The wedding cake that wasn’t

Ok so it is a cake.


A totally adorable, amazingly delicious little cake.  It wasn’t a wedding cake.


A couple of weeks ago a friend decided to get married, super low key, only a few people, outside, no reception, no cost.  We were supposed to go be witnesses.  I thought I would surprise them with a cake.  Helllooo?  Have you met me?  I bake.  A lot.  Somehow they found out and something happened where they decided they didn’t want a cake.


Ummmmmmmm…ok?  Who turns down a free wedding cake?  But whatever, no hard feelings. It was their day and what they want they get.  I totally wrapped some in foil and snuck it home with the groom.  I’m pretty sure they were thanking me later.


As soon as I found out, I decided I was still making the cake.  I had a plan, I had ideas.  And I already spent $20 on mini cake pans.  There would be a wedding cake.  It just wouldn’t be attending a wedding.


So I made this cake.  It was little and oh so cute.  It wasn’t hard at all.  It was delicious.

The bottom tier is a chocolate cake that is filled with caramel and a milk chocolate crunch.  Think candy bar.  It was inspired by this Martha Stewart cake I made last year.  There are three layers in this tier and the second layer is filled with fudge buttercream.


The middle tier is a caramel cake, with three layers.  The first is filled with the fudge buttercream and caramel.  The second is salted caramel buttercream.


The top tier is chocolate again; this tier has only two layers, since it’s tiny.  This filling for this one is caramel; salted caramel buttercream and milk chocolate crunch.

The whole cake gets slathered with salted caramel buttercream.  Then it gets decorated with the fudge buttercream.


This whole process was easier then I expected.  Possibly due to the small scale of the cake.  Or maybe I’m just awesome.  That’s a joke in case you can’t sense the sarcasm in written form.  I enjoy sarcasm a little too much.


Making a cake for a 200 person wedding I don’t see being as simple.  Where would I store the layers?  How would I transport it?  I’m pretty sure larger cakes involve dowels and other such nonsense to keep them together.  That sounds like crazy talk.


But this wedding cake was perfectly adorable.  They totally could have taken it home and eaten themselves into a sugar coma after their wedding. Instead we ate it ourselves, I gave some to friends and brought some to work.  There was so much damn cake for such a small cake!!

The wedding was great.  There were 8 people there, including the bride, groom and minister (who happens to be my BFF Karl, and also the officiant at my own wedding).  It was at this beautiful mill in the hills of the river valley about an hour from town.  It was drizzling all day, but seemed to stop just long enough for the ceremony.  She cried, I teared up, they got married.  And that was it.  I’ve been to two weddings this summer.  The first I spent 7 hour at.  This one was 30 minutes total.  It was kind of awesome.

We went home and I disassembled the cake and cut it.  It was candy bar like elegance.  It was simple and decadent.  I totally should have made my own wedding cake.  Wait that’s insane, who does that?


Here’s how it all came together.


Four days before the wedding I made the caramel sauce.  Super easy.  Into squeeze bottles it went.


Two days before I made the cakes.  As soon as they were cool I wrapped them as tight as possible in plastic wrap and put them in zip lock bags in the fridge.  I leveled the cakes in the pans before doing this.


That same day I also made the milk chocolate crunch.  That was super simple.


The day of I made the frosting, cut the cakes into layers and assembled and frosted the cakes.


I did everything as I would have, had I been taking the cake to the actual wedding.  Once completed I put the whole cake in the fridge to allow the frosting to set.


When I took it apart to cut it, I simply lifted each layer off of the cake and cut them.  I stored them in zip lock bags in the fridge, and took the cake out 15 minutes before I wanted to eat it.  Trust this, the caramel gets all oozy, the frosting softens…it’s a gooey delicious mess.  That’s a lie, it’s not messy, and it stayed together quite well.


So I made my first wedding cake.  I think it turned out pretty well.  I’m not about to go offering to do cakes for huge weddings, but this one was a delicious success.  And I checked something off of my 30 by 30 list!  Go me!

Chocolate Caramel Wedding Cake


A few notes on this recipe:  I had left over batter.  You might too, depending on the size cake pans you use.  I simply poured my extra batter into a loaf pan.  I also ended up with extra caramel, milk chocolate crunch and frosting.  These all went on top on the loaf cake when cooled.  It looked like a giant candy bar.  So use your extras any way you choose!


When cutting the cake, disassemble it first.  Don’t try to cut the cake as a whole, it gets complicated and doesn’t work out well.


