Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Katie's beautiful peony!
Yesterday afternoon, as I was leaving work for home, the skies were dark with clouds and the wind was churning.  Decades-old trees lining North Broadway in Saratoga Springs were giving way to the wind, and seemed almost elastic in their bending.  I was concerned but wanted to get home quickly.  Visibility was OK for the first few minutes, but as I turned onto First Street and proceeded west, rain was coming down in sheets and hail started to ping against my windshield, bouncing off the hood of my car.  I continued cautiously down Denton Road toward Locust Grove.  As I turned northwest onto Route 9N, I couldn't clearly see what was coming at me so I turned into the parking lot of the Kettle Restaurant and waited until things calmed down.  There were six cars there before me, doing the same thing.  It was the worst weather we've experienced here since Hurricane Irene made her presence known in September.  We never had one winter day this bad, this year.  Of course, the power was out when I got home, and Katie had made dinner (gas stove).  We settled in to a long night of waiting for power to be restored.  When I woke up at 5:30 this morning, ahead of my alarm, we were still without power, which we learned later wouldn't be back until mid-afternoon.  Well, I wanted to take a shower and wash my hair before work, so I packed up a bag and headed to the Skidmore gym to use the locker room shower.  When I checked in to the sports center, I was informed that the locker rooms were out of commission for an upgrade, and I was given the access code to the guest teams' locker room.  At first I was impressed - it looked like a great place for half-time motivation - until I turned on the shower.  The nozzle sprayed water in a half-spray, half-mist (freezing cold!) and in a 5-foot diameter circle.  No water seemed to fall within the radius of that circle.  So there I was, trying to get wet chasing the circumference of this icy waterfall, and then trying to get the shampoo out of my hair - not so easy.  I said "forget it" to the conditioner.  I had been looking forward to using the wall dryer for my hair, as I did in the "regular" locker room.  No dryer.  So, my  hair dried like the wild woman that I was this morning, and I arrived in the office with a somewhat different look than what my co-workers are used to!

The day got better, though.  This afternoon, I made it to Henry's graduation from his nursery school class (adorable ceremony) and when I got home, the power was indeed back on.  Little things seemed so significant.  I got out of the car and was drawn to Katie's peony bushes, and snapped a few photos.  Then I took a couple of pictures of the flowers that were my Mother's Day gift, now in a window box.  I had dinner with Henry and Pete while Katie ran an errand, gave them a bath, got them in their PJs, and settled them down with yet another Thomas movie before their mom returned.  Pete was snoring in the crook of my arm when Katie got home, and Henry was trying to convince us that "two more minutes" of Thomas was all he needed, as his eyes were trying to stay open.  It had been a very long day.

Henry's graduation today

The sound of the refrigerator, the whir of a fan, cold milk from the fridge, and light at the flick of a switch made me grateful for the power that keeps us going.

For a day that started out with no power, barely a shower, and wild and crazy hair, the evening was one of cozy comfort and appreciation for the littlest people, and things.

Pretty posies...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

First of all, it's important to remember what Memorial Day is all about - honoring those who've given their lives to protect our nation.  I am humbled by such sacrifice and do not take the freedoms we have for granted.  I am so happy that Saratoga Springs re-instated its Memorial Day Parade tomorrow, which had been cancelled due to lack of funds and interest.  A grass-roots reaction to that cancellation, through facebook, rallied supporters and the parade is back on.  Proud of our local citizens who stood up for what is right, especially when it comes to remembering those who deserve recognition for all they've given.

Like most people, I looked forward to this weekend with eager anticipation.  The thought of three days off from work was enticing enough.  Watching Katie and her family prepare for their first camping trip of the season was fun as Henry (who understands) and Peter (who doesn't) were jumping with excitement at all the goings-on.  They're up on an island in Lake George and she's posted a photo on facebook of Henry with his toes in the (60-degree!) water!

Henry the camper, Lake George this weekend!
Russ is here and we've been chick- and dog-sitting for the dozen newly-hatched adoptees from Henry's nursery school (don't ask about the other dozen who hatched but didn't make it).  They are thriving, so far, in their new home that Grandpa Richard Hofmann created for them.  Oden, the black lab, is happy as long as he can follow someone around, lay down by your feet, and eat.  Oh, and he likes to bark at every little sound, but that's Odie.

Chicks hanging out...

This afternoon, Russ and I are headed to Lake Placid and the Crown Plaza Hotel where he will be inducted into the "46ers" Club (not sure of the actual name) for those hearty souls who've climbed all 46 high peaks in the Adirondacks.  It's quite an accomplishment (I did half of one peak once, and that was it!).  I am, of course, very proud of him.  I'll take pictures tonight and post them soon.  We're staying with friends George and Suzanne, and as a thank-you, I've baked them a cinnamon-swirl coffee cake.  It's cooling now and it came out of the pan beautifully.  In a few minutes I'll add a nice, thick glaze to the top.   You'll see the finished product right here!

