Sophia’s 6th Birthday Cake

I was going through my cake photos recently looking for inspiration for the holidays and I came across the pictures of my youngest daughter’s 6th birthday cake. She’s 7 and a half now, but even though a year and a half has passed, I’m still incredibly proud of this creation of mine.

At the time, Sophia was absolutely head over heels in love with the Disney movie Tangled. I’ve always let my children dictate what they want for their own birthday cakes every year. They take such great delight in it and I love making them, so I never really considered that they might want something that I couldn’t make. So naturally my little overachiever Sophia asked for the most difficult thing from the movie: Rapunzel’s tower.

Yikes.

Seeking inspiration, I spent several evenings scouring the internet looking at castle and Rapunzel related artwork, drawings and cakes, some good…some really terrible…all in the days before the glories of Pinterest. Finally I happened across this beautiful cake and then it all clicked. This, I could totally rock.

I decided on an in-edible tower anchored in the middle of a round chocolate cake. I started by gathering the items to make the base of my tower: an unused mailing tube, an empty cashew can, two cans of peaches (one emptied and rinsed, the other still sealed) and a flexible piece of cardboard. If you are going to give this a go yourself, make sure the cans will fit inside your mailing tube. I began by using a hot glue gun to attach the cleaned peach can to the bottom of the nut can and to attach the full can to my cake base. This made the tower incredibly stable and allowed me to make the living portion of the tower on something more manageable yet easy to add securely to the design later. I also added a cone shaped roof to the nut can as well as a bumped out bay window using the cardboard and hot glue. You’ll notice in the pictures below that the roof actually has more than one peak and the shorter one was done simply with frosting under the tiles.

Next I used a brick texture tile from Duff on Wilton fondant that I had tinted gray. Texture tiles are fun if you’re doing something small, but I’ve found that it’s easier to get a clean imprint if you place the tile or imprint mat on -top- of your rolled out fondant and then press it in to get the impression. Doing it the other way with the mat between the counter and the fondant results in a muddy design for me nearly every time. I attached the gray brick with a little bit of water, then added the white fondant wrap in the same way, cutting it carefully with a paring knife as I went.

At this point I got my cakes in the oven which was fairly straightforward since they were plain chocolate and then I sat down to focus on the living quarters. Sophia had seen the pictures by this point, so I was charged with making it -exactly- the same as the picture as I shuffled her off to bed. Kids. I hand tinted all the fondant and applied it using a little water for the most part, however the tiles were stuck on with buttercream. I actually had an absolute blast putting the little house together, though there are a few things I would have done differently if I had to do it again. I think I would have done some sort of painted detail on the window panes themselves and perhaps some lightly painted cracking to simulate plaster on the white stucco parts. I also would have been a little more careful about keeping the top spire straight and I would have added the wooden buttresses underneath the living space.

Once the cakes were done and cooled, torted, filled and stacked, I used a cookie cutter that was close to the size of the mailing tube to cut a hole in the cake. I then took the donut shaped cake, carefully put it on the prepared cake board and frosted it with green tinted buttercream frosting. I took the mailing tube and covered the rest of the exposed cardboard with foil and then lowered it into the hole in the cake and around the peach can that was glued to the board. It fit perfectly with no wiggling. Using a grass tip and the same green buttercream, I added grass detail around the edges where the cake met the board and the cake met the tower as well as some small patches here and there for detail. I switched to a straight tip (I believe it was a #2 or #3) and piped the vines, then the leaves with a #352 leaf tip. Finally, I added flowers in various hues to both the cake and the living quarters and the figurines which were part of her birthday surprise.

Needless to say, she was absolutely thrilled with the cake and I still hear from her classmates “Remember that one time? When you made that super tall Tangled cake for Sophia’s birthday?”

I simply smile and say yes, yes I do.