Lastly, this cake tastes really delicious with coffee.  I highly recommend it.





For the chocolate cake:


1 cup coffee

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/2 whole milk

2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks of butter softened

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

3/4-cup sugar

4 eggs


For the caramel cake:


1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup cake flour

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/3 cup whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 stick plus 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1/3 cup caramel sauce


For the frosting:


5 egg whites

1 cup of sugar

4 sticks of butter, softened

6 ounces of semi sweet chocolate

caramel sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt


For the milk chocolate crunch:


6 ounces milk chocolate

1 cup crisped rice cereal




1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour 3 cake pans, you can use a variety of shapes, sizes and types.  You want to make enough cake to have layers and tiers as well.


2.  Make the chocolate cakes: Brew 1 cup of strong coffee.  Mix cocoa powder in with coffee until dissolved.  Once cooled add milk.  In another bowl mix flour, and baking soda.  In a mixer using the paddle attachment cream butter and sugars together.  Add eggs one at a time until well blended.  Add flour mixture and coffee mixture alternating, starting and ending with flour.


5.  Make the caramel cake:  Whisk together flours, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.  Stir milk and vanilla in another small bowl.  Beat butter in mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, approximately 3 minutes.  Add sugar slowly while mixing.  Beat until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time, mixing after each addition.  Scrape bowl and beat until smooth.  Reduce speed and slowly add 1/3 of flour mixture.  Alternate adding milk mixture and flour mixture until all ingredients added.  Add caramel sauce.


5.  Pour into cake pans, filling 3/4 full.  Place pans on cookie sheet and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Times will vary based on cake pan size.  The timing I use goes a little like this:  20 minutes for smaller cake pans and 40 minutes for larger cake pans.  Just watch them, and keep a toothpick handy.  It’s not that hard.  I promise.


6.  Meanwhile make the milk chocolate crunch.  Melt chocolate in microwave safe bowl in 20-second increments until smooth.  Fold in cereal.  Pour into thin even layer on a cookie sheet.  Transfer to fridge until set.  Break into small pieces.


7.  Make the frosting.  Using a heat proof mixing bowl, whisk egg whites and sugar over 1 inch of simmering water until mixture reaches 160 degrees.  Transfer to mixer and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes.  Increase speed to high and beat another 6 minutes, until stiff peaks form.  Add butter a tablespoon at a time, until completely incorporated, and frosting is light and fluffy.  Remove 1/3 of frosting.  Melt chocolate sauce in microwave safe bowl, in 20-second increments until smooth.  Cool slightly.  Fold into 1/3 of frosting.  Add 1/3 cup of caramel and salt to remaining 2/3’s of frosting.  Mix until completely incorporated.


8.  Once cooled place cakes in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  This makes them much easier to slice.  Slice the bottom two tiers into thirds, and the top in half.   Start with the bottom tier first, fill the first layer with as much caramel as you desire, I used about 1/3 cup.  Top the caramel with your milk chocolate crunch, I used a third of my crunch.  Place the second tier on top and make sure it seems level.  Spread the next tier with fudge buttercream.  Place top layer on and again make sure it is level.  Frost entire tier lightly with salted caramel buttercream.  This is your crumb coat.  It’s messy.  It catches all of the loose crumbs so your final layer of frosting is nice and smooth.  Place tier in fridge.


9.  Assemble the second tier.  This is your caramel cake.  Fill the bottom layer with caramel and milk chocolate crunch.  Again I used a little under 1/3 cup of caramel and a third of the crunch.  Place the second layer on top of the bottom layer.  Frost with fudge buttercream.  Place third layer on top.  Frost entire tier with a crumb coat of caramel buttercream.  Put this tier in the fridge as well.


10.  Assemble your final tier.  Fill the layer with salted caramel buttercream, caramel and milk chocolate crunch.  Frost with crumb coat of caramel buttercream.  Again, put this tier in the fridge.


11.  Starting with the bottom tier, after it has been refrigerated until set, about 20 minutes, frost with the final layer of frosting.  Make sure it is as smooth as possible, and then place back in the fridge for another 20 minutes.  Repeat with each tier.  Once each tier is set, take a small amount of frosting and dollop in the middle of each tier.  Align each tier on top of the next until they are level and even.  Return to the fridge for another 20 minutes.


12.  Using your remaining fudge buttercream, pipe swirl, or vine patterns over entire cake.  Take some artistic license and do whatever you want.  One more stint in the fridge and your cake is ready to go!