Hostess Gift for George and Suzanne 

I had more batter than I needed for my tube pan, so with that I made a mini-loaf cake, chocolate chip walnut.  That smells great as well!

Chocolate Chip Walnut Loaf
So, we're off to Lake Placid.  I hope you enjoy your long weekend, if you have one, and take time to remember just who made this weekend so significant.  God bless them, every one.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Creating a (Fondant) Family

This weekend's cake is for Jennifer.  She and Carlos are creating their own family, expecting their first baby on the 4th of July, and they have opted to not find out ahead of time whether it's a boy or a girl.  (I like that.)  Her sister Kim asked me to bake Jen a yellow cake with chocolate frosting (Hershey recipe!), and told me that the shower theme is old-fashioned toys.  Kim came by this morning to pick up the cake on her way to the shower.  Her three little girls, Spencer, 7, and twins Maggie and Jessie, 4, were in the car and very excited to be going to a baby shower!  Kim had provided a printed picture of some old Fisher Price people, the kind that kids in the 1970s and 80s had in their toy boxes (do they still make them?)... My daughter Tricia, when she was very little, loved all her "people" and used to gather all of them up (we had many) and kept them in a basket, which followed us everywhere we went!  Every now and then, the basket would tip and all the inhabitants would spill out all over the place.  Tricia would patiently scoop them back up and deposit them back in the basket, and we'd be on our way.

Anyway, I took out my big block of snow-white fondant and began coloring portions of it with tiny amounts of paste food colorings to get the colors I needed.  I did a pinkish-yellow for the family's heads, a tan for the dog and the cat, yellow for the baby's body and the mom's hair, black for the dog's body and ears, and blue and green for the parents' bodies.  I used a paintbrush to apply color to the cat and add the dad's hair.  I used a toothpick dipped in black food coloring to draw facial features on each figure.  This was one fun cake to put together, and Kim's reaction when she came to pick up the cake proved that the two hours I spent this morning "creating" the fondant family was well worth the effort!

Here's a series of photos of how Jennifer's cake came together:

Inspiration picture...

Taking shape...

Flowers under construction...

Cute little family, hanging out in the corner...

The finished product!  Cute if I do say so myself!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Oh What a Beautiful Muffin...Lemon Poppyseed!!!

Here's a recipe for Lemon Poppyseed muffins.  I love the tangy citrus flavor and the crunch of the poppyseeds.  This is a dense muffin with a high rise.  It bakes quickly at 400 degrees, and the contrast of the bright yellow flesh with the toasty outside crust is just beautiful.

400 degrees F, 17 minutes

Stir together dry ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons poppyseeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Set aside.

In mixing bowl, beat:
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup granulated sugar
Add, mixing slowly:
2 eggs, one at a time
1 cup sour cream
freshly-grated rind of one large lemon (just the yellow part, don't dig into the white)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until all dry particles are absorbed.  Do not overmix.

Spray muffin tins with cooking spray, or line with muffin papers.

Using ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups half-to-3/4 full (depending on how the batter evens out - I start with half full and then add more to each cup if I have it). 

Let filled muffin tins sit out for about 15 minutes to let the baking soda and powder start to work.  This ensures a nice, high crown to your muffins.  Then bake for about 17 minutes or until muffins have begun to take on a nice golden crust and the tops are dry in the middle and bounce back when lightly pressed.  Check at 16 minutes and see how they look.  Add more time, a minute at a time, until they are just right.

Remove from oven and cool in tin on wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove muffins from tin and allow to cool completely on rack.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

So Much Baking Going On...

My kitchen needs a vacation.  Did I write that out loud?  Well, my kitchen does need a break, and so do I!  It's the middle of May and I have reached an exhaustion level that hits every year around this time. It's self-imposed, and I am not whining.  I ask for this, it seems.  People ask me to make cakes for their parties, and I usually say "Sure" (though lately, I have had to say "Can't do it" a few times).  I'm not a professional baker, and most of the cakes I make are as favors to friends and family (and there are many!).  Often, people have one of my cakes at a party and ask "Can I have a card?" to which I respond, "I don't have a card.  I'm not a business."  No, believe it or not, pretty much all the cakes on this blog's slideshow are baked for celebrations of people I know well and love.  Since I work full-time and am "Granny-Nanny" much of the rest of the time, I don't have the time, means, or luxury of becoming a baking business.  I do sometimes dream of the possibility.  I even wrote a business plan for a bakery as part of my masters thesis.  I have all the ideas percolating in my head about what it could be, and where, what it would look like, how it would feel, and how it would operate.  I imagine large glass containers filled with assorted home-style cookies atop a gleaming display case of simple cakes and pastries, in a Broadway (Saratoga) store front with old-fashioned charm and a black-and-white checkered floor.  It would be simple and unassuming, like one of those 1950s soda shops where children spin on stools along a long, cool counter.  It would have beverages for young and older customers, and home-baked biscuits for their dogs.  Then I think, "Who's getting up at 3 a.m. to do that baking?"  and "Who's going to be there at midnight swabbing the deck?" and "Who's going to be making those night deposits?" and even "Who's going to work 7 days a week and never take a vacation?"  Well, as much as I can envision all the pretty pictures of my own beautiful if not imaginary bakery, I cannot fathom being (at age 58 and advancing) the person responsible for all the blood, sweat, and tears that would surely be required to be successful at such an endeavor.

