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!

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out of control

 

A couple of days ago, I took my usual way home after work. It was a long day and even though I enjoy my work and especially enjoy the company of my colleagues, this was one of the days I left work in a bad mood. I did not achieve the goals I set for myself and fought an inner silent fight with myself, thinking about what I should have done better. I just wanted to go home, do some yoga or pilates, curl up in a blanket and forget about this day, preparing myself for a better one to follow.

This was also one of the days the train was full enough to not get a seat – (of course ;). So I made myself comfortable, standing pressed to a wall and trying to just relax. Two tipsy or half drunken guys were sitting not too far away from me, sipping their beer. Lucky me, I understand more than one language and I heard familiar sounds, though a little unclear 😉 The men spoke a passionate Polish, swearing every other word and discussing a very important matter – that is at least how it seemed. I don’t know what they were talking about. One of them kept saying “They won’t kick you out man! They won’t! They can’t”. The other one was just listening, grunting from time to time. After a couple of stops the talking guy went silent and drifted into sleep, his head lowering, coming closer and closer to the beer bottle, which headed towards the ground simultaneously. The train stopped and the silent guy looked up. Slightly panicked, he hit his friend. The train moved again. The silent guy cried out: “Man! Don’t sleep! I don’t know where we should get out! Was the stop something with Friedrich or something?”. His friend lifted his head and waved his hand: “Man! Don’t worry! I have everything under control! Two more stops. Two more. I have everything under control!”. The next stop was announced. The talking guy jump up, crying out: “Man! Don’t sleep! We have to get out!”

It made my day and I went home smiling. So much about having everything under control. Maybe we don’t have to have everything under control as long as we make it out of the train in time. As long as we see our mistakes soon enough.

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A few days later a good friend of mine came to visit. She is vegan and if you read my blog frequently you know I like to bake vegan if I get the chance. I knew her even before she decided to go vegan and I remembered, she used to love brownies. Therefore, I picked a chocolate cake. However, because it was her birthday a couple of days before and for this occasion brownies seemed too simple. A cake with cream was a more appropriate choice. I made a chocolate cake with a vegan cream, which had a slight coconut flavor. Not too dominant. To add a fruity touch (I feel like cream cakes without fruit are too heavy), I added two layers of wild mixed berried. Usually I would mix them with a little powdered sugar to make them less sour (this is what is recommended in most recipes I have read so far), but I felt like the chocolate cake and the cream and sweet fruit would be way too sweet. The sour berries would balance it out. Now, here comes the “i have everything under control” part into play. Sugar seemed to have left my mind that day. I made the batter and when I filled the pan and tried the batter, I realized I forgot the sugar. Back into the bowl and adding the sugar.

After the cake was ready and I thought about the ingredients I used for the cream, again I realized: forgot the sugar. For some reason though this was just right. I am glad I did not add it. Because soy yogurt often is sweeter than normal yogurt, I did not even realize that I forgot to add the sugar when eating.

It turned out really good and pretty well balanced. I also forgot to add the avocado, which was supposed to make it more creamy. Well, next time I will and I will also let you know how it tastes and how the texture is.

 

Here is the recipe for this easy, yet very yummy vegan birthday cake:

 

Vegan chocolate cake:

1 cup flour

½ cup cornstarch

3 Tbsp cocoa

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp white vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

5 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup lukewarm water

 

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Add vinegar, vanilla extract and vegetable oil
  3. Mix with mixer or spatula until blended
  4. Pour water all over
  5. Mix well
  6. Bake for 45-60 min (it might be less or even more.. depends on the oven and the amount of cake you are making)

 

I doubled the ingredients for this cake.

 

For the yogurt cream:

(Frankly, the cream is so super easy that you don’t need a recipe really.. Try and find out what you like. There is no right or wrong)

 

300 gr soy coconut yogurt

200 ml vegan whip cream

5-6 Tbs San Apart (vegan stabilizer for cream)

1-2 packages vanilla sugar

(some sugar if you like it sweeter)

  1. Whip the cream
  2. Add the yogurt, stabilizer and sugars
  3. Mix well

 

I cut the cake into three layers and put some berries on top of the two lower ones, covered them with 1/4 of the cream each and put the last layer on top. Finally I covered the cake with the remaining cream, cut “Happy Birthday” out of colored marzipan and decorated the cake with edible confetti. Done 🙂

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I lost a little bit of control over the ingredients, but it is ok. It turned out well balanced and yummy. I left the train just on time 🙂