Here’s some advice.


1.  When it’s 90 degrees in Wisconsin, spend as little time outside as possible.  Really, I don’t recommend any vigorous activity.


2.  The second the weather turns, the days drop into the 60’s-70’s and the nights even cooler, spend as much time outdoors as humanly possible.  Leave the widows open.  Go for a walk.  Mow the lawn. Go ahead, read a book on the porch.


3.  When this beautiful almost fall, end of summer weather hits, cook everything you’ve been meaning to cook outside all summer long.

For me, that meant s’mores.  I have for quite some time been meaning to make marshmallows and graham crackers from scratch.  I finally did it.  It’s almost cold at night these days, my pumpkins are growing rapidly and the farmers markets are loaded with butternut squash, fall raspberries and tomatoes.


It’s my absolute favorite time of year.  I love fall.  The cool brisk air, the changing leaves.  It’s hands down, the best season.  I should probably take this entire season off of work.  It’s one of the reasons I stay in Wisconsin.  It feels almost magical, like there’s some thin veil between reality and some other world on crisp fall nights.


These nights are picture perfect for campfires in the backyard.  And roasting marshmallows.  I’m not a huge marshmallow fan in general, but put them on a graham cracker with some chocolate and I’m in love.  Store bought marshmallows are disturbing.  The ingredients are insane.  Marshmallow fluff is even worse.  So I made some.

They were easy.  I mean super easy.  Gelatin (which still grosses me out, but necessary in marshmallows), water, sugar and egg whites.  That’s basically it.  No skill involved, I promise.  This is where I got the marshmallow recipe.  The cooking of the gelatin is a little off putting.  It smells.  Kind of gross.  I mean it is after all hooves, and it has a distinct smell.  For a while I was convinced the marshmallows wouldn’t turn out.  They did.  They tasted just like a marshmallow.  Plan on making them when you will use them, these aren’t the bag of jet puffed you can keep in your pantry forever.  There are no preservatives.  They get sticky, and sweaty and stale within a few days.


The graham crackers were a bit more difficult, but not much.  Here’s the recipe I used.  I made 2 more batches after we devoured the first one.  The second batch I made in 10 minutes on my lunch break.  The dough is easy to make, it just has to chill.  Rolling them out was a bit trickier.  I was expecting the dough to roll like any typical rolled cookie dough because, who are we kidding, graham crackers are really just cookies.  This dough was more like piecrust.  It broke easily and was somewhat temperamental.  I found it easiest to let it warm up for about 10 minutes before rolling and then return the cut cookies to the fridge before baking.  I also used a square cutter instead of cutting them with a knife like the recipe suggests.  It was much easier.  This dough would probably make an amazing piecrust in any recipe which calls for a graham cracker crust.  I plan on trying it the next time I make one. 

These graham crackers will be in my permanent repertoire, the marshmallows may not be.  I may not make the marshmallows again for a long time, if ever.  I’m just not that into marshmallows.  I ate the graham crackers every day for a snack.  They were soooo good.  They made my house smell like heaven when they were baking.


Try it, you’ll see.

In betweens

This is what happens in between recipes. Real life.

Salads that feel like fall.

Cocktails that mimic a night out.

Fires in the backyard.

His and her beverages.

Insane adorable dogs.

Real life.

30 by 30

So I’m doing this thing.  Turning 30.  That’s me.  Aging.  Developing wrinkles, and thin skin under my eyes.  I’m in total denial about it.  Like massively.  See once you hit 30 it’s like you’re expected to be a grown up for real.  Big time.  Soooo not ready for all that business.  I still want to be young and carefree.

But it’s coming up.  Quickly.  In just over a month, I will be the big 3-0.  I’ll still be pretending I am 29.  So let’s not go telling everyone about this.  Seriously 30 is 10 years away from 40.  What.  The.  Fuck.  Pardon my language, normally I think swearing on my blog is not ok, but I am so not ready to be halfway through my life.  Not at all.

So, I’ve developed a list.  A lot of people I like and admire have been doing these lists as well.  So I’m doing one too.  It’s like a rite of passage.  Or more like a hope that I can do something meaningful with myself before I become a real grown up.

Is it weird that I still feel the same as I did when I was 16?  Well except all of the aches and pains.  That parts new.

