It's been awhile...

So it's been an interesting break.  Hundreds of cakes, pies, macarons, brigaderos, fruitcakes, cookies, and jelly shots later, here we are. 

Naked cakes are getting a lot of attention right now - they're beautiful and inviting - they look more delicious than a fondant or even a frosted cake - and they're really fun to make.

One of my favorites last year was an ombre version, with three different flavors of cake that created a graduated dark-to-light presentation.
Another was one of a trio of cakes - one was hand-painted to look like the bride's grandmother's china, one was rough-frosted buttercream, and one was simply fresh whipped cream and berries in split cakes.

I used olive branches and lavender from my garden to garnish it, and it was a huge hit. 

I will definitely be back to tell you about the last twelve months - lots of adventures - the main one involving these two amazing critters:
and our lives have been forever changed.  TWINS.  And wedding cakes.  The challenges are tremendous and terrific.  I'm happy to introduce you to Henry and William.


Cake Tuesday: heartfelt.

(While I am writing this, seemingly composed and at ease, please note that the cat just dragged in a fairly large snake which is now resting quietly in the guest bedroom under a mixing bowl. Let's pretend that it isn't.)

The season is fast approaching and things are shaping up nicely.  I've been meeting with so many lovely couples, juggling schedules and sketches and dessert ideas - you've seen the jelly shots before, but I just got asked to create a mojito version.  I'm thinking fresh mint from my garden and a rhum agricole blanc from Martinique?  Heaven.

I'll be doing another stack of books shortly, with a super-cute theme, and some sports-themed cakes as well.  Never a dull moment.

We celebrated Easter with some wonderful friends we don't see enough of - they're building a beautiful place in the country, so everyone gathered at the construction site for delicious mimosas and brunch-y food and whiled away the afternoon on the soon-to-be front porch.

And next week I'm disappearing with my mom for a couple of days, wine tasting and spa treatments and decadent meals - probably the last time we'll manage this for quite some time.

Here's a pair of hearts - a simple design but unusual just the same:

Shot through with a sugar arrow. Rich cheesecake, or bittersweet chocolate with an orange zest ganache. How does one ever choose?


Cake Tuesday: panna cotta.

WOW.  It has been a crazy month, starting off badly with the never-ending cold, one of our cats missing for days (but finally turning up), and a horrific tragedy for our small town, but lately improving through lots of time with family and godchildren and good friends.  Hadley turned up locked in a shed behind an unoccupied neighbor's home - she's safe and sound now, no worse for wear:

We got to see our godson with his team win their first little league game of the season, and both godson and goddaughter killing it at swim team practice. Then my younger brother came out with his girlfriend from North Carolina for a long weekend:

The weather was beautiful, so we spent time at the beach before heading to Tahoe to snowboard:

where the snow was a little slushy but the weather was equally incredible.  We had a day at Heavenly and a day at Northstar, where I worked with my goddaughter (an excellent skier) for her first day on a snowboard.  Teaching snowboarding? To a seven year old? Who is regular while you are goofy? Challenging.  I can barely walk, two days later.  But she was a champ, and by the end of the day was actually connecting turns.  She'll be doing jumps next season, I'm convinced.

On the cake front, dessert buffets still seem to be all the rage.  I recently did a fun display at Pie Ranch, which (of course) included little pies but also various cookies and vanilla bean panna cottas in these adorable little mason jars:

I worked with the creative team at Going Lovely, who did a gorgeous job on the whole event.

I'll leave you with a photo I took last week - this was just sitting on a metal box on a street corner in San Anselmo.  The light was so good and it was so random I couldn't resist:

  (What does it MEAN?) 


Cake Tuesday: reanimated.

I am finally feeling a little better; family visits always help.  My in-laws were in town for a few days, and then my mom came in to provide a little TLC, too.  She seriously showed up with (delicious) homemade soup.  That she drove up from Los Angeles.

