And when life gives you lavender, make lavender lemonade and lavender lemon dumplings! That’s what I did a few days ago, at least, and I am so stoked on both creations.
In a medium pot bring to a gentle boil 2 quarts of lightly salted water.
Prepare the lavender butter:
In the mean time in a frying pan or small sauce pan, on a medium heat, melt ghee with lavender sugar, dried lavender and lemon rind. Cook for few minutes, being carful not to brown the mixture.
Arrange cooked dumplings on a serving platter or divide into small bowls. Top with lavender butter, garnish with lemon zest and some fresh lavender petals, serve immediately.
It seems as though it was just yesterday when I was talking about my first cake decorating class! And now it’s over. Time flies by, I tell you. Although it definitely put a little more on my plate and stressed me thinner than I’d like, it was worth the time and effort. It was pretty much a now or never opportunity and turned into being such an inspiring and creative outlet, something I’ve felt has been lacking in my life lately. It was so inspiring that I even decided to treat myself to a mini shopping spree on SugarCraft.com. Oh me oh my. I haven’t received the goods yet, but I’m looking forward to making gum paste dogwood flowers and butterflies, sparkling things up with some silver moon dust, and taking another stab at fondant (pre-made, all ready to go, mind you… not really a fan of the do-it-yourself kind quite yet--click for examples of the owl turning into a kitty cat cake–I don’t think I’ll have to explain why). This cake decorating business is sure an expensive hobby! But whatever, who cares. Do what you love and do what makes you happy, right?
Anyway, for the final I had to design a cake and decorate it in class. This wasn’t easy, let me tell you. A lot of thought went into this as far as cake flavor, filling, frosting, color, and design. But I’ve had this book for quite some time and typically about once a month I flip through it and drool over her gorgeous and chic cake designs. Her style is right up my alley. I’ve wanted to make a cake similar to the tiered blue buttercream with branches and a nest with bird eggs for quite a while, and this was my opportunity to take a stab at it! The cake baking portion was done at home, and for that I decided to go with my favorite go-to vegan cupcake recipe--Vegan Pistachio Rosewater Cardamom cake. Except I didn’t go with the soy yogurt, so it wasn’t technically vegan but still amazingly delicious! And I cut out the pistachios to cut down on the cost. I doubled the cupcake recipe to fill two 8 inch cakes and it worked perfectly. So I baked the cake and made the icing at home, as well as the nest and eggs, and put it all together in less than 2 hours in class.
As for the icing, I think I’ve found my new favorite. I used Sarah Magid’s vanilla whipped buttercream recipe and I am proud to say that was my first time making a non-vegan frosting with REAL BUTTER! Quite a huge difference compared to the super sugary vegan buttercream with 4 cups of powdered sugar and shortening in the whole deal I’ve become accustomed to making. Folks, I have found my new love, and it is butter. If I could have an endless supply of organic, non-salted creamy and delicious butter, I would be a pretty happy baking (and Ayurvedic ghee-making) girl. Yes, I do love vegan baking, but my goodness. I have finally opened my heart to the second half of the baking world and I am no longer afraid. Frosting a cake with this super light, creamy, silky, smooth buttercream was a dream come true. It is no longer a daunting task as it smoothes out really well and doesn’t clump or dry out a bunch like the classic “americana” icing. I’m stoked on it. It is a little bit of a process (doesn’t take more than 30 minutes or so, though) as you have to make a “roux” in a small saucepan, whisking some whole milk, flour, and vanilla together to make a thick sauce, which you later add to the whipped butter and sugar once it has cooled down. It’s definitely worth it though. I’d say the only “con” to using this kind of frosting in comparison to the vegan buttercream is that this is perishable and can’t be left out on the counter too long. Not exactly ideal for warm summer days. And luckily, last Thursday didn’t get much hotter than it already was otherwise we all would’ve had a soupy buttercream mess in all places. When serving this at an event or a wedding, for example, one must keep it refrigerated until about 10-15 minutes one is ready to serve so the buttercream softens up a little.
So either I’ve come to learn the proper way to frost a cake these past 8 weeks, or this frosting just did all the work for me, I’ll never know, but I have to say I’ve come a long way when I venture back to look at some pictures of my self-taught vegan cake making days.
Not bad. But not all that great, either. Haha.
I’m proud to now know how to smoothly frost a cake, and I believe that’s very important as it’s the background to whatever you want to showcase. So to go along on that note, I present to you…
… the nest cake.
To be honest, I love it. I was, and am, very satisfied with the results. I made my own chocolate nest out of modeling chocolate a few days ahead of time, dyed some marzipan and created some eggs, dusted them in gold dust (not obviously visible), spread a thin layer of my homemade rose petal jam in between the layers, and made the cake and frosting from scratch. Mixing colors to get it to the right blue I was looking for was a bit daunting, as I didn’t want to accidently turn half of the batch of buttercream into the color of poo two hours before the final. But, as I’ve learned, and as one of the many cake decorating lessons I’ve learned, you have to take chances and just go for it anyway. You learn from your mistakes. And practice only makes you better. You have to start somewhere.
(note the awesome new apron of a girl sitting in meditation position with her hands in namaste position, a bird perched on her shoulder, with the saying “my heart is full of peace even though my kitchen may have a little grease” on one side, and “within me are the riches I seek…” on the other… thanks to my stepmom! I love it!)
And, as usual, it had to pass Lily’s inspection. She gave it a go.
This was a great way to end the semester. The icing on the cake, literally. And I scored an A! So that means the semester is finally over! Thank goodness. It still hasn’t really hit yet. Although life will get a bit lighter, I’ll just be working more and prepping for my dental hygiene prep course, aka. a small summer school course. I’m super excited about the program, although I can’t say 100% that I am in yet. Being the 2nd alternate, I’m left sitting on the fence with plan A and plan B on either side, and I have to be prepared and act as though I am going into the program. It’s nerve wracking and exciting at the same time, a mixed bag of emotions. All I can do is take it day by day, do what I have to do, and pray to god that it will all work out how it’s supposed to (and that at least 2 people drop off between now and August 30th!).
I’m looking forward to another great summer. Especially if I will have to buckle down for two years and put my nose to the grindstone, I will try to do as much as I possibly can to maximize my freedom. Starting to concoct plans, dreaming up ideas, filling up my calendar. I already have a feeling I won’t be getting much sleep in on my 21st summer. Watch out.