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time to celebrate bloggie

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I can’t believe it is two years ago that I decided to sit down and write about my attempts to create something special with the help of flour, sugar, eggs, butter and a looooot of fondant. For two years I was trying to get better with each cake. For two years I have been kneading fondant, reading other blogs, collecting tips, trying new things, trashing a couple things, succeeding, and failing. My first attempt to make a two tier cake with a topper was not really appealing – well, that at least is my opinion when I look at it today. I made a teddy bear, some butterflies and covered the cakes with marzipan. Which didn’t work as well as I hoped. The marzipan had many, many cracked spots and looked rather unfinished. A lot of practice followed and I think I am getting better. My best cake so far was the princess castle I made for my niece two years ago. It was my biggest challenge and I am still a little proud ;). Cakes for different occasions waited in line after that. Birthdays for my loved ones, holidays, family reunions. Not all of them had a theme, thus not every cake posted was a one week progress, spent with my head lowered for hours, trying to create 100 pieces of decoration. Many of these cakes are worth sharing for their taste. The decorations are usually simple, but nevertheless somewhat appealing to the eye. I am trying. If it wasn’t for the internet and all those wonderful people, sharing their expertise, I would have been lost and would have never achieved the stage I am at right now. Still very far from perfect, but motivated to learn and get better and in my opinion a huge deal further down the baking road that I have been when the first word hit this blogging site 🙂

Happy Birthday to you, little blog 🙂

Starting with a bear.. what will it end with? The next cake is in progress.. the first one, you see here:

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The butterfly in the background is also handmade. It is still hanging on the wall, filled with cards and other little things owned by my nieces. As far as I know the bear is also kept somewhere.

Do you happen to have something to celebrate today? If so, I can recommend the cake I made for my sister’s birthday. I showed you the cake in my last post and promised to post the recipe soon. It is a very light blackberry cake with yogurt and cream cheese. Easy to make and absolutely refreshing. I made the cake twice already, so I have some pictures where you can see the cake a little better. Even without the “Olaf” decorations, the cake can look very nice. I made some sponge cake as the base and made the cream without a recipe. It worked quite well, so I am pretty sure there are many variations you can try. I wrote it down for you though. Here is the recipe:

SPONGE CAKE BASIC RECIPE (for approx. ⌀20-24cm pan):

4 eggs

4 tbsp sugar

optionally 1 package vanilla sugar

4 tbsp flour

1 tsp baking powder

  1.  beat the egg whites with the sugar and vanilla sugar
  2.  add the egg  yolks
  3.  add the flour and baking powder and quickly mix everything together
  4.  bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C

BLUEBERRY CREAM FILLING:

200 ml heavy cream

500 gr cream cheese

125-150 gr plain jogurt

2 Tbsp sugar (you can use a little more if you like it sweeter)

optional 1 package vanilla sugar (I used it the second time. It came out very nice)

1/2 lemon – you can use either only the juice or both juice and zest

4-5 Tbsp San Apart (this is a stabilizer for whipped cream, which also works with the cream I made. It is available in Germany only, as far as I know. If you can’t get your hands on something like this use gelatin. 8-10 leaves should do it)

100 gr white chocolate

blueberries

  1. whip the heavy cream until stiff
  2. set aside
  3. in a huge bowl mix the cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, lemon and san apart or gelatin
  4. melt the chocolate
  5. when the chocolate is cooled down, add it to the cheese
  6. with a spoon combine with the whipped cream
  7. rinse the blueberries and either add it to the cream or use the whole berries to spread them onto the cake and cover with the cream. Both works 🙂

The cream stabilizer makes the mixture very creamy and the chocolate adds some firmness, so it wouldn’t just float from the cake.

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For the cake you see on the pictures I pureed some blueberries and spread it on top of the first layer of the cream. I covered it with a second layer of sponge cake and cream and put the remaining blueberries on top. I also grated some white chocolate and sprinkled it on top. I like to make the decorations according to the ingredients of the cream, that is why I added the white chocolate. If you decide to do something similar and just put the berries on top make sure to serve the cake soon. The berries will bleed and make the cream a little unappealing.

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I hope you enjoy your weekend. Celebrate whatever you can celebrate today and if there is nothing you can think of, celebrate with me and my blog 🙂

Cheers!

