May 19, 2016

Carrot Cake for Mother's Day.

"I'm such a FAILURE!" were the words I kept repeating to myself that Saturday evening. My attempt at baking a simple carrot cake totally flopped and I couldn't help but kick myself hard while I was down.

I'm trusting you know that the photos I post on my Instagram, Facebook, and here on my blog are only the best of the best. This is just common knowledge by now, correct? Y'all may see a perfect picture of a good-looking cupcake, but what you don't know is that I may have used my special "crop" button to edit out the massive pile of dirty dishes in the sink on one side and the filthy countertop on the other. Except for in my Chocolate Covered Strawberries blog post, I don't show you the projects that don't turn out, nor do I tell you about them. {I get prideful every now and then...}

Even though I've been baking for years, I still go through these horrible catastrophes; a project that I put immense time and effort into doesn't turn out at all. Unfortunately I take those moments pretty hard. {I'm learning, OK?} I'm not completely sure why, but instead of just posting a bunch of photos of my finished carrot cake, I wanted to be 100% honest and share with you that this particular cake at first was a DISASTER. So, the truth is out! It's not all "buttercream roses" over here all of the time...although I wish it were. ;)

So, to backtrack to a few weeks ago:
I knew Mother's Day was coming up quick, so on that Friday evening as I was layin' in bed, I thought to myself, what is something special I can do for my Mother-in-Law this Mother's Day?

There's always a nice card, right? A nice card...with nice words...that a nice company called Hallmark wrote for you, right? Hmm.
Everyone loves cake, right?! My husband claims he doesn't like cake, but then the next thing you know all of my cupcakes suddenly disappear... Hmmph. :P

I distinctly remembered that my Mother-in-Law liked carrot cake. So just to make sure that my hippocampus was in check, I texted my Father-in-Law asking if she did in fact like carrot cake.
Yes, yes she does! Perfect.
I then began planning it all out:

  • Grocery shop Saturday morning,
  • bake the cake Saturday evening,
  • decorate the cake Sunday after church,
  • and deliver the cake Sunday evening.

So on Saturday morning, Jarryd and I set off for the grocery store. Yes, we grocery shop together. Cute, isn't it? :) It's fun going together. But truthfully, I also don't mind going on my own every now and then. {Introvert alert!} His "man-ness" really likes to come out when shopping and therefore he doesn't always appreciate my "woman-ness" when I feel the need to go up and down EVERY single aisle at a snails pace. Pffft. :D

This carrot cake recipe that I love with all of my heart calls for buttermilk, but the grocery store didn't have buttermilk. Whatever; it was all good, because I knew that I could very easily conjure up a buttermilk substitute when I got home later that day!

Once I arrived home, I got straight to cleaning the kitchen. I cleaned that thing SO good! A sparkling clean kitchen seriously makes cooking and baking a thousand times more enjoyable. And if you wear a pretty apron while baking you almost feel like you're the next Martha Stewart on the set of your cooking show. ;)

On a side note, that evening Jarryd made Lobster Mac & Cheese. {Actually it was made with Cavatappi, so it really should have been called "Lobster Cavatappi & Cheese".}
 Look at those beauties. And talk about an expensive meal too. Lobster tails are NOT cheap.
 Jarryd is a GREAT cook!! He was also so proud of himself for making his very first Roux. Cute, hehe (I've been making Roux's for years now). ;)
 He did such an amazing job with this Lobster Cavatappi & Cheese--it tasted absolutely delicious. Anything topped with a buttery Panko breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese mixture is amazing. Plus, LOBSTER!
He may have done the cooking, but I obviously did the food styling and photography. ;)

Anyway, back to BAKING. When the oven timer went off, I shook each pan and they jiggled in the middle. I stuck my special "cake tester" stick into the centre of the cake and none of the batter stuck to it. Hmmm...this is odd, it's not completely set, yet no batter is coming out with the stick.

