a tale of two bundts

I made two spice cakes last week for Andrew’s mom’s birthday. Spice cake is a favorite of hers’ and I found two different recipes. Since Andrew and I enjoy a good taste-test, he encouraged me to make both.

Well. I gladly accepted and used this as a perfect opportunity to purchase the spiral bundt pan I’ve been eyeing for like a year. (BTW it’s AMAZING.)


I made King Arthur Flour’s brown sugar spice cake in my old pan (the nondescript one without ridges) and Joy the Baker’s Araby Spice Cake in the nifty new swirl one.



The verdict: ???

Honestly, neither was what I expected. Both were more dense (I suppose I should have expected that) and neither were terribly flavorful. KAF’s featured nuts and ginger, while Joy’s secret ingredient was cocoa powder. Joy’s glaze was better. Overall, I think everyone preferred KAF’s version.

Bottom line: still looking for a winner!

how we spent our saturday

There was baking.  There was snow.  And gym-going.  And car-repairing.  And cake-tasting.  And, finally, a little ice skating.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Andrew’s truck had been on the fritz since Monday morning, and in the course of the week, Andrew and his friend Bart (featured here at Waldfest and here at the ‘beach’), diagnosed the problem as being the fuel pump.  (Bart used to work on race cars in college–like, REAL race cars–and is an engineer at Moog and one of those super-brainy-but-cool types, so I felt like we were in good hands.)

So, after lots of research and You Tube “how to replace a fuel pump” video-watching, Andrew and Bart made plans to replace the part Saturday morning.

Company on Saturday morning = BIG BREAKFAST!

I decided to make pancakes AND waffles (waffles keep better in the freezer) and maple-roasted bacon.

Bart and I like chocolate-chip pancakes, so I added mini-chocolate chips to ours.  I even had whipped cream on hand, too–SCORE!

Waffles staying warm in the oven…  Side note:  I’ve been doing this for awhile now (using the oven to keep waiting waffles crisp and warm) and in just this past issue of Cuisine At Home, someone wrote in and offered this EXACT TECHNIQUE in the reader advice section, and got $100 for it!!  Note to self: wrack brain for something to suggest.

I set the table with three kinds of nut butters, Kefir, plain yogurt, orange segments, pineapple, butter, maple syrup, ginger maple syrup, orange juice and bananas.  And that’s not including the main courses…

We all enjoyed breakfast before the boys headed outside–did I mention it finally snowed–to start the car project while I tackled clean-up.

Look!  They’re twins!  Bart brought over some extra work clothes and gloves (he does this kind of thing a lot), which was nice since the cold weather necessitated multiple layers.

…and multiple trips inside to warm-up and read directions.  (Not sure why Andrew looks pregnant here, but since it’s him and not me, I’m happy!)

Bart, complete with knee-pads…

…Andrew, who was probably wishing it were just a bit warmer.  After our mild week, they certainly did not luck-out on weather for the project.

After I took a snow-filled walk with the dog and went to the gym for a run, I rushed home to shower and get lunch ready for everyone.  Thankfully, I had a great assortment of leftovers (I felt a little guilty serving guests leftovers, but by now, I feel like Bart is almost family, and Andrew’s dad–who had come over to watch the snowy repair job–IS family, and the leftovers WERE pretty special) like homemade coleslaw and roasted potatoes, along with homemade rye bread and sandwich stuff.

I dashed out the door after my last bit to meet Abigail, Carolyn and Andrew’s mom at Butterwood’s, a local bakery for some wedding cake-tasting!  This, of course, would have been a perfect opportunity to take some photos for the blog with all the beautiful cakes and desserts, but, alas, I did not.  I really waver between wanting to be a hard-core food blogger and photo-ing EVERYTHING, and on the other hand, trying to not let it take over my life.  So, no pretty cupcake photos here.

We stayed afterward and got desserts and drinks–I chose a red velvet cupcake that was just gorgeous and  tasted completely divine–thankfully, I still have half to enjoy another time 🙂

With the sourdough starter that I left out from making the pancakes and wafflers earlier, I made this focaccia.

We didn’t end up eating any that night, because Bart talked us into going out with him to ice skate!  I so tried to stay behind to do the myriad things on my to-do list (you know, like take a chem quiz, finish two labs, write an article, write two blogs, not to mention a million other things), but at the last minute I couldn’t say no.  I threw on some long underwear and ran out the door with Andrew!

We headed downtown for some ice skating (there is a free rink on the main thoroughfare in the city) and to check out some of the snowboarding at WinterFest.

Don’t you just love my scarf?  Andrew got it for me to go with my coat for Christmas–beautiful!  I’m LOVING the J.Crew Stadium Jacket we scored on Black Friday…  It cinches at the waist and is SO FLATTERING.  And it has a hood.  I have never wanted a hood more than I have since moving here.

After skating, we headed to Pearl Street for dinner, and to warm up!  My fingers were just about frozen, despite the awesome glove liners I got recently.  I enjoyed their Cherry Wheat beer, some onion rings (really hit the spot), a roasted veggie sandwich and their completely splurge-worthy fries.  Seriously, I could really just have their fries for dinner and be happy.

Bart recently discovered a new bar downtown that has a trivia night, so he brought us to check it out.  It’s called Founding Fathers and IT IS AWESOME.  I mean, the proprietor was wearing a tie–is that my kind of place, or what?!

There are flags and U.S. presidential history everywhere–it’s a smart-people bar (I may be a little rusty on my history, but Andrew and Bart aren’t!).  Andrew and I have never really felt “at home” (well, who does, really?) at a bar since we choose not to drink all that much, but we (well, really just me, probably) have always wanted to be a “regular” somewhere, and this is the kind of place I could see us going to often.  I’m not saying we’re going to go every Friday, but we’d like to give their trivia a try (it’s the first Tuesday of the month), and it just felt like somewhere we’d fit in.

It’s pushing 10 p.m. and I still haven’t taken that Chem quiz…


happy birthday, carolyn

We celebrated Carolyn’s birthday (which is actually today) on the Fourth due to scheduling conflicts.  How could just a handful of people be so busy we couldn’t spare a random Wednesday night?  I don’t know, either.

Anyway, we had a birthday dinner for her at Andrew’s parents’ house.  The kid-Layers are all going to P. F. Chang’s for another celebratory dinner tonight–bring on the lettuce wraps!

Ben and Andrew’s dad dressed alike.  It was cute.  And the tablecloth zipped onto the table (around the pole for the umbrella)–how neat!

Note my reddish lips–not sure how I feel about it yet.  A post on new makeup colors will be coming soon.  (I know you’re all waiting with baited breath.)

You can’t see them very well, but Carolyn’s candles were animal-print striped.  She was a fan.

Presents!  (You’d think it was Abigail’s birthday with all the pink around…)

Showing off some of her new goodies.  Grandma did well with the purse 🙂

After presents, a walk in the woods and a quick game of KanJam, we headed down to the creek in the back of the yard for a fire.

Abigail with her “horsey.”

Andrew’s mom had gotten a couple boxes of sparklers on her last trip to Indiana (selling fireworks is illegal in New York).

We roasted marshmallows for s’mores.  I’m not a big marshmallow fan, but roast ’em and mix ’em with chocolate and I’m in!

The girls and Andrew started having fun with the sparklers and the camera.  Andrew’s a pretty good amateur photographer, so he was able to adjust the camera settings to get some really great shots.

Next, they thought it would be an awesome picture to get their names written with the sparklers.  It took a couple tries to get the timing right…

If only her name were Carol…

The gazillionth try was a winner!

Thankfully, my name is a bit shorter, so it didn’t take too long to get an OK shot.

If you can believe it, this picture took TEN SECONDS to shoot.  Seriously, the shutter was open for that long and we had enough time to write our names and actually move in the shot, which you can see above.

Next, Andrew experimented with the fire.  Here it is taken in an automatic shot:

Here is another shot taken with a VERY short (1/300th of a second) shutter speed:

VERY different.  I’m excited to carve some time out and peruse the photography books I have so I can take great photos like Andrew.  (How cheesy does that sound?!)

Remember those marshmallows?  I may have overdone it in the s’mores department…

I’m holding my hands out because they are covered in chocolate and marshmallows, and apparently some chocolate missed my mouth…