Recently, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring to a Lunar New Year party. More specifically, I was trying to figure out what dessert to bring that was not red bean cream puffs, because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of making the craquelin topping and I still needed something bite-sized and tasty. I was going through my old recipes when I came across my post about honey-cornflake crunchies and it occurred to me that they might make a neat base for a different kind of dessert combining honey with some other flavor components.
I decided to flavor my filling with cardamom, since it’s often paired with honey. I’d originally planned to make a simple stabilized whipped cream filling, but concluded that it would be too light in comparison to the crunchy base and opted instead to give it a richer mouthfeel by combining two concepts– stabilized whipped cream and cooked-flour frosting. Both involve beating a thickened pudding-like mixture into the dairy– it’s just that the frosting uses butter instead of liquid cream. My experimental recipe worked beautifully, and I’ll definitely be using it in the future.
Of course, once I’d settled on cream-filled tartlets, I felt that they needed something more, for texture, and flavor. After a false start (persimmons apparently just went out of season, boo!) I settled on pears and pistachios, both classic pairings with cardamom.
So recently I had the opportunity to spend the weekend at a historic home (now an inn) in Vermont for a Sense and Sensibility-themed event. I’ll be honest, as an event it left something to be desired– there were very few activities and the scheduled sleigh ride was cancelled due to weather– but I did enjoy getting to dress up with all of my gowns and accessories and take photos with some more period-looking furniture than I can find here at home!
Here’s me channeling Mary Bennet while wearing the very first Regency gown I ever made, plus the new day cap.
Here are the velvet capote and fur-trimmed wrap in action!
Here’s the red pashmina dress with the ruffled chemisette:
And just for fun, I finally got photos of my 1882 tea gown in action! (I couldn’t resist putting a painting filter over one of them, though it’s not obvious at first glance)
I think this one below is my favorite…
Admittedly, there are a lot of pictures of me reading books (this one is an antique edition of The Lady of the Lake and there’s a handwritten inscription on the flyleaf dated 1899), but I needed a prop so I could do something other than smile at the camera!
After making a double batch of white cake for my daughter’s Rainbow Galaxy birthday cake, I had eight egg yolks left over, plus a bunch of zested lemons, a block of cream cheese, and most of a can of sweetened condensed milk left from other party treats. Always loath to waste things, I decided to use the leftovers to make a dessert the following weekend. Fortuitously, the ingredients all worked out reasonably well.
The tough part was the egg yolks– ordinarily I’d consider a creme brulée, but I wanted something more portable and shareable, so I managed to find a sponge cake recipe that calls for all yolks rather than all whites. I was skeptical, but it came out okay. A little dry, I thought, though I don’t believe it was overbaked– I think a little oil or butter would’ve helped it retain more moisture. However, it had a nice flavor, a lovely golden color due to all the yolks, and it split easily after cooling to make two layers.
To use up the lemons, cream cheese, and sweetened condensed milk, it was easy to find a recipe for lemon icebox pie using those ingredients. I figured that if I made the filling and let it thicken most of the way before spreading it between my cake layers, it would work out. Oddly enough, it stayed pretty loose– more like regular pudding than like a firmer pie filling– but it tasted good. Not very lemony (likely due to the lack of lemon zest) but good. More like a cheesecake with a hint of lemon.
So after baking up the six layers of my galaxy rainbow cake (and seeing how short they were) I was unaccountably struck with the fear that there might not be enough cake for all of the guests. (Spoiler: there was tons of cake left over) I decided to make some extra treats for the party, just in case– cake pops. I hadn’t made them in a while, but a little internet research turned up some new techniques for making them look fantastic, so I thought I’d give them a shot, using an extra box of cake mix and some leftover buttercream, plus candy melts.
Step 1: making perfectly smooth, round balls for dipping.
