new faces

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Every time I see my nieces and nephew my heart fills with love. The pure sight of them magically makes my face light up and turn a rainy day into pure sunshine. They fill my life with joy and appreciation.

Sometimes I am wondering, how those little human beings can steal such a huge part of my heart and love. How these little people made it to crawl their way into the circle of loved ones so easily.

 

Along with these thoughts, I am thinking about people we meet in our lives and how they affect us. There are people we know from day 1 – parents, siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, grandparents… Then there are people we meet along the way, starting with family friends, visiting our home, until we grow our own circle of relationships. The group of people then starts to change in batches. Kindergarten, school, university, work.. The number of people in ones life gets bigger and bigger with passing years. Some of those people stay. Most leave. Some will be remembered, some will leave a vague memory of a face or a name. Some of them will even represent a question mark on old photographs. People will be good to us, hurt us, leave us behind. Some will have a presence, even if they are not around. Some will remain a sad memory, some will always make us smile. Some of them will never be friends, some of them will be like family. And family might even not feel like family any longer.

 

Two months ago we celebrated my nephews first birthday and I was sitting at the table, looking at the 20+ guests, wondering about the circle of people in my nephew’s life. Most of the people were his parent’s friends. I was thinking how this will change over time. In just a few years, it will be a party full of children his age and their parents, until he will invite only his friends to his own apartment. He will have a full list of people he met along his way, carefully choosing the ones he can trust and can be himself with. He will find the one person he will be ready to spend the rest of his life with, creating his own stable circle of people, called family. And all will start again.

For now though, all he was interested in were the toys and his stuffed animals.. the people celebrating him were of less interest. Sure I had to be present and make a cake for him. His love for animals made the theme pretty easy to choose. I spent a few days making the lion (he will sure grow up with the strength of a lion) and had 1 1/2 days for the rest of the decoration and cake making. My sister and I spent the evening before the event, making a fondant zoo. The lion did not quite survive the transport – lost some hair along the way, but hey.. that’s life 😉

We placed the zoo on the cake, made some additional colorful decorations – like an arena for the lion – and decorated everything just in time before the guests arrived. My nephew recognized all the animals (at least the ones that make a sound like snake and elephant 😉 ) and seemed very happy seeing all his favorite characters.

And so he is starting his own journey through the many faces in his life. Thinking back I am thankful for all of those I met along my own. Not all of them have brought me joy, not all of them made me happy. Some hurt me badly, some left me broken, but luckily most of them left me with a smile and good memories. One thing I know for sure: no matter who I met and whether this person is still in my contacts or not, whether this person broke me or lifted me up, I learned, I got better, I got stronger. With every new face in my life I became who I am today, where I am today. Even those, who hurt me and did wrong to me, taught me the probably most valuable lesson; something somebody told me a long time ago: those people taught me who I don’t want to be. They made me stronger and a better person. So: Thank you!

about love

 

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When I was in school our German literature teacher made us read one of his favorite books. A book that was not mandatory for all classes, like “Faust” or “Effi Briest” (one of my favorites btw.). I am still not sure why he made us read it. It was about some woman who was a translator. Or maybe this was not even the main character..  I don’t quite remember. There was a love story involved and one simple, little thing that was said about love just stuck with me and is often making me think until today. “Love is always one-sided. There is always somebody who starts to love and convinces the other person to love back. And the first person will always love more and deeper.” Is that true? Is this what love is about? Convincing the other person that being together is the right thing to do? It might sound a little harsh, but I think that there is some truth in it. Even if both people have feelings from the start – the famous love at first sight maybe – one person always needs to make the first move and show interest.

However, I don’t fully agree with the second part of the thesis. Just because one person started, doesn’t mean the second person will never reach the same level or even higher level of love. Life is unpredictable and we simply don’t know what will happen. Person number one might realize, after just a few weeks, that the feelings start to fade. Or he/she never gets any further than what has been there in the beginning, while person number two  keeps developing deeper and deeper feelings.

So yes, I agree.. somebody always makes the start and invites the other one for the roller coaster called love, but I believe that while taking the ride it can go both ways.. either part can decide to get out at some point or both will keep sitting and enjoying the ride until the wheels stop turning. And if the latter decision is taken and it is made official, one important thing you will need.. is a cake.

A few weeks ago I received a call with those wonderful news that my sister decided to keep it rolling and she would get married.. within the next two weeks. She needed a cake and asked me to make it. Since there were not many instructions, I had no idea what I should make. Two weeks are not really enough time to go crazy. The wedding was small, only the closest family members, so a one tier cake would be enough (the big wedding about to follow.. ). Finally she expressed her wishes that she would like to have flowers on her cake -Lillies and Callas. I have never made those, so this has been quite a challenge. I started a week earlier and needed the whole week for try and error until I finally found a lilly good enough to decorate the cake with. The callas were easier. On top of that I made little white flowers that I would add.

I will have to practice even more for the big cake, but there is enough time left, so I am positive.

