When Life Gives You Blood Oranges…

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...When trying to decide what to write about today, my mind went a million different directions… honestly, a lot of them were bleak.  It took a few minutes of stillness to refocus, remove the negativity, and replace it with something uplifting.  Let’s be real, this world is broken and dark; it’s what we choose to do in the moments of darkness that define us.

I have been watching a TV show called “This is Us” recently… it is such a beautiful mess of a family that has their fair share of struggles.  Early on in the series, [and heads up, spoiler alert!] a young couple finds out they lost one of their triplets during childbirth.  In a sweet moment overlooking his two newborns, the doctor says to the father:

“I like to think that one day you’ll be an old man like me talkin’ a young man’s ear off explainin’ to him how you took the sourest lemon that life has to offer and turned it into something resembling lemonade. If you can do that, then maybe you will still be taking three babies home from this hospital, just maybe not the way you planned.”

The couple does in fact end up taking home three babies instead of two, by adopting a baby boy abandoned at a fire station that morning.  You see, they were always meant to have three children, they were destined to be “the Big Three”…  it’s amazing how a change in perspective can turn a situation around.

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...What are the lemons life has given you and how can you take steps to turn them into something resembling lemonade? Personally, I love lemons and don’t see why they are always depicted so negatively… they are so yummy, sour, and the zest is superb for baking… but for the sake of the metaphor, I’ll allow the connotation.  One of the “lemons” in my life is this season of “middle” I am in… a season of transition, knowing I am headed in the right direction yet eager to JUST BE THERE ALREADY!  It takes everything in me to slow my role and be content with the fact that life is a journey.

Now, I know we’ve been talking a lot about lemons, but I just HAD to share some exciting news with y’all… that BLOOD ORANGES ARE IN SEASON!!! I was at the grocery store the other day and saw them sitting there, smiling back at me, just waiting to be included in an awesome recipe.  How could I resist? I promptly scoured through the Pinterest world for some inspiration and came up with this beautiful collaboration of a blood orange upside-down poppy seed cake with an earl grey glaze… the tartness of the blood oranges pairs lovely with the hint of earl grey, almost neutralizing it, and the poppy seeds add another dimension altogether!

When Life Gives you Blood Oranges...
Blood Orange Upside-Down Poppy Seed Cake with an Earl Grey Glaze

I wish my reaction toward the lemons of life was the same as my reaction to seeing blood oranges in the produce section… I can’t wait to bring them home and transform them into something beautiful and unique.  In that spirit, when faced with “lemons” in the future, I will see them in a different light, and instead, think to myself…

… when life gives you blood oranges, what will you make out of it?

“But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light.  This is why it is said:

“Wake up, sleeper,
    rise from the dead,
    and Christ will shine on you.”

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:13-16

Blood Orange upside down Poppy Seed cake with an Early Grey glazeWhen Life Gives You Blood Oranges...Makes 9″ Round

Ingredients

1 cup (230 g) Brown Sugar

¾ cup Oil

4 Eggs

1 ¾ cups (230 g) Flour

2 ¼ tsp Baking Powder

¾ tsp Salt

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Tbsp Poppy Seeds

Juice and Zest of 1 Blood Orange (plus more for slicing)

¾ cup Greek Yogurt (I use 0% Fage)

Butter and brown sugar for pan

Earl Grey Glaze

Earl Grey Teabag

1 cup Milk

2 cups Powdered Sugar

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350° and prep your 9″ round pan by greasing it with melted butter, sprinkle a little bit of brown sugar over the butter and add slices of blood oranges in whatever design you prefer. OR if the whole “upside-down” concept is just a little too overwhelming for you, just grease your baking pan with crisco and dust with flour to make a normal cake.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together brown sugar and oil till combined. Add eggs, blood orange juice, zest, and vanilla; stir till combined.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  4. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Mix till smooth, then add poppy seeds and stir till combined.
  5. Pour mixture over sliced blood oranges in 9″ round pan. Bake at 350° for about 45 minutes or till cake tester comes out clean.
  6. Let cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Trim the top of the cake if needed (to ensure the cake will be level once it is flipped over) and swiftly turn the cake upside-down onto a cooling rack.
  7. While cake is cooling, steep earl grey teabag in hot milk for about 5 minutes. Combine tea, one tablespoon at a time with powdered sugar in a small bowl. Note: you’ll want to mix till a glaze is created that is not too thick yet not too runny.
  8. Once cake has cooled, transfer to desired plate, cake stand etc. and spread glaze on top, letting it spill over edges slightly.  Use an offset spatula to spread the glaze (a spoon will work just fine too).
  9. Enjoy!