In the past I’ve crumbled up my cake and mixed it with cream cheese or frosting by hand, just because it was easier. However, the results have been somewhat lumpy, probably because the crumbs weren’t quite fine enough and the mixing was uneven. I think I’ve been trying to avoid making the mixture too gooey from overmixing, but it really wasn’t a problem. Solution: use the stand mixer to completely mix the cake and frosting into a smooth, homogenous dough. Add frosting sparingly to avoid your mixture being too soft.
Once you’ve got the dough set, portion it into balls and hand-roll them to a generally round shape. If you want them to be even more perfectly round, you can do this:
(though 14 seconds is way longer than you need)
When they’re shaped, stick them in the freezer for a few minutes while you prep your candy melts.
So remember the Parry Gripp birthday party? To go with the theme we made themed cookies– Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn.
I used the same cutter for both– a unicorn cutter– and made a few adjustments for the pegasus cookies, cutting off the horn and adding a wedge-shaped piece of dough for a wing. My standard chocolate cutout recipe worked out fine– the slight spreading made the cookies less prone to breakage anyway.
I mixed up a batch of glaze icing to decorate with, separating out a portion to stir in some cocoa and black food coloring to make the dark chocolate glaze for the pegasus cookies. The rest got tinted in small batches to make all of the colors. A single batch of glaze icing was enough to cover 28 cookies with some to spare.
I accented the icing with some edible glitter– also for the space unicorn helmets I mixed some silver luster dust with vodka and painted them for some extra shimmer.
These weren’t perfect replicas, and the piping wasn’t the neatest, but they were at least recognizable and pretty cute!
For my daughter’s seventh birthday she declared that she wanted a Parry Gripp-themed party. Who is Parry Gripp? Try typing it in as a search term on YouTube and go down the rabbit hole of playlists…
The short answer is that he writes weird songs, most of which appear to be aimed at kids, with accompanying bizarre animated music videos. Current favorites in this house include “Neon Pegasus,” “Space Unicorn,” and “Pancake Robot.” There are actually a ton of food-related songs, which we used as inspiration for our party menu, but one thing my kid was adamant about was that she wanted a galaxy-mirror-glazed cake, which would relate to both Neon Pegasus and Space Unicorn. I’m not sure where she even found out about mirror-glazed cakes, but hey, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!
So lately a bunch of my friends have been posting photos of their very first costuming attempts to compare to their current work– I couldn’t help but think of my own first real attempt at a costume, which was prompted by my first outing to the Northern California Renaissance Faire at age 15. I’d gone with my family and was immediately entranced with the whole idea– I knew I wanted to go in costume the following year, so started looking for options.
It started with a satin bridesmaid’s dress that I bought on sale and decided to modify (starting a long tradition of upcycling clothes into costumes that I continue to this day). After consulting books of historical clothing designs and promptly throwing historical accuracy to the wind in favor of something that would look “pretty,” I sketched out a design and conscripted my mother into teaching me how to use her sewing machine so we could make this:
At the time I loved it. Even in retrospect it’s not *that* bad. Sure, the shiny bridal satin is glaring and I still cringe at how, not knowing any better, I mimicked slashed/paned sleeves by literally appliquéing leaf-shaped pieces of the pale blue brocade onto the sleeve puffs, but the brocade was nice, the gold trim was lovely (craft stores just don’t carry trim like that anymore!), and I put a ton of work into hand-stitching 500+ tiny plastic seed pearls onto it for effect. The hat was purchased that day at the faire, but before that I’d made a gold mesh caul for my hair that didn’t look half bad, even by my current standards.
The costume is still hanging in the closet of my old bedroom– I’m fairly sure it no longer fits, but in a few years my daughter may be able to use it to play dress-up!
23 years later, I haven’t made any more attempts at fancy Renaissance wear (the Faires here on the East Coast are mediocre at best), but I’ve done cosplay, fantasy, steampunk, and tons of historical stuff. Here’s an array of everything I can find pictures of so far: