Sunday, December 28, 2008

We interrupt this cake blog to bring you: Christmas.

Or: The Story of the Twenty-Two Pound Turkey and the Benevolent Witches who Cooked It.

Or: A Very Porky Christmas.

Candice, showing the stuffed mushrooms who's boss.

A very pretty stuffed turkey, accompanied by an even lovelier Lexish (notice the Mountain Chic Look: Layers of evening wear, high heels, an apron, and a down vest. Nobody rocks Mountain Chic like Lexish.)

It has been our tradition in the last few years to stay home for Christmas. Its a special thing, establishing our own rhythm for the holidays and creating new traditions that are different from those of our families of origin. The last few years its been Orphan Christmas: bonfires and bottles of beverages and whatever friends who are in town hanging out and creating a huge meal. But this year, it was beyond orphan: it was magic. Everybody pitched in and made the Biggest Christmas Dinner ever. And EVERYTHING had pork in it (due to it having been made by a bunch of reformed vegetarians)
-22 pound turkey with sausage and sweet potato stuffing (courtesy of Yours Truly)
-pork loin a la Lexi
-homemade Sourdough bread (made from the West End Bakery sourdough starter/mother which I made when I worked there in 2001)
- Patti LaBelle's Over The Rainbow Glistening Mac 'N' Cheese a la Lexi
-Old Skool Green Beans (saved only from being bacony by insistence of the lone non-reformed vegetarian, Darcy)
-Ridiculously good Cranberry Pineapple Delight (thanks Nance!)
-Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms a la Candice
-a collection of bread-and-cheese appetizers, drizzled with basil-infused olive oil and served with Summer Sausage
-Apple Pie (courtesy of the leftover bounty of my mom's annual Caroling Party)
-and, of course, cake, a la Short Street. (it was Hummingbird)
We ate and ate and ate. There was a bonfire. Oh, and Smores! Jasper's buddy B was there, along with his parents and baby brother (our new-ish and totally delightful neighbors). And other than the 2 daddies, all other guests in attendance were strong and powerful ladies: Short Street Cakes' Best Girl, Inner Circle Dweller, and Accounting Advisor Lexish, Ursie, Frieda, Darcy, the new neighbor/mama/friend, and my new friend Candice (plug time: Candice is the owner of Athen's GA's Urban Sanctuary Spa.)
The Diva Energy was high, and it took me a while to let go and realize how busy I've been, and how long it would actually take me to unwind and be present for my family and friends, but, 4 days later, the turkey stock is simmering on the stove, the leftovers are almost gone, the house is clean and cozy and I am almost ready to return to work. I didn't get to the household projects I wanted to finish, but there's always next weekend. Today is my last hurrah before diving back into cakeland full force: I'm going to see a movie with my husband and son this afternoon before they leave to visit family North and South for the next few days. And I can safely say that this has been the happiest Pagan-Jewish-Southern Christmas EVER. I know that the cake shop has been dark for a few days, and I'm sorry for that, but I assure you, your cakes will be tastier and more lovingly made, and your shop will be more fun and creative now that I have had a holiday. A sane and happy Cake Lady means a happier and more prosperous Cake Shop, I feel sure. Thanks for all the love- 2008 was great! Lets shine, be kind, look fine, and unwind in 2009. Peace and blessings to all of you in the coming year.
PS: this is our picture for our New Year's card this year (which may or may not get sent out by New Year's):

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I heart cake shop.

Which is good, considering I spent 16 hours there yesterday. I love all my neighbors- I made a baby shower cake yesterday for Clyde's heating and cooling, and got to hang out at a bluegrass jam at another neighbor's place. The Hands of Sean Perry are sweet folk, and I've yet to meet the union guys, but I'm guessing they are pretty cool too. Also on the list: beach bingo! Who's with me? Anyway, East-East-West Asheville is making Short Street Cakes feel right at home.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Winter is for Sugared Fruits

Nothing says "christmas" like kumquats and cherries covered in caster sugar on a chocolate cake. Or is it just me?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

6th Annual Grassroots Revival

Heads up:
The Bountiful Cities Project is hosting the 6th Annual Grassroots Revival this Saturday, December 13th, from 4-10pm. The event will take place at Pearson Garden, on Pearson Street in Montford. The Grassroots Revival is an opportunity for grassroots activists and organizations for social change to network about their projects, and enjoy one another's company!

