Holidays with the Cats

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All photos taken by Zoe Bell, my sister, not the famed stunt woman.

Ahh the holidays.  A time for me to be a complete and total scrooge and say humbug quite frequently.  I also get to bake a lot which is nice but stressful.

My mother and I stayed up until past midnight one night baking cookies.  The next day I spent 40 minutes over a hot stove, grilling brussel sprouts to perfection.

But the pièce de résistance came on new years eve, when I decided to make two fancy, multilayered cakes.  One was a coconut layer cake (my favorite and almost no one else’s), while the other was a white chocolate cake with a lemon curd filling and a grand marnier buttercream.

The coconut layer cake came together more quickly and easily than I could have imagined.  It didn’t hurt that my sponge cake was absolutely perfect and my father started crooning “beautiful spongecake..” at it as soon as he saw it.

It really is perfect.

It really is perfect.

The other cake?

That was a chore.

I had to make the white chocolate cake day of because I knew it would be best that day.  I also needed to make a lemon curd and a buttercream frosting.  And I wanted the cake to be pretty, always challenging for me.

The most difficult bit was the frosting.  With a heart attack inducing full pound of butter, it was bound to be delicious, if only I could make it right.

It is one of those frostings that involves things like whipped egg whites and a sugar syrup cooked to the hard ball stage.  And adding in 32 tablespoons of butter one tablespoon at a time with absolutely no guaranty that the frosting wouldn’t turn into a puddled mess of limp egg whites and chunks of butter.

Yuk.

That does not sound appetizing to Bentley.

At one point, near the end of the pound of butter, the frosting looked like it had begun to curdle. My Cake Bible told me what to do.  Turn up the speed and wait for it to get back to normal.  I did.  And I waited.  For awhile.  I’m amazed my Kitchenaid didn’t start smoking.

Tears were welling up somewhere deep inside me as I realized that a pound of beautiful butter and a tiny burn mark from where some very hot sugar had leapt onto my wrist had all been for naught.  But as I glanced back at my frosting, I saw it change, almost immediately, from this lumpy watery mess into a perfect, smooth, and beautiful airy frosting.  I added the rest of the butter in slowly, terrified something might happen to destroy my masterpiece.  I was lucky.  It was fine.  I added in my grand marnier, and until it was fully mixed in, I held my breath.  But it worked.  And it tasted like the purest, butteriest frosting you’ve ever had.  It was thick and structured but at the same melted on your tongue, disappearing in an instant in a stream of lightness and richness that didn’t make you feel as if you were eating something that could stop your heart.

It is so perfect and fluffy.

It is so perfect and fluffy.

Basically, I made a perfect cake.  And everyone loved it.  I put raspberries on top to contrast the pure white buttercream.  The cake stayed relatively moist.  And it was just so pretty.

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Recipe?  No.  That would take days to type out.  But I will thank my beautiful Cake Bible for the cake and buttercream recipes, while David Lebovitz gave me the lemon curd and the coconut cake ones.

The cats were completely useless in helping make the cakes.  I bought them scratch lounges for Christmas and they have yet to leave them unless forced.

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My mother’s cat, Darwin, also makes an appearance as he hung out downstairs during most of our New Years Festivities.  He’s a feisty beast who enjoys climbing and nibbling human toes.

He sits with the lion because he is a miniature lion.

He sits with the lion because he is a miniature lion.

Everyone enjoy the New Year!  I, for one, am most looking forward the return of Pretty Little Liars and the Golden Globes.  I’m sure I’ll make more fun food to celebrate them as well.  And tell you all about it of course.

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