Friday, August 26, 2011

Can anything really be this good?

I grew up with Red Velvet Cake. It was THE birthday cake in our house. From Scratch. There was no such thing as boxed Red Velvet Cake when I was young. The recipe calls for two bottles of red food coloring - how decadent can you get? The cake actually plays with your head and your taste buds, because even though the cake is made with cocoa, your brain can't really wrap itself around the notion that the flavor of chocolate is coming from something so completely red.

Another lovely thing about scratch red velvet cake is the buttermilk. Hands down, there is no better cake of any kind than one that has buttermilk in the ingredients. The version in a box just misses the mark here - you don't get that yummy buttermilk smoothness and bit of tang out of the box. I really believe it's the key ingredient in a true red velvet cake. Well, except for the frosting, and I will go to my grave defending authentic Red Velvet Cake Frosting, and it IS NOT made with cream cheese.

Don't misunderstand me, I L-O-V-E cream cheese frosting - on cinnamon rolls and carrot cake, but it does not belong on red velvet cake. True southern recipes call for a delicious, slippery, subtle white frosting that must be cooked first, then beaten to the end of oblivion. That is what I'm talkin' about! I really find it almost impossible to enjoy a piece of red velvet if it has any other frosting.

There is one exception, however. That cake up there in the picture? That cake is frosted with whipped cream - and that's ok - because it is a "strawberry shortcake red velvet cake" and that is different. You put whipped cream on strawberry shortcake, so I'm in complete agreement that it goes perfectly with that breathtakingly gorgeous creation. I really want a piece of that cake. How do you even slice that cake? How would you get it to the plate in one piece? It really wouldn't matter, I'd eat that cake in whatever condition it was set in front of me. And I know I would love it, whipped cream and all.

Red Velvet Cake 
 (no, not like the one in the picture - you have to click here to get that recipe!)


For the Cake:
2 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
2 ounces Red Food Coloring
1 cup Buttermilk
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ cup Shortening
1 ½ cups White Sugar
2 Eggs
2 ½ cups All-Purpose Floursifted
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp White Vinegar
For the Frosting:
1 cup Milk
5 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 cup White Sugar
1 cup Butter
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1. Grease two 9 inch round pans. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring. Set aside.

2. Combine the buttermilk, salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening and 1 ½ cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the cocoa mixture. Beat in the buttermilk mixture alternately with the flour, mixing just until incorporated. Stir together baking soda and vinegar, then gently fold into the cake batter.

3. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

4. To Make Icing: In a saucepan, combine the milk and 5 tablespoons flour. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool completely. Cream together butter, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until light and fluffy, then stir in the cooled milk and flour mixture, beating until icing reaches spreading consistency.

****If you want to get really fancy, slice each cake layer horizontally to create 4 layers, and put frosting on the top and between the layers only - not on the sides. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Source: via Amy on Pinterest

I need this for my dog!! Whenever I'm in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes Sully is under my feet. We have a small rug in front of the sink and he thinks it's a dog bed we put there just for him. I am constantly telling him to get up and move, which he does, for a few seconds, and then he's back again on the rug. I don't really have room in my kitchen for an island, we have the peninsula shape thing going on in there, but with a little tweaking and losing a whole lot of storage space, maybe I could convert the peninsula and convince him to get comfortable in a space like this, instead of under my feet!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Calm Waters

The weather is (finally) perfect so a friend and I headed out to my favorite local paddling place - Cherokee Marsh - for a lovely morning of kayaking. Spectacular.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It's been a pretty exciting week

Etsy has made some major changes this week that have truly polarized their members.

For all the details, see this post by the etsy admin staff

I happen to be in the "thrilled with the changes" group, but based on the pages of enraged comments I've been reading in the forums section, I don't believe I'm in the majority. The new changes are a benefit to me because now I have a much better chance of people finding my store and my items.

And they already have.

Case in Point - I have been on etsy for a couple years and have never had any item from my shop be included in a treasury (a compilation of twelve to sixteen items created by another etsy member for the sole purpose of making a nice looking collection of etsy items.) There is absolutely no guarantee that inclusion in a treasury will lead to a sale, but it is great shop exposure to the etsy public, especially if the treasury lands on the elusive FRONT PAGE.

When the new changes were announced, I immediately went to work rewriting my product names and descriptions and re-working my product "tags" according to the instructions and advice given to me. And suddenly, within three days, I've had items included in three treasuries, I've sold one wallet and the visits to my shop have increased dramatically. Yeee-Haaaaaw!!!!

I don't want to get ahead of myself here, but this could be the start of something really great for me and Sunshine Handbags! I'm so excited!!!

Treasury #1

Treasury #2

Treasury #3

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm in the mood for School! And Apples!

Evan should bring this apple to his teacher on the first day of school, but since he has a 2 out of 3 chance of having a male teacher this year, the odds are pretty good that we're not going to be gifting this bag when September rolls around. I've been holding on to this fabric for at least a year, looking for the perfect mates, since it didn't come with any coordinating prints that I liked. I finally ordered the green leaf print last month and the red/black dot pattern jumped off the wall into my hands at my favorite local quilt store. I'm so happy with the results!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

It Must be a Cold Day in Hell

To paraphrase Andi's comment when she discovered that I had done the unthinkable - I've become a member of Facebook.

Almost everyone I know, including my own parents, have a Facebook page. I have managed to be very happy while not being on Facebook. I will admit that I have occasionally felt left out of a conversation because I didn't see what "they" posted on their page last night. But mostly I've been happy to not know every minute detail of peoples lives.

I also consider myself a fairly private person. I really don't want a bunch of people to know what's going on in my life every day. I am especially not fond of the idea of re-connecting with certain people from my past - you know who you are. I know, I know, I can protect myself from all of that by ignoring their request to be my "friend". But maybe that's the crux of this whole thing - I really dislike the idea of having to ask someone if I can be their friend. It seems so elementary school-yard to me. It also doesn't feel right to deny someone who wants to "friend" me...even if I don't really want to be their friend. What if I bump into them some day and they say, "hey, I wanted to be your friend and you said no, what's up with that?" Awkward!!

Enough of the reasons why I don't want to be on Facebook, real or imagined.

Why did I finally cave in? Mostly because I'm looking for more ways to draw people into my Etsy shop. That's probably not the best reason, but it's the real reason. I make a truly beautiful handbag and I want the whole world to own one. The problem is, I am struggling to get people to find Sunshine Handbags. I need to live in a bigger circle in order to market myself to a larger audience, and Facebook could possibly do that for me.

There is also a little part of me that is intrigued by the idea of finding a few of the people from my past, just to see what they've made of their lives, make sure they're happy and healthy. Maybe I'll have the courage one day to track them down. Maybe they'll find me first.

Also, Aaron is going to want his own Facebook page, and I have to do the mom thing and eavesdrop on his life and make sure he is making good choices and his friends aren't punks.

So, I guess I'm jumping feet first into the land of TMI. I really don't want to know that my little sister might be partying a bit too much or that a family had a really successful restroom stop while on vacation, but I guess this all goes with the territory. If you want to be my friend, I'll say yes, and I promise not to bore you with the mundane parts of my life.