The Revival will feature a delectable potluck supper followed by a sharing circle, in which everyone will have the opportunity to share their work with the group. Please come down to share, eat, drink and be merry with fellow activists. Re-charge your batteries and remember to bring a dish!

About Bountiful Cities:

Our Mission

To create, on urban land, beautiful community spaces that produce
food in abundance and foster a learning environment for social
justice and sustainability.
Our Vision

The vision of Bountiful Cities Project is to enliven and
empower self-reliance, cooperation, and a stronger
sense of community through providing an opportunity
to grow, harvest and eat fresh, local produce.

We envision community spaces that serve as models
for sustainability through organic food production,
water conservation, ecological building, community
celebration, and cooperative economics.

This vision is becoming a reality at our two flagship gardens:
a permaculture-based vegetable garden on Pearson Drive
in Montford, and the Dr. George Washington Carver Edible Park
at Stevens Lee Community Center- which is home to over
30 varieties of fruit trees and an under story of berries
and medicinal herbs.

For more information go to


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Open House Rocked.

These photos all by Egg:

The open house at the Cake Shop was incredibly lovely. We were handing out mini cupcakes, and Ben from 1000faces was there giving out coffee. (I'm super excited about being the site of 1000faces Asheville debut- but more on that later). The space became cozier and sweeter with each person that walked in the door and expressed their congratulations, and enjoyed the offerings. I'm so excited about what's to come at the Cake Shop! And here's the pertinent info: 225 Haywood Road, in West Asheville. (coming up the hill from Clingman/River, its at the top of the hill before the curve). Hours by Appointment only for the next 6 weeks or so. In late January we will have a grand opening, which will be the beginning of cafe hours and our new menu.
In other news: we got our Christmas tree today! Yay! Enjoy this season of celebrating the return of the light.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My Life in Cake Shop

Life is certainly getting exciting here in Cake World. I took a nice long Thanksgiving vacation with my family, and this week have been a busy bee trying to get the ball rolling on the new space. I bought a shiny new oven (don't worry, the Frigidaire Flair will proudly be on display in the cake shop, in its new incarnation as a coffee fixins station) which should be installed tomorrow or Friday. Saturday, from noon to 6pm, I'll have a little pre-opening open house, for folks to stop by and check out the cake-shop-in-progress. We'll be handing out mini cupcakes, coupons, and coffee samples from 1000faces, in Athens, Ga. And then, City-of-Asheville willin', I will be open for special order production (by appointment only) the first of next week. December and into January we will be preparing the retail part of the shop, and sometime in January you can expect a cake party to celebrate the launching of our new menu and cafe hours.
Also, Mountain Xpress did a nice little write-up about the Cake Shop. Thanks, y'all!
Since I haven't been baking very much, I'll post a picture of Jasper on Thanksgiving vacation:

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cake! Shop!

Cake Shop!

Dear Friends and Cake Lovers Far and Near:
I am so very excited to announce that Short Street Cakes has signed a lease at 225 Haywood Road! Located in the beautifully renovated brick building at the corner of Haywood Road and Howard Street, in Lovely East-West Asheville, Short Street Cakes will open soon featuring coffee, cupcakes, special order cakes, wedding cakes, and whole cakes. Short Street Cakes will carry on the tradition of lovingly hand-crafted, all-natural southern cakes, with an expanded menu debuting in January 2009. We will be closed November 24 to December 6 in order to move. Starting December 6, special order cakes (48 hours advance notice) will be available for pick-up at the new Cake Shop, and grand opening, new menu, and cafe hours launch in January. I am so excited to begin this new adventure, and feel so incredibly grateful to every person whose love and support has made this adventure possible!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Short Street Cakes in Verve Magazine!

Check out the brand new Nov/Dec issue of Verve Magazine- there's a sweet article on cupcakes on pages 46 and 47, featuring me, Short Street Cakes, and my Frigidaire Flair. Here's an exerpt:

"Rhoden of Short Street Cakes says the cupcake, compared to a cake, has a favorable moist-to-crunchy ratio that could help explain its ascending status in the public’s hearts and mouths. “They bake differently,” she says. “You get a little cake and a lot of crust. People like crust. And you get a lot of icing and a lot of cake in each bite.” And then there are the practical reasons behind the cupcake’s popularity. You don’t need a plate or a fork to eat one. “It’s a portable passion,” says Corley. Self-indulgent self-restraint may be the last word on the subject. Unless it’s been a really bad day, says Andrea McMullen, “one single person can’t eat a whole cake.”

