Onions in the Backswing

When my sister woke me up one morning urging me to get downstairs and check on an in-progress cake in the fridge, I was petrified.  Did our brother come home from the bar last night and eat the cake that had to be delivered today? Sadly, that was the first conclusion I had jumped to (Sorry, Rick……).  I ran out of bed, into the kitchen, and saw my dad’s face full of apprehension and concern.  Reaching for the refrigerator, my dad told me to just “take a whiff.”

Onions.  The smell of freaking raw onions was burning my nostrils, and seemingly permeating my delicious, flambéed banana-filled cakes with their noxious odor.

While I was sleeping, a friend, who was then living at our house while his was being rebuilt after Sandy, decided to make some chicken kabobs for his lifeguard barbecue and leave them in our fridge until noon.  Fortunately for me (and, to be truthful, my friend’s livelihood), the buttercream-iced cakes did not take on the taste or smell of raw onions.  He got a warning and a free pass for that one.  That, and the fact that he’s basically the best houseguest/lifeguard captain a person could ask for, as long as he never cuts an onion whilst in my vicinity ever again (I mean it Matt… NEVER again).

Unfortunately, onions were the least of my worries that morning…

Anyone who has spent any amount of time on the East Coast during the summer months knows that stepping outside feels like the human body should have been equipped with gills.  The amount of moisture in the air is on par with that of a steam room, and the heat is like being punched in the chest by a flaming Socker Bopper filled with molten lava.  Summers in the Jersey humidity are about as comfortable as your brother’s obsession with perfecting the Socker Bopper knock out punch…. as in not at all.  However, there is blessedly a way to escape the heat and humidity in the form of the modern technology known as air conditioning.  That is, if your father (who resides in sunny Miami) decided to get air conditioning in the house… unlike mine.  We do, however, have some room units that my sister keeps blasted to allow our furbabies some relief from the heat, until my dad comes home and opens all the windows to let in the wind due to his hatred for this modern convenience.  All in all, my house is an air conditioning stand-off in which no one truly wins.

Because this was Father’s Day weekend, we decided to honor my dad by keeping the windows open to bring in the wind, smell of salt air, and, inevitably, the humidity.  Well, after I got over the onion-induced anxiety attack, I moseyed on over to the cute, golf-themed decorations I had meticulously molded the previous night expecting to find dry, solid golf clubs, flags, balls, and bag only to find a moist, goo-like coating on my semi-melted decorations. No bueño.  Cue anxiety attack numero dos for the day.

Example: this little guy was just a bit of late night shenanigans, and because I was decorating this cake for a friend, I deemed it necessary that he make it onto the cake.  But that moist sheen on him is the result of some the soupy-humidity of the Jersey Shore.

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Thankfully, my sister realized that there was a “dry” setting on the air conditioner in our kitchen window.  My dad, recognizing the dire situation and sweat dripping down my face from the heat, humidity, and wet-fondant-onion-stink-induced meltdown, took pity on my poor soul and granted me control of the air conditioning.  A few hours later, I had myself some mostly-dry golf clubs, flags, and bag to adorn my friend’s cake.

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When Life Happens

So it’s been a couple months since my last post… Thats about a couple months longer than I expected.  Well to bring y’all up to speed, this is what I’ve been up to:

  • dyed my hair violet (because, why not?)
  • took a trip to California to visit some of my favorite CIA chefs, wineries, and, of course, some best friends
  • dyed my hair bright pink (because, again, why not?)

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  • baked a kick ass LBI, NJ themed cake for some friends
  • dyed my hair light brown, because I’m definitely not cool enough (or patient enough) to keep up with the pastel hair trend

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  • went to LBI HopSauce Fest with my dad (just on a whim but had a great time)
  • accompanied my mom to Florida for some medical procedures
  • back to NJ to attempt to develop some kind of normalcy in my crazy life

All in all, there has been a lot of travel over the past couple of months.  While it’s looking like there is not going to be much of a let up in the next 2-3 weeks, here’s to hoping for some semblance of peace and quiet.

But in the spirit of my love for NJ and the island I call home, I wanted to share my favorite cake to date.

Here’s the story:

My brother’s girlfriend texted me one morning and all sorts of crazy thoughts popped into my head… is she pregnant, is my brother in a hospital somewhere (again) for supermanning over his bike into the pavement, did she hate my pink hair, are they engaged or eloping… I’m a worrier, yet romantic optimist.  Nope, none of the above.  Tess just wanted to know if I’d be interested in making a Long Beach Island themed cake for her family as a surprise to their parents for buying their beach house.  Was I interested? Heck ya, I was!

So off I went to make this cake, and I can assure you that it went anything but easy.  In my giddy haste, I messed up about every aspect of this cake.  Seriously an accident in the baking.  I didn’t do my math right TWICE (once with the cake and once with the buttercream) but that gave my cousin, Ellie, and me some goodies to eat.  Finally, I got the basics down and was down to the nitty gritty, and my favorite part, the decorations.  I promised Tess that I would give her something along these lines:

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I needed to perfect each of these items, not only because my brother’s girlfriend’s family would be judging me (they have a very large, fun family) and would disown my brother forever if it was horrible, but I had to do right by the island.  In my mind, every mistake I made for each component was a sign of disrespect towards the island I grew up on….no pressure.

Essentially, I sketched out how I would execute each element.  Initially, I thought Barnegat Lighthouse was going to be the biggest pain, but I was wrong.  I cut the pieces of the lifeguard stand a little two thin for my liking, so they were a bit (a lot of a bit) too delicate when dried.  Seriously, I tried everything to get that thing together…

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The ocean waves and birds were colored on with different colors of food coloring gel.  I was pretty happy with them in the end.

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The only thing about this cake that I absolutely did not like was the sign.  It was a brainless move by me, but I decided I would paint the sign (in the form of a Garden State Parkway street sign) with food coloring instead of color the gumpaste… big, big mistake. It came out pretty darn awful, and then I couldn’t get as detailed as I wanted to with the sign.  But I didn’t have enough time to make another one so it went on.

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But in the end, and thankfully without any more brainless mistakes made by me, I think it came out pretty spiffy.  I mean, I got the colors of Ol’ Barney right, so there’s that.