So here is my list of 30 things to do before I turn 30.  Most of them are food related.  Or food-love-job related.  I need to find a way to make food or writing about food or working with food my career.  Like NOW.  Want to start a food magazine with me?  That sounds fun.  I’m now taking donations to become self-employed.  I’ll keep you stocked in sweets and treats.

Some of these are small easy things I keep forgetting about.  Some are huge lofty goals, which more then likely I will not accomplish, in the few short months before I exit my 20’s for good. Sad day.  But it’s good to have goals.  Right?  And I have checked off a few already since I first made the list.  Yeah me!

1.  Make a soufflé.

2.  Redesign my website.

3.  Find a way out of my job.

4.  Create a small business plan.

5.  Start food blog.

6.  Write 30 new recipes.  Over half way there!

7.  Animate Rocky .  Look at him.  He is begging to be a cartoon.

8.  Enter Iron Cupcake.

9.  Make baking business cards.

10.  Make crème brûlée.

11.  Learn to refinish my dresser.

12.  Learn to sew.

13.  Make my own cookbook by hand.

14.  Make a perfect poached egg.

15.  Mail baked goods to 15 long lost friends.

16.  Make a wedding cake.  Scheduled.  Doing it.

17.  Eat at L’Etoile.

18.  Plan a vacation to the west coast.

19.  Read 19 new books.

20.  Take 20 GOOD artistic photographs.  Not of food.

21.  Organize my computer.

22.  Watch every movie someone suggests from now until I turn 30.

23.  Spend a night partying like it’s 1999.

24.  Scan all of my old photos.

25.  Make this beautiful cake for someone’s birthday.

26.  Make a duo of homemade cheeses, ricotta and mascarpone.

27.  Make homemade dog biscuits.

28.  Take a cooking class.

29.  Develop an exercise routine I can stick to.

30.  Choose a cookbook and make every recipe in it.

So that’s it.  My list.  I’ll keep you posted on my progress on it.  Oh by the way, did you see number 15?  This is where you come in.  Here’s your chance to get some goodies.  I have about 10 people picked out already that I want to send baked goods to, but you could be one of the remaining five!!  Just leave a comment on this post and you might get sweet treats!!  I’ll be taking the first 5 people so do it now!

And I’ll keep you posted on how my list is going.  I have a feeling this list will turn into 30 things to do in my 30th year.  So is life.

Friday night dinner

Last night I went to dinner at Graze.

It was REALLY good.

Clean, simple food that is locally sourced.

We had cheese curds and duck confit to start. My dad got the mussels.My mom got the rainbow trout.  My husband got a burger that I forgot to photograph. I got the pork 3 ways.  Pulled pork, pork belly and some sort of grilled pork.  It was served with sautéed greens and charred corn.My cocktail was quite possibly the best cocktail I have ever had.  It was called a Mint Condition. 

I also had a Ginger Snap.  It was good too, but the Mint Condition was amazing.We all got dessert at my insistence.  My mom got chocolate cheesecake, which she dug into before I could snap a pic.


My husband got the ice cream cookie sandwich with fresh baked cookies. My dad got the bourbon pie.  I had the peach raspberry cobbler, with homemade custard.It was good, but I dare say my own peach raspberry crumble may have been better.


It was a damn good meal, one I would definitely like to repeat.  I am going to spend the next month trying to figure out how to duplicate that cocktail.


Is it fall yet?


I’m soooooo ready for summer to be over.  It’s hot.  Too hot.  93 degrees hot.  And humid.


I’m also ready for slower weekends without 48 hours somehow packed into 24.  I’ve neglected my house.  I’ve neglected my yard.  I’ve neglected my life.  I need some time.  For reals.

I’ve been spending my weekends driving 60 miles into the country every Saturday, working my butt off and then collapsing in bed around 1 or 2 in the morning when we finally get home.


Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not like I don’t love working at Milkweed.  I do.  It’s amazing.  I feel at home.  I feel comfortable. I feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.  It feels like how I only wish work could feel.  I need to find a way to make food my life.  But it’s still exhausting.  After working 40 hours every week, it makes for a long week.



Last Sunday I was lucky enough to have a few hours to do whatever the hell I wanted.




I made these rolls.  They were delicious.  Not overly sweet.



Loaded with fresh berries.


And drizzled with lemon icing.


Simply perfect.


Add some iced coffee with maple syrup and it’s pretty much the best breakfast rolls ever.


I can’t wait for colder weather.  And campfires.  And long weekends with nothing but my kitchen.


And pumpkins.  Just you wait.  Me and fall are BFF’s.