ALT-CUPCAKE: Jodi Rhoden bakes her cupcakes in a retro 1963 Frigidaire Flair oven and makes sugar-free, gluten-free and vegan versions, along with traditional recipes. Rhoden represents the indie end of the Asheville cupcake spectrum, baking her cakes and cupcakes to order out of her home on a 1963 Frigidaire Flair oven given to her by an elderly neighbor. Her products start with local apples, organic local eggs, locally milled organic flour and organic spices. For Rhoden, an activist and former social worker, the choices are not just about the flavor. “It’s about contributing to the local economy and creating a new business model,” she says. “I want to bring other producers along with me.”

Short Street’s menu features homey recipes like carrot spice cake as well as decadent ones such as triple-chocolate ganache. Rhoden makes sugar-free and gluten-free versions of her cupcakes and has vegan recipes as well. “Vegan cooking is a whole different thing,” she says. “You can’t just take a regular recipe and ‘veganize’ it.” Her standard chocolate cake recipe is vegan because it tastes more chocolatey (dairy products mask the taste of the cocoa).

Rhoden, whose cupcakes were featured in Brides magazine earlier this year, emphasizes taste over fancy appearance, foregoing elaborately drawn icing figures in favor of simple swirls or accent flowers grown in her backyard. Her food-coloring-free icing and cake recipes are “old school Southern” with a different feel from the European tradition of desserts. Her bridal clients tend to be very laid back. “I tell them, if you want your cake to look like a piece of Wedgwood china, I’m not your gal,” she says."

Read the whole article here. Article and image copyright Verve Magazine, article by Joanne O'Sullivan, Photo by Rimas Zailskas. Thanks, Yall!

Monday, November 17, 2008

When Good Things Happen to Good Cake

This just in!!!
The NC State Legislature just passed a new provision to the tax law exempting "artisan bakeries" from charging state sales tax!
From the NC Department of Revenue:
"As rewritten, prepared food other than bakery items sold without eating utensils by an artisan bakery is subject to the applicable State and local rates of tax. Bakery items (bread, rolls, buns, biscuits, bagels, croissants, pastries, donuts, danish, cakes, tortes, pies, tarts, muffins, bars, cookies, and tortillas) sold without eating utensils by an artisan bakery are exempt from State tax and subject to only the 2% local tax applicable to sales of qualifying food. An “artisan bakery” is a bakery that derives over 80% of its gross receipts from bakery items and whose annual gross receipts, combined with the gross receipts of all related persons as defined in G.S. 105-163.010, do not exceed $1,800,000.00."
Cake lovers, rejoice- you now have 4.5% less to pay for your baked goods, as long as you buy them from a qualified artisan. Less sales tax for the state of North Carolina = more cupcakes for you. Awesome.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Short Street Cakes on Pies

In case you missed it in the Citizen-Times on Wednesday, (I dunno, maybe due to the fact that the front page news was something about a historical event of international import or something), there was a sweet little article about pies, along with a few recipes from the pie department at Short Street Cakes. Click here to read the article, and here are some of the recipes:

Fall Pies using WNC Local Produce
By: Jodi Rhoden, Owner, Short Street Cakes, Asheville, NC

Pie Crust Recipe (adapted from “The Gift of Southern Cooking” by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock)

1 ½ c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
½ t. sugar
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lard (substitute margarine if you cannot find non-hydrogenated lard)
4-6 tablespoons ice water

Place flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Cut chilled butter and lard into pieces and scatter on top of the flour mixture. Cut fats into flour using a pastry cutter or two knives, until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle ice water on mixture, one tablespoon at a time, and gently fluff the mixture until one large dough mass forms. Knead gently, 3 or 4 times. Flatten dough into a disk and wrap well with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 2 hours.

Roll out dough and line an 8 or 9 inch pie plate.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Fill with one of the following pie fillings. When you place the pie in the oven, reduce heat to 375.

Apple Custard Pie with Crumb Topping (Recipe by Jodi Rhoden):
A great WNC apple for this pie is Mutzu. Its firm, like a Granny Smith, but sweet like a Golden Delicious.

Combine, one ingredient at a time:
½ cup brown sugar
2 T. flour
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg

2 cups diced apple pieces

1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup butter
Combine ingredients with fingers and sprinkle over pie filling. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until the pie becomes slightly firm in the center.

Pumpkin Pie from Scratch (Recipe by Jodi Rhoden):
Choose a small, fleshy pie pumpkin from a local WNC grower (find them at one of the many tailgate markets in the area, or the Farmers Market on Brevard Road). Slice pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Scrape out seeds and stringy pulp, and roast the seeds! Place pumpkin halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake until soft.
Let cool, then scrape out the pulp.
Mash the pulp in a bowl with a potato masher.
Place pulp in a strainer, and strain over a bowl for 2 hours, or overnight in the refrigerator.
Some bakers puree the pulp at this point, but I think its optional.

Now, for the recipe:
Combine, one ingredient at a time:
1 ½ c. pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 T cinnamon
½ t. ginger
¼ t. nutmeg
½ t. salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 425. Pour into prepared pie crust. Turn down oven to 375 and bake at 375 until the sides are firm but the center is slightly jiggly.

I know, I know, its Short Street Cakes, not Short Street Pies. But I can't help it. When the weather turns and the leaves fall, I'm all about some pie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Yes. We. Can.

At this moment, I am so inspired, so proud, and so happy that our country has elected Obama as our next president. His election truly represents a sea change for this society and the world- in the significance of having a person of color in the white house, in the hope that the world could believe that perhaps, as Obama says, the United States can change, in the hope that we can elevate the conversation above pettiness and fear-mongering and cynicism. I believe in Obama, and I believe that he will continue to inspire people to believe in themselves.
I have to admit, I didn't think it would happen. I thought that the "powers that be" would have too much at stake to let him win. But apparently, the Powers that Be are WE. And we can win, and we did.
I feel the call of the world striving for love and healing. I feel the call of a new way of relating to one another in the world. I feel the call of a shift towards cooperation and community. I feel the call to strive to be the best person I can be for myself, my family, and the world. I feel that call and I'm so excited to follow that call in how I create the business that I am building- It is a new day, a historic day, and I feel the hope of what we can create. Si se puede. Yes we can.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Biggest Wedding EVER!

This weekend was Short Street Cakes' biggest weekend to date. We baked 4 huge cakes for 3 different weddings. All went off without a hitch, and I feel really happy that in the last days of Wedding Season, we created cakes that I feel incredibly proud of.

I like my job.

I get to go places like this:

And do this:

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Lovely Ladies of Short Street Cakes

This weekend is the biggest yet. I know I keep saying that, but its always true, because it keeps getting bigger. Tomorrow I have one wedding, and Sunday I have two, but one is in Winston-Salem. For 350 guests. Vegan.
So I took the bull by the horns, bought a bunch of new tools, pans, and gear, rented Blue Ridge Food Ventures for the weekend, and hired staff. A little planning goes a long way, and today was awesome, and fun, and oh-so-productive.

So here's some pictures from our first day of the biggest wedding weekend of 2008. Notice all the huge ovens. The copious speed racks. The stainless steel tables. The MIXERS.
I covet.
I do.

This is Eileen.

Eileen is a star. Artist, framer, (as in, she frames pictures, she's good at it, you should hire her) mom, grandma, and occasional Short Street Caker, Eileen is my steady when I need a hand. Me and Eileen go way back, to 1997, from back in the Pennsyltucky days. Lucky for me, Eileen moved here about a year before we did. Lucky for me, too, Eileen spent 7 years working for a caterer in Pennsytucky working huge events, including delivering wedding cakes. So when I say steady, I mean, nothing phases her, she's seen it all, she doesn't balk at the craziness of this work. And we get nice and silly together, too, in the way only two people who have been through the odyssey of fear that is delivering 4 wedding cakes in a weekend can.

And here is Ashley:

Today was Ashley's first day. Ashley did a great job and she's just about as cute as a damn button. She was really excited about baking, about working with the big mixers, and about wearing the cat apron her mom made her. Ashley's a songwriter and a musician. I haven't heard any of her music yet but I bet when I do she'll be my favorite and I will be telling y'all all about it. And best of all: Ashley lives on Short Street! (And because Ashley couldn't work tomorrow, there's ANOTHER resident of Short Street coming to work with us, and I totally didn't plan it that way! Short Street Cakes, indeed.)

And then, of course, there is moi.

Your cake lady, the one who keeps you in sugar, the one who loves you the best.

I'll be in touch about how the biggest wedding weekend of 2008 goes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

now, you, too can bake my award losing pie. by Elyse Manning

Elyse Manning is my friend and the oft-mentioned spiritual and baking adviser for My Life in Cake, and today, she's our guest blogger! Please enjoy her tale of triumph and pain in pie-making:

elyse's deeply underappreciated irish cream pie

preheat oven to 350

1 cup sugar
2 tbls corn starch
pinch of salt

mix all this together in a small saucepan and set aside, now take

4 egg yolks (seperate the whites and put them aside for merengue)
2 1/2 cups whole milk

mix them together, then dump em in the saucepan with sugar mixture and cook over medium heat at first mix it every minute or so to break up lumps, but after about 5 minutes you wanna mix it constantly to keep the bottom from burning. when it starts getting thicker, add

2 tbls butter
4 tbls irish cream liquor (i used baily's, but please, don't be a label queen, anything good will do)

leave on heat for another 45 seconds or so, then pull off heat for 30 seconds then put on heat again for another minute, stirring all the while, fun! pour immediatley into a pre-baked pie crust, and cover with plastic wrap to keep the filling piping hot while you make the

4 (or more if your feeling fiesty) egg whites
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar (if you don't have it, don't stress, it just helps the process along a bit)

whip up at "high speed" and slowly add
1/4 cup powdered sugar
beat it still it forms fairly stiff peaks (eh-hem), then take the plasic wrap off the pie, spread the merengue on, make it look pretty, cause it will hold it's shape, and bake it for about 10 minutes or so, keep a good eye on it, and pull it out when it gets all pretty and golden-tipped.

Now, honestly, here's where i messed up y'all, you SHOULD let it cool completely on a rack, then put it in the fridge for at least 2 hrs to chill and set. you SHOULD NOT stay up too late in the s.m.s. kitchen waiting for some sorry-ass game of wizards to never start, drag your ass out of bed at 7:30, make the pie, then stick it in the freezer to make up for your lack of cooling time, then dress like a total witch with bright red hair and bring your wobbly-ass pie to some small town fair, past the guys in the prison jumpsuits doing community service who are laughing at YOU for being a freak and give your pie to some pinch faced ole biddy who is looking at you like you maybe put some wierd drugs in it.
don't do that.... i tried it already and we see where that got me

good luck.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Or: How I learned to stop worrying about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket and love cake.

As I was sitting on my porch at the end of a long day, I began checking down my usual mental list of bakery to-dos: find a space, hire staff, figure out payroll, coordinate the rest of the fall weddings, make changes to the menu, work on spreadsheets, design the space, go to the bank, et cetera ad infinatum, when I was struck by a realization.

I've come so far, and I'm so incredibly grateful.

Two and a half years ago I was a new mom with no job. My husband was struggling to make ends meet while going to school and being a dad. We had a mounting pile of debt and no idea how to deal with it. I spent much of the last two years wondering how we were going to make ends meet, and dealing with a seemingly never-ending series of minor personal and financial crises, while laying the foundation for Short Street Cakes and being a full-time mom. I've spent a great deal of time since my son was born asking for things from the universe: stability, clarity, patience, a way forward, a sustainable way to stay here in Asheville and maintain a home and a family and not go crazy in the process. And tonight, I find myself in the same spot, asking for more things from the universe: a home for my bakery that's not my house, more stability, more clarity, more patience, a way to continue forward. And these things are noble goals. But right now, tonight, I'm going to stop asking, and instead I'm going to say "Thank You." Thank you to the Universe/God/Big Mama for providing me with that stability, and clarity, and patience for these last years, (and, you know, forever). Thank you to the friends and family who love me, and listen to me, and reach out to me, even when I'm swirling in chaos. Thank you to Duncan, my best friend. Thank you to Jasper, my wish upon a star. Thank you to Lexi, the best Best Girl ever. Thank you to Asheville, for being my home for these seven years and nurturing my growth, my family, and my craft. Thanks to all y'all beautiful people who keep buying my cakes!!!! Thanks to Mom and Dad, and Marcos, and summer camp, and ACRC, and to yoga, and Grace Leigh, and Elyse Manning, and the witches, and Emma Goldman and Alan Ginsberg. The reality, right now, is this: I'm making a living as a self-employed cake baker. I'm creating work that is meaningful to my customers, and so gratifying to me. I'm learning every day, the kind of learning that's exciting and makes you hungry for more. I'm home with my son a few days out of the week, and I get a break a few days a week when he goes to preschool. He's freaking HAPPY. Duncan has a new-ish job that makes him happy, too. The stability, and clarity, and patience (well, I'm still working on the patience) that I've wished for has been steadily growing in my life for these years. I'm doing this thing!!! And I am so incredibly grateful.

Like, Really. Really. Grateful.

I've been listening to NPR and Naomi Wolf YouTube videos all day, and, as predicted, global capitalism is crumbling and the world is in a food, climate, economic, spiritual, and all-purpose general everything crisis. As usual, the leadership of the United States is behaving badly. People are on edge, and the tipping point seems near. In the coming weirdness, and it seems pretty certain that the weirdness is coming, there will be more human suffering. I hope to be a part of helping to lessen the suffering in some way, whatever that may be. But I also feel that the coming weirdness is just a part of history's ebb and flow, and I want to stay grounded, here and now, in what is real. We're going to survive these changes, whatever they are. Who knows, we might be better for them in the long run, if we fight for what we believe in, stay grounded in who we are, and remember to help each other out.

I have alot of big ideas for my life in cake (the life, not just the blog), for Short Street Cakes and the future of our lives here in Asheville. I want a busy, happy cake shop. I want to run a small business that contributes generously and justly to the world. I want us to travel with Jasper and show him the vastness of the world. I want to go back to SUMMER CAMP. I want to swim and learn martial arts and quit smoking and have a garden again and coordinate activist campaigns and do all the things that I haven't done much of in years because, well, cake. And I will do those things, eventually- but I'm not going to worry about them tonight. Because- as excited as I am for what my life in cake can become- tonight, I'm just grateful for what it is.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

More Weddings Comin' Atcha

AKA fall wedding season is kicking my ass... or am I the one doing the ass-kicking? Hmm.

And that last one is not actually leaning. I was just too sleep deprived to hold the camera upright.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Extravablogiversapaloozathon 2008!

My friends, the 3rd annual Extrava was a blast! It was a beautiful late summer night in Downtown Ashvegas. The good beer, good cheer, music, food, and bloggy-elbow-rubbing was flowing. I was happy to be able to be there with my husband Duncan, friend Ursula, and (almost) all my blogger heros of BlogAsheville.

Thank you to all the lovely supporters of Short Street Cakes who voted for my life in cake... my life in cake won all 4 awards that it was nominated for! I was exhausted from the day and a little drunk by the time the awards got passed out. I felt sheepish for having won because I felt sheepish for having campaigned for it. So I took the mike and sheepishly and drunkenly kind of apologized for winning. But the beautiful people of the blogosphere have encouraged me to be proud of this achievement, and I am! I will post my buttons with PRIDE! I will find 4 kitchy gifts for next year's winners! And I will continue to try to create a blog that's worthy of the recognition y'all have given me. I'm proud to be a part of such a fine community of writers, art-ers, crafters, social critics and dreamers. Yall are one fine bunch!

Friday, September 26, 2008

"The Gift of Southern Cooking" Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Part 3

This is a lovely night on Short Street. Its late September, with a slightly chilly drizzle outside. The cakes and icings are all really fresh and happy from the cool weather. Eileen and I have been working all day on the three weddings plus the Blogapolooza Cake. Its been a good, productive day, and I'll be working into the night and all day tomorrow. I got to take a break and get pizza with my family a little while ago. They left to go to a party and I came home to bake- so I'm feeling rejuvinated and listening to loud music and having a Friday night by myself in the bakery/house.
And I feel inspired to write tonight while I bake, about a recipe book I love, called "The Gift of Southern Cooking" by Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock.
And now I'm going to mix up several batches of lemon cake and put them in the oven and come back and write some more.
I would like to say that Beck's "Midnight Vultures" is a freaking great album.
I would like to add that there is a huge amount of dishwashing involved in this project.
And now:

"The Gift of Southern Cooking, Recipes and Revelations from two great American cooks," is a collaboration between the late Edna Lewis, storied and celebrated Southern chef, and Scott Peacock, Executive Chef at Atlanta's Watershed Restaurant. The two (one a young, white, gay man and the other an eldery black woman) had a long and enduring friendship that included them living together in Peacock's Decatur, GA home for the last 10 years of Miss Lewis' life. Their stories that unfold in the pages of the book are touching, and dignified, and interesting, from Scott's upbringing in rural southern Alabama, where he remembers picking field peas and making chowchow with his family, to Miss Lewis' hipster bohemian days in New York in the 1940s as the chef of the Cafe Nicholson, which was frequented by guests such as Truman Capote, Marlene Dietrich and Tennessee Williams.
And the recipes, the recipes are beautiful.
Where to begin? The lard biscuits. The Lemon Cheese Cake (which is not a cheesecake but a layer cake iced with lemon curd, or "cheese"). The okra pancakes. The cardamom-scented sugar cubes. The snapper. The deviled eggs. The AMBROSIA! Who would have thought that I could love an Ambrosia without marshmallows and maraschino cherries? But their simple rendering, with only oranges, coconut, sugar, cream sherry, and salt, is sublime.
Am I gushing? I'm not exaggerating. Their recipes are nothing less than an exquisite, subtle harmony between intuitive, seasonal, necessity-based seasonal home cooking and high culinary art born of imagination and studied professionalism. And the regional balance of Miss Lewis' Virginia upbringing- where the cuisine is much more informed by French and English cooking as well as cooler-weather crops- and Mr. Peacock's Gulf Coast-influenced culinary roots, is enlivening to the recipes, as well.
Other highlights are a description of the plantation history of the "cake walk" and the origin of the phrase "that takes the cake;" and beautiful photographs of the striking Miss Lewis from past decades, as well as beautiful photographs of Mr. Peacock and Miss Lewis together.