She and I were able to catch the Oscar-nominated animation shorts and the live-action shorts - a double feature!  I was sadly disappointed in the animation shorts this year, but the live-action shorts were terrific.  My two favorites were Death of a Shadow - so creative and unusual - and Curfew - heartbreakingly funny and sweet.  You can see clips of them here.

February is a big birthday month for some reason - friends and family - and I've been making my share of birthday cakes.  Here's a cute little cake - the edible paper is printed with Happy Birthday in lots of languages and wrapped around a layer of white chocolate which is wrapped around a decadent chocolate cake filled and frosted with dark chocolate ganache.

The only thing that would make it better is a layer of blood orange curd.  Or maybe a glass of red wine...


Cake Tuesday: ruffled.

We had our big bridal expo a week ago, and it was fun and fine and the attendees were lovely, but it is winter and people are SICK.

My husband got sick, one of my best friends and fellow attendees got sick; so many Facebook acquaintances and their kids are stuck at home, sick.  I have to admit I was feeling a good deal of lucky and a tiny smidge of smug, in my healthy little corner.  Until this morning.  Now I am as achy and sniffly and sore-throaty and draggy as they come.  And my in-laws are coming for a visit this weekend, and I have a really adorable baby shower delivery, and a small wedding show where I'm providing samples.  Uggghhhhh.  Lots of antihistamines and hand washing.And moaning.

As the Oscars are approaching, we've been trying to see as many contenders as possible but are a bit behind this year.  We just saw Argo, which was great.  I was a kid when that whole thing was happening, so I don't remember much other than that there were hostages held in Iran for over a year and eventually they were all released safely, certainly nothing about a separated six who had to be sneaked out.  I read Bel Canto again recently - another story based (very loosely) on true hostage-related events.  Patchett took liberties inserting characters who didn't exist to make the story more romantic; Affleck took liberties creating so much tension and drama around the one-day escape that I'm sure all the real-life hostages were rolling their eyes.  But it was very exciting and kept us on the edge of our seats.  Now I'm waiting for the animated shorts to come to town.

Here's a display cake I just made for the trade show - as I mentioned last month, ruffles have been so popular and fun to do I thought it would be appropriate to use them for the show:
It was quite a hit, and may turn out to be one of my all-time favorites. 


Cake Tuesday: vegan lavender.

Here is one of my recent favorites - the design as well as the cake.  I don't usually love vegan desserts - I'm too attached to butter and eggs - but this lavender cake turned out to be surprisingly delicious.

I circled the tiers with fresh olive branches and English lavender sprigs from my garden. It was set up on the deck of a beautiful private home in Big Sur, with the Pacific Ocean as the backdrop.


Winter Weather.

Well it's cold in Santa Cruz, but it doesn't compare to the last few days.  We went with some very good (and very patient) friends to Nelson, British Columbia, where we skied and snowboarded in the back country.  It was around zero degrees for most of the trip, but was sparklingly clear and sunny.

This was one of our runs - we started up way above that ridge line through some evergreens, then through the burned out trees which opened up into this beautiful powdery perfect descent.

It was incredibly challenging and difficult, and made me humbly accept that I cannot do everything I think I can and also maybe I should exercise once in a while.

This was the sunrise on our last day (although they honestly were all this good). I could barely walk by then, and in the morning stretch class my weak little arms couldn't even hold my torso up for Cobra Pose.

Most of our CAT gang is here - poor Steve (who had already skied all weekend with a destroyed back) blew out his ACL on the last run of the day.  Our two guides (in orange) were the nicest guys in the world and deserve raises.

I can't believe the month is half over - the weekend is jam-packed with wedding cake activity and settling back into a more normal pace after all the travel of the last two months.

I finally bottled the cherry bounce - it sat for seven months and seems perfect, although I plan to make it with sour cherries this summer just to see what happens.

I also didn't add any spices (some recipes have you add vanilla or mace or allspice).  It's not complex but it IS delicious, and makes a wonderful Wisconsin old fashioned, which inspired us to make this in the first place after our visit last summer.