So, I continue to bake "for the love of it" though sometimes the demands exceed my energy reserves.  Tonight I have two cakes in the oven.  One is for my friend Kim's sister who's expecting a baby in July.  The other is for a friend of mine who works in an academic department at Skidmore, where I also work.  She wanted to surprise her graduating seniors with a special cake, and I am very happy to do that.

May and June are always busy cake months.  In addition, there are always coffee cakes, cinnamon rolls, muffins, and scones (some pictured above) on the to-do list.  When I am not baking, I think about what I will be baking when I am baking again (how grammatically incorrect is all of that sentence?).  It must be some kind of obsession.  I can't stay away long.  It reminds me of when I was younger, and I was a painter.  I loved painting, and I'd finish one and think, "I'm going to take a break for a while" and then the next painting started to take shape in my mind. I gave them all away!!! It's the same with cakes.  I always think of what I can do to make it better, next time.

I think it's time to buy a canvas and dust off the oils and acrylics....  Now, if I can just find that beach-house studio loft with morning light.  Time to go to bed and dream some more!

Friday, May 11, 2012

My Day - Cars, Ovens, and Oranges

I was looking forward to a heavy baking end-of-the-week as it was, with three cakes and a few dozen cookies in the line-up.  Then my car decided to stop. Just stop.  Wouldn't budge.  So I used my cell phone's roadside assistance option and had it towed to the service station, hoping it wouldn't be out of commission too long, since I am just too busy to be side-lined!  Well, it is out of commission, and continues to be.  And I AM side-lined...  Looks like an alternator issue.  The brand-new battery didn't solve the problem.  Thank God for my daughter Katie,who filled in as emergency-chauffeur and, along with Henry and Peter, followed me around to AC Moore, Target, and  Hannaford as I collected all the necessary bits and pieces for three very important cakes that are being baked for Saturday.  We did fit in a trip to Friendly's for "lunch" at 5:30 for Henry who was apparently very upset that he didn't get to have lunch with me at noon due to his baby brother's unfortunate and unexpected car sickness!  He and Pete were very good boys, and were rewarded with dessert (see photo).  ANYWAY...after all that, I found I needed to go out again last night, and my son-in-law Bill took me for a ride in his truck to Saratoga, which from where we live is not a 10-minute spin.  It's more of a 40-minute commitment, and I really appreciated his help.  There's a loaf of banana bread in it for him, just because!

Pete thought Henry's "monster" ice cream was more interesting....

Cake number one is for my soon-to-be niece-in-law Kristin's bridal shower in Saratoga Springs.  the shower is being graciously hosted by a friend of my sister Anne's family, Sue, and I am very excited to 1) see Kristin and everyone, 2) wish Kristin and my nephew Jack every happiness, and 3) make the very best cake I can for her!  Cakes for family are especially meaningful and I am honored to be baking her shower cake.  I haven't decided yet how exactly I'll be decorating it. It's a marble cake and I will be making pretty fondant flowers, to be determined!

Cake number two is for Harvey, who is celebrating his 85th birthday.  My sister-in-law Lynn, Harvey's daughter, asked if I'd make the cake (after completely forgetting to make her granddaughter Katie's 1st Communion cake last weekend - I'm still not over it! A mad dash to Hannaford with a substitute cake was the best I could do at the very last second.  It appears I am either over-committed or overwhelmed, or both!).  For Harvey's cake, I am making the same recipe that Harvey's wife Audrey used to make for him, his favorite, an orange cake with orange buttercream frosting.  Harvey's been a widower for some time now, and certainly misses his wife and her wonderful baking.  I hope this cake does her justice.  I used a whole orange's rind in the batter, as well as its juice, and it smells so light and fresh.  The recipe follows at the end of this post.

pretty orange

Cake number three is for another bride.  Her colors are navy blue and sage green.  So the cake, marble with buttercream, with have fondant irises, sage-colored leaves, and little navy-blue flowers, like violets.  Along with that cake, I am making heart-shaped cookies, frosted in sage and white with royal icing, with a monogrammed "R," tied in cellophane bags with navy blue ribbons.  That should be pretty.

