyFor dinner, we had shredded beef with rolls and Beef Stew over brown rice or homemade mashed potatoes.  We had “Berry Mush” (vanilla berries, recipe soon!) and a green salad as well.  Most of the ideas for the food I got from Fictional Food.  Some I wanted to make like the goat cheese and apple tarts but I didn’t have time and others I wanted to put out like the hot chocolate and bread for dipping (seriously some Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce is PERFECT for that, right?) but it was a very hot day.  I did make some Mellark’s Bakery Cookies but added some spice to them because in my mind the overall ingredients in District 12 would be subpar but a little bit of spice would hide it.  I would have included the recipe in this post but of course I forgot to take pictures of them.  I changed the whole wheat flour to 2 cups and the all purpose to 1 1/2 cups.  Then I added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and 3/4 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice (mostly just because I couldn’t find my nutmeg, otherwise I’d have blended a mix of my own).  I really liked them.  They came out like a lightly spiced version of a spice cookie.

Now, the cake.  My daughter was VERY specific about the cake she wanted.  I never really knew she was a fan of my whipped cream frosted cakes but recently we had one with banana in the filling as opposed to strawberries.  I guess she liked it because, even knowing her theme and realizing that her poor momma would have to try and “tie it in” to everything she picked a whipped cream cake with strawberries and bananas in the filling.  So what I came up with was to try and use banana and strawberry garnish to evoke fire or flames in some sort of way to tie it all together.  I even added a few buttercream “flames” that I used on the cupcakes I made.  Those were inspired by Erica’s Sweet Tooth Hunger Games cupcakes.

HungerGamesCakeOnto the games, well we didn’t exactly have a reaping.  It was more of a raffle with their name entered once for being there and once for every game played.  I hung a small hula hoop that they tried to throw foam “spears” into and later slingshot some water smoosh balls into.  We also did a water balloon toss since it was so hot.  The games I sort of winged it on because I was mainly focused on the food.  I just bought a bunch of stuff I thought I’d be able to use and it worked out pretty well.  The winner of the “reaping” won two prizes that were left over and one of two bow and arrow sets.  The next winner was my daughter who won the other set.  I had also bought six silly string cans and gave three to the runners up of the other games and then picked three more names for the other silly string cans.  The kids liked those parts the best I think, when we let them loose with the silly string and the rest of the water balloons.

HungerGamesPinata

My uncle picks up our pinatas for parties and I might have mentioned that if he found a mockingjay pinata that he’d be “the best uncle ever” so he and my aunt customized this one for us.
Pic courtesy of my dad.

One site suggested a Capitol Makeup table.  I went one step further and set up Capitol Fashions.  I used every useable (and takeable) piece of dressup paraphenalia that we had and also bought a few more masks, funky glassses, some mustaches, hats and new dollar store makeup and let the kids go to town.  Another site had a Sponsor Gift table idea that I liked as a favor table and I just put out simple cheap stuff that might be usable in the games like band-aids, tissue, braid-holders, trail mix, compass rings, and some homemade bookmarks along with the Mellark bakery cookies.  Both tables were near each other and that was helpful since I wanted our guests to take home gifts from both.

HungerGamesTables

Our Sponsor Gift table and Capitol Fashions table. Pics courtesy of my dad.

As for GeekyLinks, I am all linked out.  I’ve spent two weeks in a Hunger Games birthday party haze and I need a rest.  However, if you have any questions about anything I made for the party that I didn’t directly link to, please ask.  Most of it should be on the Pinterest board though.

 

 

Sundays with Joy/Grapefruit Soufflé Pudding

Grapefruit Souffle Pudding via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

I didn’t get to this Sundays with Joy till Monday.  We went to a wedding on Friday night, hung out with family on Saturday, and generally had a lazy day on Sunday because well, I totally believe in lazy days.  But first thing after I dropped off my son at school Monday morning, I went to work on this.

Grapefruit Souffle Pudding via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

I don’t know why I’m surprised.  Every time I think Joy may have gone over the edge (see Orange Gingerbread Squares) she gives me the most pleasant surprises.  I really wasn’t looking forward to this recipe.  It just didn’t appeal to me and I couldn’t imagine what its texture would be or at all what it would taste like.  I just went and set about making it.  Don’t let the name fool you, overall it was pretty simple.  My favorite part though was making the grapefruit sugar that goes into this batter.  It just smells fantastic and you find yourself mixing in the zest with your nose in the bowl.  Inhale.

Grapefruit Sugar

First of all, Joy says this is fancy and she’s right.  Although, she pictures a lamb dinner and I am moving more towards a dessert for a fancy tea.  Then, she says you can enjoy it warm or cold.  Here again, I think she is smoking something.  I am already unsure about this “soufflé pudding” anyway, why would I want to try it warm?  I do, however, tend to listen to Joy when she tells me to try something even if I don’t wanna.  Of course, she was totally right.  I would actually recommend eating this warm.  It’s by no means bad when cold but it’s just heaven warm.  It is warm, sunny, light, sweet…perfect.  I can’t describe it any better.  It is important to note that it is best the day it is made and that is the only bummer here.  So just make sure you have people to share it with when you make it.

Grapefruit Souffle Pudding2 via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

This week, Ellen over at Indigo Scones is hosting our link up.  Check it out if you are curious as to what the others in our group have tried.  I know a few have mixed in some other flavors.  Don’t forget, if you’d like the recipe please buy the Joy the Baker Cookbook.

My GeekyLink for today is Star Trek: The Middle School Musical.  It is short, funny,  sweet and filled the Star Trek void a bit as I have yet to see Star Trek Into Darkness.

Grapefruit Souffle Pudding1 via NerdyBaker.wordpress.com

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