let them eat cake (if they dare)

Posted on Posted in designing, food and garden, projects

our knitting class christmas party is today and i volunteered to bring dessert. now, we’re not a fancy group in general, but for the christmas party we do things a little differently—we meet at someone else’s house, we bring yummy finger foods and have a small gift exchange. there may even be imbibing. so, you know, i want to make a nice impression.

in keeping with the holiday, i decided that an eggnog cake would be just the thing and went in search of a recipe. we used to make one at home when i was a kid, that was featured in holiday ads for some food company or other, during the 60s or 70s. i couldn’t locate that recipe but i found this one, which sounded great.

i borrowed a bundt pan from the neighbors and got started early yesterday afternoon. there is a lot of beating in that recipe—to the tune of about 20 minutes total, i think—but it’s definitely worth the work; by the time it goes into the pan, the batter is velvety smooth and the resulting cake texture is absolutely sublime (it’s a pound cake type)

creamy, moist, and yet . . . light. it could use more nutmeg than the recipe calls for, but that’s quibbling really.
sooo—what’s the problem and why is that cake being eaten at home???

this is NOT the recipe’s fault. sigh.
i think my %!#*&@^ oven is on the blink again. grrr.
i had a vague suspicion that i should check it out, when when i baked some fish the other night that took WAY longer than usual to cook.
but i forgot.

then yesterday, i put the cake in and waited. and waited. and waited.
the stipulated cooking time came and went, but the top and center of the cake were still liquid. when they were finally cooked and the cake had cooled a few minutes, i unsheathed it from the pan to find that the bottom and outside edges were charred.

that’s what happened the last time the oven went.

david suggested i try one more time, using a recipe that always turns out well, so i proceeded to make my apple cake, which is also festive and pretty enough to bring to a party. this time we put our old thermometer in the oven with the cake to see if the temperature was regulating properly.

the temperature actually varied widely over the course of the cooking time (NOT good). and the upshot was about the same—i had to leave the cake in the oven a lot longer than usual for the top and inside to bake through, leaving the bottom and outside somewhat, er, over-browned.

not as bad as the first cake, which was truly black-bottomed. but not good.

the top though, is a glittering jewel of a thing—and just might redeem me

david thinks i should bring it and tell everyone to eat all but the bottom edge, haha. and you know what? as we are a very forgiving group, i think i’m going to do it—i know the cake is delicious; it’s always a hit. and it’s not like baking another thing is going to be any more successful.

the thing is this: i am a perfectly competent baker, capable of making an excellent cake. yet, every time i bake for this particular group of people, something goes wrong. i have bad baking karma when it comes to them. so they have never been treated to my best baking efforts and i feel bad bringing yet another dessert piled high with apologies for the state it’s in.

on the other hand, things could be worse.
everyone gathered there today is a fortunate person—we each have a good, warm place to call home, a secure (for the moment) living, plenty to eat, a little cash to spend on yarn when we like, and enough leisure time to meet and make merry on a pre-christmas monday afternoon.

plus i have killer gifts for everyone, heh.
so now that i’ve talked that out with you, i’m going to let it go and let it be—i’ve got other holiday concerns to obsess about, after all.

besides, just when i thought things couldn’t get more depressing in the kitchen, i saw this and was reminded that rainbows do sometimes appear in the unlikeliest of places

looks like we haven’t seen the last of my garden after all—my rosemary plant is covered with buds and tiny blooms!

now, i’ve heard that rosemary sometimes blooms, but it’s never happened to me.
i feel girlishly tickled pink about it. this plant has lived in a pot since it came home from the nursery in may. to amuse myself, i kept it pruned into a (more or less) round topiary shape

i don’t know if the constant pruning helped or not, but whatever the reason, i’m enjoying the chance to see it.

i even have matching buttons to celebrate, haha

i ordered these from jennie the potter when i saw her at rhinebeck and they arrived the other day. i just love them—they will be perfect for a handspun sweater in a natural color.

we’re trying to get all the gifts boxed and organized to go out in the mail; still waiting on a couple of last minute mail-order items to go into them. the boy’s jackets are done and ready to go

i think they turned out adorable—they are my best christmas knitting this year. focusing on just a couple of items was a good idea. we’ll wrap these up with a couple of toys and a picture of uncle david in HIS whitfield jacket and i’m pretty sure amad will be over the moon with that gift.

i opted for a single pocket without a flap for these, mainly because i was afraid of running out of yarn, but also to streamline the look and cut down on fussiness for the knitter. i think these are a good solution—pocket enough to be manly, but not so much that it gets heavy.

these jackets will work well for the mild, shorter winters they have in las vegas and be wearable into the spring as well as next fall. amad will love that his jacket matches his baby brother’s, too.