Like all good cookbooks, love is deep in every page, and in this case, its not just the love of food, or a landscape, or a time gone by that one feels when using it. I think it is also the love that the two great chefs have for one another that ultimately makes this cookbook so, well, beloved.
I love this book, the biscuits are my staple, and if you get a chance to pick up a copy, I think you'll be glad you did.
And now, for the bibliomancy:
"Corn pudding is a true Southern delicacy, and one of the great treats of summer. It can be served as a light supper dish, as an accompaniment to meat, or as a part of a vegetable plate. Use only the freshest corn, and bake until just set for the best texture."
There you have it. Part 3 of the Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Series on My Life in Cake.
2 of the lemon cakes have fallen and I need more sour cream.
I'm tired and I'm going to bed and I'm going to start over on them in the morning.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

This Weekend's Weddings

Friday night, there was this Dark Chocolate Cake with Cream Cheese Icing at the Courtyard at Pack Place:

Then, yesterday, there was this one at Taylor Ranch, in Fairview. This one was a Vanilla Almond Cake with Almond Buttercream Icing. It was for a lady who is my bank teller. So all the other bank teller ladies were there in their pretty dresses. Which is pretty funny, because I've used the same bank ever since I moved to asheville 7 years ago, and I've had alot of emotional meltdowns and toddler discipline "moments" in the Downtown Branch of Asheville Savings Bank. So its pretty cool that my bank teller hired me even though she knows I'm a wierdo.

And, finally, today, at The Farm in Candler (otherwise known as The Farm Party Barn) there was this lovely little cupcake display with a vintage cake topper for the gluten-free raspberry white chocolate cutting cake. The cupcakes were Triple Chocolate Ganache, Georgia Hummingbird, and Carrot Spice Cake.

I really love driving around to all these random places all over Western North Carolina to deliver wedding cakes. It gives me a welcome break to being in my kitchen, I get to rock out to whatever-the-fuck-i'm listening-to-at-the-moment (today it was MIA, the Avett Brothers, and the mixtape Lewis made for me) smoke cigarettes, and freak out about the process of delivering a wedding cake, a process I like to call the "Odyssey of Fear." Oh, and I've developed this habit of going to the Admiral in West Asheville for a meal when I'm done. Which is very good. Very, very good. Please go now and eat a catfish sandwich. You will thank me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blogasheville Blog Awards: Voting is Open!

Please click here to vote for the BlogAsheville 2008 Blog awards. My Life In Cake has been nominated for two awards; if you, gentle reader, believe that our beloved little blog is deserving of the title "best food blog" or "most likely to make money by blogging" then please, click the link and vote.

The Wolf is at the Door

xposted from blogasheville. thanks to uptownruler for the image. Damn. Everybody over at blogasheville is really getting into this thing. Its exciting! It makes me want to remind everybody that my life in cake has been nominated for "best food" and "most likely to make money by blogging" in the blogasheville blog awards. I would be happy to take home either of those titles (although "best food" would look nicer on my blog). So feel free to vote for me.

Monday, September 15, 2008


A wedding cake for a Day of the Dead Wedding Fiesta outside of Spruce Pine, NC. Congratulations Jason and Amy! Blessings and love...

Cake Baker to the (indie rock) Stars

Thanks to my sweet friends Mark and Matt over at Harvest Records, I was hired to do a birthday cake for Tony Crow of the Silver Jews. (and also, Lambchop) The band was gracious enough to let me hang out backstage for the birthday cake eating part of things, and take a few photos. They seemed to enjoy the cake, despite the fact that, due to the last minute nature of the order, I think I left the salt out of the recipe. Thanks Mark and Matt, and thanks Silver Jews and David Berman. Happy Birthday, happy tour!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Local Apples are In!