Happy Baking!!

Luck o’ the Irish Soda Bread

Well, Happy St. Paddy’s Day to you all!

I must begin by telling you how much fun I had in doing this photo shoot for my most recent Sweet Creation… Sweet Irish Soda Bread! My roommate Karley and I recently discovered our shared passion for blogging… and have utilized our unique gifts to make this photo shoot a success.  Karley is the one to thank for these amazing shots… she has such an artistic eye and gift for fashion, sure to make any girl a fashionista!  I have lived under the same roof as her for less than a year and can confidently say she has improved my overall sense of fashion and style since moving in with her… I was a boring mess!  Karley is such an inspiration to me; she pursues her passions and gifts full force and strives to devote time to things in life that will build her up and help her thrive!  She is a go-getter, my dance soulmate, face mask partner, harmonizer, and last but not least… has become a great friend!

Do yourself a favor and follow her blog NOW!!

Click here for Karley’s Blog!!

If you know me at all, you know that I am very enthusiastic and love, love, LOVE to celebrate any and every occasion imaginable! One only needs to step foot in my living room and glance up at the golden deer named “Rolf” mounted on the wall to see the current celebratory season and/or holiday displayed on his antlers (full disclosure… he is fake and from target).  One of my favorite holidays to celebrate is a day where it’s not only acceptable to pinch people, but is encouraged; a day where ordering a “Jameson on the rocks” it TOTALLY normal; a day where it’s impossible to hold back feeble attempts at an Irish accent (go ahead, let’s hear you say “Top O’ the Mornin’ to Ya!”); and a day where the color green is EVERYWHERE you look. As an Irish girl myself, I just had to devote my March blog post to this joyous day… St. Paddy’s Day!

You see, I am a myriad of different ethnicities… really though, I’m a mutt… I look like an Irish girl, claim an Italian last name, and love to see the shock on people’s face when they hear that I’m Armenian!  Sometimes I wish I could claim ownership of just a few nationalities to make my story and background a little LESS cmplicated…  but that would be so dull!!  I love the fact that my family is diverse and celebrates each part of our history, no matter how small a percentage we may actually be.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has always made an effort to make each holiday special… and St. Paddy’s Day was no exception.  She carried on many traditions, including making corned beef and cabbage for dinner and blarney stones for dessert.  As a baker myself, I strive to make connections between my heritage and the baking realm… and through the years I have grown to love the tradition of Irish Soda Bread!

Traditionally, Irish Soda Bread was a poor man’s bread.  It is made with the most basic ingredients that are also quite inexpensive… flour, salt, baking soda and buttermilk (also known as soured milk).  Baking soda is used as the leaven in this recipe instead of yeast; making this a quick and easy bread to throw together in a pinch.  Also, traditional irish soda bread is made in a round shape with a scored “x” on the top (to ward off the evil spirits)… learning about these faith-based rituals is quite fun for me (I’m sure Hot Crossed Buns have a similar meaning, being popular during the Easter season).  Through the years, there have been additions to this classic bread that, in my opinion, only enhance the flavor!  The recipe I’d like to share with you is more of a sweet bread; perfect by itself and for anytime of the day.  I just know you will fall in love with this recipe and will feel comfortable making it in your own home to celebrate the day… because hey, everyone’s a little Irish on St. Paddy’s Day!  😉

Sweet Irish Soda Bread 

 1 Cup Raisins (150 g)

1 Cup Dried Cherries (125 g)

3 Cups Flour

1 Cup Sugar

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Salt

¼ Cup Shortening

1/12 Cups Almond Milk

2 Eggs, slightly beaten

Sugar in the Raw (for sprinkling on top)

Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to boil. Add raisins and cherries and continue to boil for 3 minutes (this will plum the dried fruit a bit). Drain and lightly coat with flour. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add shortening and use your CLEAN fingers to blend ingredients together until well incorporated. Stir in milk and eggs until fully moistened.  Finally, fold in dried fruit mix until evenly mixed.

Pour batter into a well greased and floured loaf pan and sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw.  Bake at 350° for 1 hour. Transfer to cooling rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before removing bread from pan.

Enjoy!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day… and, Happy Baking!

Another year, another… Birthday Cake…

Most people like to be pampered on their birthday… so, every year on my birthday, when I tell people that I make my own cake… without fail, their response is

“WHAT?! WHY???”