micah won’t know the difference, but some day, he may wear the bigger one when amad grows out of it. i’ll knit a third one for their cousin in NYC for his january birthday. and write up the pattern to send for sizing right after christmas.

other than finishing those up, i have not been working on a wide variety of objects as usual. i’ve been focusing ALL my attention on my super secret gift project—the S-W-E-A-T-E-R for you know who (i just love how easy it is to hide things on the blog, haha).

i’m almost to the underarms on the body, about two inches to go there. this has been the biggest share of the knitting—that’s 290 sts around.
it could be worse—i’m really fortunate that the recipient is not all that long in the torso or arms. otherwise, i’d be knitting til new year’s . . .

i’m also almost done with one of the sleeves

i would say i’m about halfway through this project, with five days to go. i plan on spending a lot more time knitting this week than last, so preliminarily, i think i have a good chance of finishing in time. i’m not sure yet, but i’m hopeful.

i’ll keep you posted.

ok, now, it’s time for me to get ready to go to that christmas party i was telling y’all about—the sleeve is coming along and if we both behave ourselves, it might get finished by the time i head back home.

here’s hoping that your own christmas preparations are going well and if not, that whatever hangups you are experiencing are small ones.

36 thoughts on “let them eat cake (if they dare)

  1. Uh oh…time for a new oven? I’ve made that eggnog pound cake before and it is wonderful. Before I saw the apple cake I was going to say that you could cube the good parts of the pound cake and make a trifle out of it for the party…

    Those boys jackets are just darling–I could definitely see Noah in one of those. I’m looking forward to pics from the party and of the boys in their jackets soon!

    Merry Christmas Anne and David!

  2. You could also cube the eggnog cake and make bread pudding for Christmas.

    When my oven started having a mind of its own, I got rid of it and bought a Bosch gas/convection. Best investment I ever made. It even has “proofing” and “dehydrate” settings! And the baked goods turn out great (assuming I’ve included all the necessary ingredients!).

    Can’t wait for party photos! Good luck with the sweater – we have every confidence in you, Anne!

  3. You should wrap a wide ribbon around the apple cake. AND a giant bow.
    No one will notice the scorching!

    I’m going to try the eggnog cake. It sounds scrumptious!

  4. Those jackets are SO adorable! I know the boys will love them, and hopefully wear them lots and lots. I almost wish I had a little boy to knit one for.

    And do you think the eggnog cake would be good without the rum in it? Because we can’t do alcohol, at all (and that includes most extracts, which actually have more alcohol in them then most booze!). Fortunately, I love my eggnog plain, but the cake might need a little something extra.l Does anybody have any suggestions for a good nonalcoholic substitute for the rum? Because that cake looks absolutely scrumptious!

  5. those boy jackets are too fabulous! cannot wait to make one for my grandson.
    take a sharp knife and gently scrape the bottom of cake and you can get so much of that black stuff off of it. and the rest will be yummy!

  6. Oh, I remember how excited I was when my rosemary first bloomed! Such lovely little blue flowers. But mine does it in the spring and early summer…it lives outdoors though.

    The sweaters are beautiful. Merry Christmas!

  7. I am definitely making my little Aidan one of these jackets! I love it and I think he will too!!

    That eggnog cake sounds heavenly!!! I have the same oven woes that you do so I totally understand…

  8. Such beautiful scrunchy jackets…you are so great at choosing the yarn and the stitches to compliment it…oh I can sympathise with you about the oven….the oven we have had for ages didn’t operate correctly from day 1….DH has had to take the back off now and again and oil the bits behind the fan….hmmm…wouldn’t you know it, amidst the Christmas baking it had to be ‘fixed’ again…..coupled with that my batteries for my scales died and I hadn’t remembered to get spares…priority tomorrow. If a sort of disaster only happens to your baking when you are baking for this group then you are fortunate….in my experience things never work out right when you especially want them to be excellent but throw the stuff at the oven when it’s just for yourselves and it turns out perfect….we call this Murphy’s law over here in Northern Ireland! Hope that party goes well!

  9. Love the picture of the bigger jacket hugging the younger jacket. I can just picture the two brothers! Also, I would totally have eaten that cake with the brown edge.

  10. What do you mean when you say “send for sizing”? Do you hire someone to do the math for multiple sizes?

  11. Love the rosemary blooms…its been awhile since I’ve seen those 🙂 And the jackets…ahh, so cute. I’ll be watching for the pattern…my 2 yr old will look cute 🙂 (as I’m sure your nephew will!!!)

  12. Yum-that Eggnog cake reminds me of the Bacardi Rum cake my mom used to make. Very cheery to see the blooming rosemary as the solstice approaches.

  13. The nephews’ jackets are absolutely beautiful. We’ll look forward to seeing pictures of them on the boys! Such absolutely beautiful knitting.