Just got my first peck of beautiful Henderson County Apples! I'm using the Mutzus right now but I'll be switching it up pretty soon. I'll be making lots of Caramel Apple cake from here on out through the fall: brown sugar apple cake with caramel cream cheese icing... very old-fashioned, moist and yummy, with 2 pounds of local apples in each batch! And who knows, maybe I'll get crazy and cook my own local pumpkins this year for my Pumpkin Spice Cake. I'm excited for fall!

(photo credit: Tom McDonald)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What 330 Cupcakes Looks Like

There were so many cupcakes I couldn't even get them all in the frame. And can you imagine the resident toddler's confusion as to why he could not use the kitchen table OR eat any of the 330 cupcakes on it? Well, by now they've been covered in flowers, boxed, delivered, displayed, and finally eaten by a few hundred toasty wedding guests somewhere in Swannanoa. Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you... the beginning of the Fall 08 Wedding Season.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Cookbook Review and Bibliomancy Part II: Heart of the Home by Ann Jackson

So, for my next installment of "Cookbook Reviews and Bibliomancy," I want to introduce one of my favorites: Heart of the Home, by Ann Jackson. Relatively obscure and hard to find (I had to special order mine from Malaprops), this book was published in 1995 and re-released in 2000. The book was introduced to me by Cathy Cleary of the West End Bakery. It seems that Ms. Jackson and I are of the same mind when it comes to food: recipes must be simple and intuitive, but fresh and innovative at the same time. I love the recipes, which are all vegetarian and often include vegan options, but what I love the most about this cookbook is the commentary, quotations, the copious ironic 50's housewife vintage clip art throughout, and the hilarious stories that precede most recipes. The recipes are flexible, too, encouraging the cook to substitute, experiment, and above all, be practical. Ms. Jackson is undeniably country, Tennessee country at that, and nothing says country like the utilitarian home economy demonstrated in these recipes.
There are sections for "Salads and Dressings," "East Tennessee Favorites" (where you will find step by step instructions for vegetarian collards, hoppin' john, and red eye gravy, and the cornbread recipe that I use- "Flawless Cornbread"- which is flawless, every time.) There's sections for vegetables, grains, a WHOLE section for sauces and gravies, with no fewer than 17 different sauces and gravies (I mean, really, without the benefit of sausage, that's alot of different kind of gravies). My favorite from that section is the "White Woman's Barbeque Sauce" which includes fresh grated ginger juice, molassas, cayenne, and miso, among many other things. There's a pie section, a "main courses" section, and one for soups and one for "leftovers." The sections on "Outdoor Cooking" and "Bag Lunches for Bag Ladies, or, A Little Something for a Truck Driving Man" are excellent, funny, and smart. But of course, my favorite sections are the "Breads" and "Sweets" sections, with the best Old-Fashioned Gingerbread recipe ever. I used to make that gingerbread recipe when I was pregnant, and eat the whole damn thing. In an hour. Molasses is really good for you when you are pregnant. But, above all this, my very very favorite thing about this cookbook is the last two pages: The "Household Hints" section. I'll give you a sample from household hint #15: "What if the oven blows up in your face? This can be hectic. This is also the reason that good cooks have an aloe vera plant around the house.... Try not to let the experience scare you. Go right back into the kitchen, otherwise, you may never bake another apple pie for as long as you live."
Friends, Heart of the Home is a warm and sweet creation from a cook after my own heart. The book is quirky, kooky, and it has as its base the understanding that the highest form of cooking is cooking for those you love.

And Now For The Bibliomancy (where I flip through the pages with my eyes closed and randomly choose a recipe or passage that will have some kind of deep occult meaning for all of us):

"When I make tortillas I flash back to an ancient lifetime, a brown wrinkled old lady squatting in front of a fire, rolling out tortillas on a rock. It seems every culture has its own version: crepes, strudel, pasta, shortbread, hoecakes, dumplings, chapati, biscuits, pancakes, knish, and pirogi. I love recipes that haven't changed in 5,000 years. Some are a lot easier than others, but most of them are pretty simple, made from basic peasant type food. Tortillas are my favorite, here's how to do it..."

That's all, friends. Stay tuned for more in this series, as well as another series I'm contemplating starting: Profiles In Cake. or something like that. Basically, just interviews with my favorite cake ladies. more soon, mwah.