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winter wonderland

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I promised I would post a cake with a full recipe.. with a filling and decoration and all. Tadaaaaa.. here it is 😉 Ok, it is some time ago that I made this cake.. like a month, but it is still up to date, I think. With snow and snowstorms everywhere, it feels like winter just got here and will stay for a while. Isn’t it like this every year? People say that “this time we didn’t have a real winter” and I always think: “it is only january.. just wait.. winter didn’t even really start”. Often enough snow comes in January and not before.. winters are long.. a little too long, if you ask me. First it’s grey and grey and rainy and then gray… it is depressing. Then it changes… into another shade of grey. In January, it gets colder, people start to complain and then….the first snowflakes tickle our noses and we forget that it is actually cold and wet outside. Winter finally makes sense, when the world turns white and the nights are not so dark anymore, but illuminated by the brightest fields of white and soft snow. I don’t like winter.. at least not the grey days, but when the first snow falls, I feel so peaceful. Have you ever walked through a busy town after the first snow? Somehow, the noise seems to vanish. It is covered by the silence of falling snowflakes. They fall in silence and place themselves in silence. It is like another world. I remember that I experienced this silence and peace while I was living in vienna. I recall the feeling when I got out of the subway and went through the streets to my apartment. I never experienced this silence, peacefulness and calmness in this town and it just transferred into every fiber of my body. I felt calm, peaceful and just happy. Weird, right? I love it 🙂

Unfortunately, Christmas is usually not blessed with snow-covered streets. It is more often one of the grey days (maybe this is the only positive thing about those short days.. at least, it gets dark early, so we don’t have to see the grey 😉 ) Christmas 2014 was way too warm for winter and rainy as well.. :/ I was supposed to work until Christmas Eve, but got sick and stayed at home until the 23rd. When I arrived at my mom’s place (where we celebrated Christmas), I did not have much time for preparations for a cake. I made some cake pops for Christmas Eve and was supposed to make a cake for the second day of Christmas, when the rest of the family would come over. The type of the cake I found weeks before on my several trips through the baking sites on the internet 😉 So, it was clear, I would make a “Spekulatius” cake – a cake with the traditional Christmas Almond cookies (I love them 🙂 ) The recipe sounded great, so I wanted to try it. I used only the filling, though, because I like to take my own sponge cake recipe, for I am sure it always works.

For the decoration.. well, like I said, I did not have much time and also no plan at all. I would do it spontaneously. After the cake was done, I decided to go for a winter wonderland. I whipped some cream (I used a light cream mix, that you only add milk to.. we did not have heavy cream and the stores were closed, so I used what we had, but you can just use whip cream or butter cream) and covered the cake with it. I did not smooth it out on the top, to make it look more real and piped a small snowman. For the trees, I colored some cream with food coloring and decorated the trees with some sprinkles. For the river I used some blue crystal sprinkles.
It is a fast and easy way to bring some winter wonderland onto your table 🙂 I really liked it, although it was not as perfect, as I wanted it to be. Well.. next time 🙂

And here is the recipe:

As I said before I used my own recipe for the sponge cake, which I used for so many others before.

I used it with

6 eggs

6 tbsp sugar

6 tbsp flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder.

I always use this one, cause it is easy to remember – 1-1-1-1/4 – and never fails to perform well 😉 In a shorter post I will post this one individually, because it is a basic recipe that can be used with so many fillings. Easy and fast to make and simply a recipe you need to have available quickly when needed 😉

and this is how to prepare it:
1. beat the egg whites with the sugar and vanilla sugar

2. add the egg  yolks

3. add the flour and baking powder and quickly mix everything together

4. bake for 25-30 minutes at 180°C. Let cool

 

filling of the white spekulatius cake:

(http://www.chefkoch.de/rezepte/668651168858023/Weisse-Spekulatiustorte.html)

500 g raspberries

125 g sugar

2 packages vanilla sugar

100 g spekulatius cookies (a traditional almond christmas cookie with spices)

1 tbsp lemon juice

6 leaves gelatin 

500 g mascarpone

500 g cream cheese

1/2 tsp cinnamon

some cold water

400 g heavy cream

 

1. if you are using frozen raspberries, defrost in a strainer

2. For the filling crumble the cookies and set aside

3. purée the raspberries with 25 g sugar and the lemon juice 

4. prepare the gelatin as directed on package – most likely you will need to resolve it in some water, let sit for a few minutes and heat it up after it gets hard. Once it is fluid again, pour 3 tbs of the raspberry purée into the gelatin, mix it and pour the gelatine into the remaining raspberry purée.

5. let cool for approx. 5 minutes until it starts to thicken.

6. cut the cake into three layers and put a cake ring around it for support. 

7. pour the raspberry purée on top of the first layer and let cool for approx. one hour

8. mix the mascarpone, cream cheese, cinnamon, 100 g sugar and 1 package of vanilla sugar

9. add cookie crumbs

10. spread half of the cream on top of the raspberry purée and cover with second layer of cake. Spread remaining cream on top and cover with last layer. Let cool

11. whip heavy cream with one package of vanilla sugar and decorate cake

If you want you can use white chocolate for the cake as well. It is used in the original recipe, but it is only used for the decoration and since my cake didn’t need it, I did not mention it in the ingredients list.