  14. My Christimas knitting is not going to be finished by Christmas – but I’m wrapping it up anyway. And other than that, the preparations are going pretty darn well!

    The jackets are adorable!

  15. I can’t wait to see Amad in his jacket!!! I remember his absolute LOVE of his first hand knit socks. Beautiful job. Merry Christmas!!

  16. Sorry about the oven. Actually both poundcakes look wonderful. My solution to the too-brown edges was always to thinly slice it off and carefully ice it with a rather thick icing. Now the applecake is as pretty as an ornament. — The little jackets are adorable and though I never comment, I love your blog !

  17. My rosemary would always bloom when I brought it in for the winter. Wonderful way to remember it won’t be cold forever and that spring is just a month or two away! It’s said Rosemary always thrives in the home of a strong woman. In the summer when it’s too hot and I get a hankering for the Christmas season I like to run my hand up the branches of my rosemary bush and smell my fingers…that earthy evergreen smell just like the Yule.

    Love the jackets! Anyone who receives a handmade gift from you certainly has something to be thankful for! That apple cake looks yummy too! Merry Happy and best wishes for joy and prosperity in the new year!

  18. Reminds me of my malfunctioning cookie gun last year. Batter made, gun filled and it died. Ever try to find a cookie gun two days before Christmas. For Get About It! Love the jackets,rosemary and sweater. I’m in awe that you can get this done in 5 days! What is the topping on the apple cake?? It is so festive! Egg Nog cake trifle sounds yummy!

  19. I’m assuming frosting wasn’t an option on the Egg Nog cake? (which I’m totally making, btw. Thanks for the recipe!). Hope it was a good knitters’ party!

  20. Awww – too bad about the cakes – but I bet they are delicious anyway. Our Knitting Guild party is tonight and I think I may give the eggnog cake a try.
    I really, really like the little jackets. Expert Knitting and careful blocking and they just “lay” so well. That stitch you used makes a beautiful fabric.
    I’m sending you fast knitting thoughts for the surprise sweater – I know you can do it!

  21. Dear Anne,

    it all looks delicious regardless. Although your oven may well be at fault, occasionally, there are instances where the pan is also to blame. If the pan is dark coloured, i.e. old and much-loved and going anthracite grey rather than silvery, the dark colour literally attracts more heat and makes the surfaces in contact with the pan itself overheat and sometimes char. Going with a new and bright pan makes a considerable difference. (I read all about this in a Dorrie Greenspan article for Bon Appetit years ago and realised that it is, in fact, true).

  22. Ooooh! How do you make that apple cake?!

    My mother also has a rosemary bush that blooms. Thing is, she can’t keep anything alive. Her mother is the green thumb. So every so often Big Mom puts together a pot of plants or something for the front of Mama’s house. At one time she gave her two barrels to put on either side of the steps, planted with various low maintenance perennials, including rosemary. (Currently, the barrels have been moved to the carport to make way for two huge urns.) I think the rosemary bushes are the only things that survived the non maintenance 😉 One would bloom, and the other not. We always assumed it was a male/female thing.

  23. I bet the cake tastes great. Tough luck about the burning. I for some reason just can’t make bread although I am a pretty good cook and don’t have many disasters. Any more – I have been at it for 4

  24. sorry -comment decided to post itself. 41 years.
    The little boys’ sweaters are gorgeous and somehow very masculine. You would never think they were for little girls – but this big girl was thinking they might look good on a lady if she were to insert a little waist shaping.
    The mystery recipient sweater is also very nice.

  25. It sucks when a major appliance decides to act up or just die.
    I love those Jennie the Potter buttons. I almost bought some at Stitches Midwest but bought yarn, a mug and stitch markers from her instead.
    The jackets look great. I know the recipients will rock them!

  26. I had that horrible oven thermostat going wrong thing happen to me when I had people to my house for a weekend in the country and I incinerated a roast before I realised the problem.
    Cut the botton off the cake and blame the oven!

  27. I have to sympathize about your baking woes. Although, mine are more my fault than anything. My father-in-law has been groaning about how the bottom of pies are always doughy and he just wants his wife to make an apple pie with no bottom. We said no gifts this year, but I thought I could grant his apple pie wish since his wife refused to. I got it all ready, hand made the crust, but cut the bottom out to only have the sides and tops. I stuck it in the oven with my new crust covers on and set the timer. Then, I realized that I needed to remove the crust cover 10 minutes before it was done. I was trying to stop the timer (which is a rather determined little thing) and hit cancel (which turns off the oven). Not realizing my mistake, I reset the timer and hopped into the shower and started getting ready only to find a lumpy uncooked mess when the timer went off. I ened up sticking it in the fridge and baking it for my husband later (verdict on whether it is edible to be given tonight), but arrived at the in-laws unintentionally empty-handed. UGH!!!

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