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I made a pound cake as the base and because the bride wanted buttercream instead of fondant, I made swiss meringue buttercream with some lemon flavor as one filling and to cover. The second buttercream was a light raspberry-cream-cheese buttercream with a hint of white chocolate.

SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

  • 6 egg whites
  • 200 g sugar
  • 360 g butter (or 180 crisco and 180 butter to get it more white)
  • citric acid powder
  1. In a bowl, put into a water bath, whisk the egg whites and the sugar and heat it up until it reaches 60 °C or until very hot to touch
  2. remove from heat and whisk with an electric mixer
  3. add butter gradually and whisk until smooth
  4. add citric acid

RASPBERRY BUTTER CREAM

  • 250g butter
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 125g raspberries / raspberry puree
  • 200-250g confectioners sugar
  • 100-150g white chocolate
  1. whisk the butter until smooth and creamy
  2. add the confectioners sugar
  3. add cream cheese and raspberry puree
  4. melt chocolate and let cool
  5. add chocolate to the buttercream and whisk until smooth

 

 

I put some raspberries onto the first layer of cake and covered it with the raspberry cream. The second layer I covered with the swiss meringue. The third again with raspberries and cream and finally I covered the entire cake with the remaining swiss meringue.

At the sides I used edible lace and used fondant and sugar pearls for the edges.

Because the flowers are put on wire, I used straws that I put into the cake first before adding the flowers.

The cake didn’t even last five minutes :D, but I hope the couple was satisfied.

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cream or chocolate

We have to make decisions. Every day. Blue jeans or black pants? Cereal or bread? Car or bike? Coffee or tea? Gym or couch? Movie or favorite TV show?

Little decisions, that we don’t even recognize as such as they simply happen. Which book should I read next? Which ice cream flavor should I buy? Do I need this new pair of shoes?

Can you decide? Can you always make a choice and simply be happy with it?

Let’s see..

What would you choose? Chocolate or Cream&Berries?

Did you go for chocolate?

You can find the recipe of the cake here. I filled and covered it with a simple dark chocolate ganache.

The cream and berries is your choice?

Here is how you make it

INGREDIENTS

for the cake: 

200gr butter
170gr sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
3 eggs
200gr flour
1 Tsp baking powder
salt

for the filling:
600gr mixed berries (frozen or fresh) - or more if you want to use smoothie for your pudding
1.5 pckg vanilla pudding
350ml water or juice (or smoothie - which I used)
1 Tbs sugar
600 ml heavy cream
3 pckg cream stiffener
2 pckg vanilla sugar

topping: 
cookies
lemon juice
powdered sugar

1. for the cake beat butter with sugar and vanilla sugar until fluffy
2. add eggs one by one
3. mix flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and add to the butter mixture
4. bake 20-25 minutes
5. for the filling heat up 300ml water, juice or smoothie
6. mix the pudding powder and sugar with the remaining water and add to the heated water
7. cook until you get a pudding texture
8. let cool and add the berries
9. cover the cake with the pudding
10. whisk the heavy cream until stiff
11. cover the berries with whipped cream
12. cover with cookies
13. for the icing, mix lemon juice with powdered sugar until smooth and thick
14. cover the cookies with the icing and let it cool over night

Hope you made the right choice. If not.. tomorrow is another day 🙂

flawless motions

 

There are things I am good at and things I am simply not. There are things I learn quickly and some things I cannot wrap my mind around. There are things I understand and some things which will never make their way into my brain.

I like to learn and I like it even more when I understand and when I see results.. quickly. I hate giving up and often pretend I would, just to sneak back into whatever the task was.. secretly, when nobody is looking. Then I try.. either until I make it or until I realize that I will most likely die not getting there.

In my first job, after finishing my studies, my supervisor once told me that I am good in grabbing processes. I understand quickly how things work. I only need to see it once. I went through the process of collection making and the next time I was sitting at my desk alone, clicking through several software tools and files, without anybody looking over my shoulder. Obviously, my brain can do its job.

So, work is done for. But then.. the devastating part of the day is just lurking around the corner. The gym. The place where my brain leaves my body, my legs refuse to work with my arms and my body parts simply develop own lives. I watch other girls easily dancing from one side to the other, moving their arms rhythmically, while their legs follow accordingly. And then I am trying to talk sense into my body parts “left arm up, right leg back… no no no.. not right arm back and left leg up!” One hour of trying to coordinate my legs and arms exhausts me more than the actual workout- it’s like watching four little kids destroying your mother in law’s house. Hip swing, jump, arms up, then only one.. at the same time the right leg to the side.. swing around and jump.. don’t forget to gracefully swing your arm like an umbrella.. double hop, single hop.. no not a single hop with both legs.. the left leg is supposed to make a little twist.. and don’t forget to draw a heart with your arms.. you forgot the right leg.. it needs to follow your arm movements. Last song.. Cool down.. breathe…. iiiiiiiiin, ooooooout, iiiii,n oooooouuut.. great! That I can do! 🙂 iiiiinn, oooouuuttt.. and a slow salsa, graceful arms, hip shake, leg lift, circle… Where is the door?