Go out and build a snowman if you have the chance.. and if not, build one on your cake 🙂

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frodo’s miracle

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It’s Christmas time. Lights and music everywhere. Sparkling children’s eyes in front of the store windows, where stuffed animals go skiing or bake cookies. The trees are decorated with colorful ornaments and blinking lights. The streets smell like cinnamon and wine. It is a busy time. A chilly time. A special time. We remember friends, we didn’t see for a long time, send them a Christmas card or a message on the phone, hoping to see them again, before this year ends. I feel like this time is so very different from the rest of the year. I feel like people are nicer, even though busier than usual. Maybe it is because we have been taught that this is a peaceful time and we live what we have been told as kids. Maybe it is because we are looking forward to those couple of days and in our minds we are already there, despite of what the calendar says. Maybe it is just illusion and we are simply more patient towards each other. Or maybe.. it is just me, thinking that people are different. Whatever it is, Christmas time is sure a little magical. The lights, the smells, the music put us into a mood, as if we escaped into a different world. And in this different world, Christmas miracles are sure possible. Small ones usually.. hidden ones.. very subtle ones. We need to look closely and recognize them as such. We need to be able to embrace the possibility that miracles can happen, so they would show. Last but not least, we might need to redefine the meaning of miracles. It can be the rain that starts right after you got home, dry and clean. It might be the friend’s call, the moment you start to feel alone. It might be the book about how to fix your bike, falling from the shelf, after realizing that your lights are broken and you have no idea how to fix it. It can be your little niece, who just surprises you with a very smart comment 🙂 . All those things are everyday miracles, we just need to see them. My Christmas miracle happened this week. Two weeks before I was working at the check outs of my store, when I realized that my ring is missing. It must have fallen into one of my customer’s shopping bags. I was hoping, whoever took it home, would soon find it and bring it back. I told my mom to please go to church and pray for this ring to get back to me. It was very important for me and with my parents being very religious, I was just asking for any help I could possibly get. I promised to myself that if I would get it back, I would donate money. I felt a little like Frodo.. missing my precious ring (It is the right time, isn’t it? With the next Hobbit coming up…) A week later I gave up hope that this ring would ever show up. This is when my coworker, wearing a big smile on her face,told me about a phone call she had earlier that day. The customer who found this ring called the store and said she would return it in the following days. Now, I am wearing the ring on another finger.. just to make sure I wouldn’t lose it again 😉 Anyway, whatever helped to bring the ring back, it is a miracle for me. I am very thankful to the woman who bothered coming back to the store to return what I missed… and I really missed it. I searched the finger for the ring every now and then, just to realize that it is missing. Thanks to a very good person, my mom’s prayers and maybe my promise, I have something back, that is so close to my heart 🙂

Talking about my mom, she is the reason I could try a new recipe again. Actually, the recipe is just made up, but I wanted to try something new and was glad that she and a friend of our family came to visit. I spent the entire sunday in the kitchen, preparing cake pops (I am a proud owner of a cake pop machine now 😉 ), candy and cake. I will post pictures and recipes for cake pops some other time.. I still need to figure out the best recipe. Today I would like to share with you the cake I made. I used a basic sponge cake (since I don’t have an oven, I baked it at a friend’s place a couple of days earlier and put it into the refrigerator) and cut it in three layers. On the first layer I put apricots on the outer edge and mixed berries in the middle.

For the cream, I used the following:

1 package (200g) vegan heavy cream (it is sweeter and  lighter than the usual one)

1 package vanilla sugar

300 – 500g soy yoghurt

1-2 packages gelatine (depending on the consistency of the yoghurt and how much yoghurt you are using)

100g sugar

(vanilla extract)

1. prepare the gelatine following the instructions on the package

2. whip the cream with the vanilla sugar

3. in another bowl mix the yoghurt with the sugar

4. heat the gelatine until fluid. Add a tablespoon of the yoghurt to the gelatine and mix it. Pour the gelatine into the rest of the yoghurt.

5. add the cream

6. let rest in the fridge until it starts to thicken

I used only 300g of yoghurt and 75g sugar, because I had a small cake. I still needed a little more than one package of gelatine, just to give you an idea. If you want to make it entirely vegan, use a vegan sponge cake and  agar-agar instead of gelatine. I just didn’t need to do this, because my guests were not vegan, but I wanted to try out the mixture with the vegan cream. I put the cream on top of the fruits and covered it with another layer of cake, which I prepared the same way as the bottom one. On top of the third layer, I just spread the rest of the cream. On the sides and to smooth out the top, I used another vegan whip cream.

Both my guests had two pieces and took all the rest home. Because the cake did not contain any dairy, I was happy to join my guests and tried one piece. I can say: approved!

I hope you encounter small and big Christmas miracles. If not, bake something good and just take in the smell of a cake in the oven.. isn’t that just miraculous?

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