Here's the recipe for Harvey's Orange Cake
a tribute to Audrey Nutter

Oven 375 degrees  F- 30 minutes
2 8-inch round layers


1/2 cup shortening (old school recipe)
1 1/4 cups sugar


1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water

To this, add dry ingredients, mixed together:

2 1/4 cups sifted flour
1 tbsp (3 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp salt.

Beat 1 minute (the recipe is old - says "150 strokes" - pre-mixer!!!!)

To this add:
2 eggs, unbeaten
grated rind of one orange

Beat 2 minutes.

Pour into prepared pans (I use parchment rounds and spray with cooking spray).

Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until it tests done.

Orange buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon of orange extract or 4 tablespoons orange juice
2 lbs. 10x confectioners sugar
Up to 1/2 cup milk, more if needed, a bit at a time

In stand mixer or with hand-held mixer, cream shortening and butter.  Mix in vanilla and orange extract/orange juice.  Add confectioners sugar slowly, alternating with milk.  Add milk as necessary, a bit at a time, beating until you reach desired spreading consistency.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Day at the Circus!

I was so happy today to join my grandson Henry, his mom - my daughter Katie, and his baby brother Pete, on his class trip to Albany to see the Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey Circus!  We started out on a yellow school bus, leaving from the Skidmore College campus, where Henry goes to nursery school.  Katie and Pete drove behind and met us at the Times Union Center.  There was a sea of yellow buses letting passengers off, and Henry was in awe before we even entered the arena.  We passed through a corridor of endless vendors selling all kinds of circus loot (swords, wands, stuffed tigers and elephants, snow cones, lemonade, cotton candy).  We breezed right by them to find our section, 119, and our seats:  E 12, 13, and 14.  They were great seats, mid-arena, and we had a terrific view of all three rings!

It's been so many, many years since I've been to the circus.  I remember taking my kids, when they were little, to a circus at the Glens Falls Civic Center, but I don't remember it being as professional or dramatic as this one.  The Ringmaster noted that this is RB&BB Circus's 141st year (if I remember correctly), and from what I can see, they have perfected and technically updated the circus while at the same time maintaining the old-fashioned and timeless essence that has mesmerized children of all ages since circuses began.

The festivities began with The Star Spangled Banner, sung by the Ringmaster to the American Flag which was carried by a beautiful acrobat atop a majestic elephant draped in red, white, and blue, who circled the arena as the anthem was sung.  At first, it seemed a little gimmicky to me, but by the time we got to "...and the home of the brave" I was choked up, as I always am at the end of that anthem.  It gets to me.  For the littlest children there, this may have been their first experience paying tribute to the flag, and what a memorable way to begin that tradition in their lives.

We were entertained for more than two hours by all the magic that makes up the circus -- clowns, acrobats, elephants, horses, tigers, jugglers, dancers, tight-rope walkers, fire throwers  -- even the vendors were entertaining, laden with glow-in-the-dark necklaces and faux-hawk headbands.  It was a joyful couple of hours, and nothing beats seeing the look on my grandsons' faces, captivated by the spectacle of their very first circus.

I hope they'll always remember today.  I know I will.


A Great Day at the Circus!

One sleepy boy on the bus ride home...

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And the winner is....Weezie Foye!

Congratulations to Weezie Foye,  the first winner in a year-long monthly contest for followers who comment on blog posts!  Weezie has won an 8" round 2-layer cake, and she will collect on her winnings when she's back in Saratoga Springs over the summer.  This first drawing proved to be quite a success.  My motives are somewhat selfish -- I'm trying to increase the number of followers as well as comments on my blog posts.  We're off to a good start, so I am very encouraged.  It's very much a goal to increase readership and to have Adirondack Baker experience a wider audience.  Currently, new posts are linked to my facebook page, and occasionally "tweeted" (though I am not yet very Twitter-saavy).  It's almost three years since this blog was born, and my feeling is that ADK Baker is ready for a growth spurt.  I'm researching some more sophisticated Web designs in an effort to have a more polished blog presence, but at the same time don't want to lose that "homespun" quality that appeals to many of this blog's followers. 

Thank you to all those who come back now and then to see what's new.  I so appreciate the time you take out of your day to read the posts.  It's an honor to write for you, and I hope you continue to enjoy reading Adirondack Baker!

I'll close with some recent photos, just because I know you enjoy them!

All the best, and Happy May Day!

Henry, friend Reyna, and Pete
Happy 90th Birthday, Mr. Selig!
Henry's 4th Birthday Cake! 
He's now a Star Wars fan (just the toys, not the movies yet!)
Snapshots of a very happy day!