Fine, if my movements don’t want to look flawless, I turn on my oven and try to make something else look graceful.

A few weeks ago I found something very interesting on the internet. The ultimate guide how to make flawless chocolate covered cakes.

There are basically three things you need: a silicone baking pan, your favorite pound cake recipe and choooooooocolate. I wanted to have small cakes, so I got some mini-gugelhupf muffin cups.

  1. You bake the cake in the silicone pan and let it cool.
  2. Clean the pan and melt the chocolate. If you want, you can mix some coconut butter/oil, to make it more fluid.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into the pan and distribute evenly.
  4. Put the cake back into the pan and let it cool in the fridge.
  5. Once you are sure the chocolate is cooled down, you can easily remove the pan and admire the flawless liaison between chocolate and cake.

One more advise: make sure you are using a recipe where the cake keeps it shape and does not shrink. I once used a different recipe and  the chocolate would just stay in the molds instead of covering the mini-cakes. For the mini-cakes on the pictures I used this recipe.

Enjoy 🙂

 

no princess

 

 

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IMG_2596I am not a princess. Shocking news, I know. Maybe you think: “Oh, well… who knows for sure? Don’t we all have some royal ancestors somewhere in the past? Hundreds of years ago there might have been some royal person, who was the grandfather of the grandmother of the grandmother’s grandmother of mom’s grand-grandfather?” Maybe this is true for some of you guys, but I have proof! THE proof!

 

Every night I am getting ready for bed and walk into my kitchen, open the microwave, set it to 2.5 minutes and wait. Beep, beep, beep. I go to bed and get warm, holding my freshly microwaved warming pillow tight to my body. It is a fairly old warming pillow and the many fixed holes show the months of winter nights, only survived through the warmth of little grain.

There were little holes, medium holes and finally, one night, a laaaaarge hole. The grains spill onto the bed sheets and build a solid ground for my dreams. A restful night. I wake up, rested, content and ready for the day. I walk to the bathroom – little grains glued to my arms, legs and back, one by one landing on the floor, drawing a path from my bed to the bathroom. The sheets full of grains make me realize “I am no princess!”. Do you know the story of “The princess and the Pea”? No? Ok, short summary: The tale is written by Hans Christian Anderson and is about a princess whose royalty is tested by placing a pea under several mattresses. The princess does not get any sleep that night, feeling uncomfortable with the pea under her mattresses and this is how her royal identity is proven. I don’t feel 100 grains right under my butt.. I am no princess.

 

I don’t know whether one of my friends and colleagues is a princess and whether she had peas or grains under her mattress, while she was stuck in bed for weeks, due to her broken foot. I only hope that she did not feel like the princess in the tale and was able to find some rest. I assume it must have been uncomfortable after a while though. When she finally recovered and got back to work, of course I wanted to welcome her with a cake.

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Because I was not able to make a cake the night before her return, I thought the second day would be good enough as well. I prepared the decoration: a teddy bear with a broken foot, made out of chocolate fondant with white parts made of white marzipan. Sitting on the table, teddy was impatiently waiting for another place to sit. His eyes looked at me desperately, asking for his throne (a prince?). I made a vegan chocolate cake, took it out of the oven and… it slipped and broke into a million pieces. It was late, but I thought I would try again. This time, my oven did not feel the urge to cooperate and the cake turned out to be dry and hard at the edges, but gooey and dense on the inside. Not a throne, rather a plastic chair, thus not acceptable for the royal bear. I was not able to make a third cake, so I postponed the cake again. On the weekend I tried it one more time. I baked a chocolate cake and … nope.. my oven still did not feel like working with me. The cake was undone in the middle, while too dry on the outside. I thought I would go with my ultimate cake, which always works, unless you have an oven like me. Same story.. dry on the outside, undone on the inside. I was about to give up. I walked out of the kitchen and there he was.. sitting on the table, looking sad and disappointed. Why did I have to make that bear, before the cake was ready? Back into the kitchen and cake no.5! Finally!!! The vegan chocolate cake was done inside and outside! Although I was told, it was a little dry, which is most likely due to the fact that it had to stay in the oven for almost an hour instead of 35minutes.. I kind of start to dislike my oven…

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I made white modeling chocolate instead of fondant (yummy.. dark chocolate cake covered with white chocolate.. mmmmmmmhhh). Because it was late and Sunday (=stores closed in Germany) and I did not have much decoration at home, I took nonpareils and tried to make something like a flower bed. With bamboo sticks and normal paper, I made a “Welcome back” banner and placed the teddy in the middle of the cake, on top of some colorful nonpareils. He did not complain about feeling uncomfortable, sitting on top of them.. maybe he is not a prince after all.. or is he? 😉

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