Pizza 17 on 17th Street in Washington DC Reviewed

I have always been hesitant to try a new pizza place.  I am way to particular when it comes to a perfect pizza and what I like.  The other night I was hungry and out looking for somewhere to eat when I walked by it.  I never really see a ton of people inside Pizza17 on 17th street in Washington DC, so when I was looking for dinner the other night I almost didn’t stop in.  Thank god I did because the crust and some of the toppings at Pizza17 are some of the best that I have had in the Washington DC area.

1523 17th St NW
(between N Church St & N Q St)
Washington, DC 20036
Neighborhood: Dupont Circle

Pizza 17 is a small little store with only a few tables.  Behind the counter is a wood fired oven and a few bottles of wine.  The service is friendly and everything, for the most part, tastes fresh.  The only thing I have been dissapointed with is the fungi pizza because they only use one kind of mushroom. However, I have ordered it every time I have been there so they are obviously doing something correct.  I have been there three times now and every time I go, I am amazed that it isn’t packed, because the pizza crust at Pizza 17 is amazing.

Not only is it crisp, but on the outside it is also a bit chewy.  They somehow always get the crust perfect.  I could literally sit there and eat their pizza crust all day long.  On the Fungi pizza they top the amazing bread with a ton of onions, cheese that is not flat and melted, but mixed in between the huge toppings and of course mushrooms.  On top of that they have a spicey olive oil that you can pour over top of it or dip the pizza into.  Not only does the olive oil take the pizza to the next level, but it almost becomes addictive.

Next time I go I am going to have to break away from what I know and try the pizza sliders or something else.  Until then I am giving Pizza 17 in Dupont Circle 4 out of 5 stars.  The only reason they don’t get the fifth star is because the fungi pizza should have multiple types of mushrooms to make it perfect.  I have seen some of the other pizzas being made and served and everything there looks incredible.  If you are in Washington DC and looking for good pizza, try Pizza17.

Not quite the Revolution Jamie Oliver was looking for…

If you haven’t heard about Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, then you’re either so busy whipping up your latest creation or well…I have no idea what else you could possibly be doing to not have heard about it.

Jamie Oliver has a massive passion for healthy food, especially when it comes to public schools and what they serve our kids as “school lunch”. Remember Mystery Meat, creamed “corn”, and tater tots fried within an inch of their life all served on a pressed formica tray in pale shades of vomit orange, green and blue? Yeah, those school lunches.

Anyway, his show “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” started in the UK in 2010 and last season focused on places here in the U.S., and his site of the same name has more than 700,000 petition supporters. The whole Food Revolution has multiple goals to change the way America eats: more cooking at home, freshly cooked meals at school, cooking in the community, inspiring and educating parents, kids and the community at large to support fresh foods and home and healthy cooking, and encouraging corporations to produce healthier foods and label them honestly as well as providing better food to employees.

Now, I had a privileged food childhood, though perhaps I didn’t appreciate it at the time. My mom planted a garden in our backyard and we had strawberries every year as well as carrots, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lemons and oranges as well as the occasional foray into watermelons and cantaloupe. Our next door neighbor had a jungle of fruit trees and shared her harvest of apples, nectarines, plums and peaches with us regularly. We went to the local farmer’s market several times a month and bought in-season produce. And then there’s the ranch…I spent several weeks nearly every summer at my grandparent’s ranch helping out, though I’m sure my uncles would say I was more underfoot than helpful, feeding the sheep, bottle feeding the calves who were twins and whose mothers had rejected them, collecting eggs, and setting irrigation pipes as well as learning family recipes at my grandmother’s side. I know where my food comes from and I’ve made sure my kids have learned the same lessons. It just astounds me that so many kids and even people in my own generation have little knowledge of how the food they put in their mouths three times a day (or more) is even made.

Jamie’s whole focus is on changing this and I wholly support the concept. Sadly, he had his own setback this week as one of his restaurants was hit in the London riots:

“sadly my restaurant in Birmingham got smashed up windows all gone whole area closed, cant open, staff and customers all safe!!thankfully jox”

Hopefully, he’ll have it back up and running in no time and can focus on the real Revolution our society desperately needs.