To me, it just makes sense! I LOVE baking, so making my own birthday cake is license to not only explore new skills and heights… it takes the pressure off a little. At the end of the day, I bake to please the customer, which means normally I am VERY strict and critical of my work; making sure absolutely everything tastes and looks amazing! Well, when it’s MY birthday, I get to try the crazy ideas I have in my head and if the cake topples over in the end (heaven forbid)… I can just whip up a batch of cupcakes or something. After all, “It’s my birthday and I can Bake what I want to!”

Plus, there is a sort of freedom that comes with baking your own cake! I know I will love it no matter what, because my present to myself is the actual baking; the end product is just a bonus. A strange phenomenon happens when you make your own birthday cake… usually when people pick up a cake from me, they tell me how much they love it and are so excited about it… but I always, ALWAYS want to make sure they are completely satisfied. Which means I second guess reactions sometimes; wondering and searching for a hint of confirmation that, indeed the cake is perfect. (now I sound like a perfectionist… but bakers HAVE to be, to some extent). But when I make my own birthday cake, I have that confirmation that the customer is completely satisfied, and the reactions of friends and family who see the cake just make the experience all that much better!

My favorite aspect of being a baker is the reveal (as you probably could tell by now); I LOVE hearing the excited screams of the 5 year-old birthday girl who is surprised with a perfect Hello Kitty Cake, or seeing the face of a proud mom and knowing she is imagining her sons reaction when he blows out the candles on his Superhero cake; the busy party planner who knows her best friend will LOVE these Onesie Sugar Cookies at her baby shower, and knowing they saved her so much time and effort… the list goes on and on…

All this to say… my 25th Birthday, a quarter of a century… I knew I had to make a pretty spectacular cake. I spent weeks and weeks coming up with the concept and the plans for this Sleeping Beauty Cake… and it paid off! Not only did the final product turn out AMAZING… but the process in itself boosted my confidence and gave my baking a firm foundation!

Here are a few images from the Sleeping Beauty scene that inspired my cake… if you aren’t familiar with the story, I’ll give you a brief explanation… the three fairies are trying to plan a surprise birthday party without using their magic; and the cake is whipped up and frosted, but the fairy forgot to bake it… so she tries propping it up with a broom… but the candles slide down the broomstick…

Inspiration and planning for my Sleeping Beauty Cake
Inspiration and planning for my Sleeping Beauty Cake

By Far, this cake is STILL my favorite cake, I am not sure I would EVER be able to top this one!

Wondering how I did it? Here is my Step by Step process…

First, I bought a wooden baseboard, cut it to the correct size and covered it with black contact paper.Then, I had to screw three sturdy wooden beams (or dowels, as we call them in the baking world). Ok, I didn’t do that part… I recruited my handyman brother to make sure they would actually stay in place… thanks Jon!! Next, I put my first layer of cake down through the dowels and onto the baseboard… I chose two flavors of cake: Chocolate with Peanut Butter Swirl, and Red Velvet! I decided to use the more sturdy cake (chocolate and peanut flavor) for the bottom half, which prevents sinking and wobbly cakes…

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage One
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage One

As I built up the base of the cake, I needed to give the illusion of the cake falling over… without it actually FALLING OVER… So I did a series of layers and tricks… the key was to keep a flat surface by cutting into the angles and placing the next layer INSIDE the topsy turvy layers. This was my first EVER attempt at a Topsy Turvy design… and was definitely a learning experience… It’s always good to make yourself the first ginny-pig! To complete the bottom and be able to go CRAZY on the top portion, I (or Jon) screwed in a platform to create stability and peace of mind (on my part).

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Two
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Two

Next, the broom stick was screwed on and I simply added the Red Velvet cakes! I tilted them to make the “falling over” illusion.  Throughout the whole process I made sure to “glue” the cake together with Buttercream Frosting… it works wonders, and hardens nicely when refrigerated!

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Three
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Stage Three

We are getting close to the finish now… I whipped up some Turquoise Royal Icing (which is liquidly, but hardens). This was the most challenging part of the cake! I wasn’t sure if it would work, so it was kinda a shot in the dark! I was able to pull it off though, and create a dripping effect!! Next I cut out a few yellow fondant circles and pinned those on with real candles, “sliding” down the broom! Lastly, I made the broom base out of fondant and sprinkled the ENTIRE cake with Rainbow Disco Dust… the fishing touch to any fantasy cake!!

Sleeping Beauty Cake: Final Product!!!
Sleeping Beauty Cake: Final Product!!!

So there you have it… Dreams Do Come True!!! And, guess what guys… my birthday is coming up soon… stay tuned to see what cake I’ll come up with on February 24th to commemorate “Another Year, Another…Birthday Cake”

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If you’d like to order your own Dream Cake… email sweetcreationsbybeth@gmail.com

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Happy Baking!!

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