I let them bake just a little longer, and then removed them to cool. An hour later I returned to the kitchen to remove the cakes from their pans and the middles were STILL jiggly. Quite irritated, I turned the oven back on and baked them some more. I even covered them with foil so the edges wouldn't dry out. Two twenty minute intervals later, they were STILL jiggly. I removed the cakes once again and let them sit on the counter, once again. After they've cooled, AGAIN, I remove them from their pans. I tried everything I could to salvage the dang things. Perhaps it's just the top middle of the cakes that aren't set? So I take my serrated knife and slice each cake in half. I can't even pick them up without them wanting to break in half. :(

In total frustration I just dug my hands into the two cakes and pretty much ripped them to shreds. {Do you ever do weird things like that when you're upset?} Everything immediately following this is pretty much a blur. I remember leaving everything on the counter, including the mess of what was supposed to be a cake, turning off the kitchen light, crawling into bed and just crying a few much needed and well-deserved tears of frustration.

{And in case you're wondering: No, I didn't take a photo of my cake disaster--Now that I am a few weeks older and wiser, I wish that I would have, just for some photographic proof. But to be completely honest, in that moment I couldn't stand to be in the vicinity of cake pans any longer! I was just so upset!}

So my carrot cake didn't turn out. :( I texted to Jarryd. Ugh. I felt like such a failure, for several reasons. One, was that I've made this carrot cake recipe like 3 or 4 times before. I KNOW how to make it and I KNOW it can turn out amazingly. It's a killer recipe! Another reason is that I just so badly want to be naturally good at baking everytime and all the time; I want it to be my thing! I guess because I feel so passionate about baking I just want it to be a perfect process all of the time. {Unrealistic, I know.}

As to why it didn't turn out, I am thinking it was because of my buttermilk substitute of sour cream, milk, and lemon juice. Ugh!

So when Jarryd got home later, he asked me what I was going to do.
Well, I'm gonna go to Walmart tomorrow morning, pick up the ingredients I need, and just bake and decorate it all before the evening!
^Keep in mind, this was said in a very irritated tone. My weekend just wasn't turning out the way I had planned. Not at all! My weekdays are SO busy that when it comes to the weekends all I want to do is have some down time, relax, and sit as much as possible as I'm on my feet all day at work!

And then Jarryd responded with the sweetest words--what I truly needed to hear in that moment. See! that's what I love about you. You never give up!

Sigh. :)

Sunday morning. THIS was fun. The first thing I did was head to Walmart {not a fan of this store, but I was in a serious time crunch!}. And let's not forget, in order for me to get from our bedroom to the front door I had to walk past my disaster of a kitchen that was now covered in carrot cake. Blech.

PRAISE THE LORD, Walmart had buttermilk. {I was beginning to think that Buttermilk was only a Canadian thing--haha, silly me.} I got home and started baking. After I had shuffled through all those plastic Walmart bags I realized I was missing a bag--the bag with the buttermilk! UGH!!
So I drove back to Walmart in a total huff, talked to the cashier about it, who already put the buttermilk back on the shelf at the back of the store.
I just couldn't believe the weekend I had been having. Why was this whole baking thing being so difficult?! Why was I so cranky in the midst of doing something that I love?
Again, now that I am a few days older and wiser, I have it pinpointed that because I have so little time to myself, I just want it to go as planned. Because when time doesn't go as planned, I see it as "wasted time".

So after the whole Walmart thing got sorted out, I baked the cakes--as quickly as I could--and they turned out ABSOLUTELY PERFECT! Talk about a sigh of relief! I'M BACK!!! I exclaimed to the world!
 There they are, perfect as ever. I would have liked to have done a three-layer cake, but with all the screwing up I ran out of necessary ingredients. Oh well, next time. :)
 Toasted coconut, ladies and gentlemen! {I was originally going to leave this out, but my first batch of toasted coconut burnt to a black ugly crisp and I nearly stung my eyes out as I opened that oven door. Just another thing that went wrong haha...}
Here are the two layers of carrot cake sandwiching a beautiful layer of cream cheese frosting. As you can see, I have a very thin layer of frosting around the whole cake. This is called a "Crumb Coat". After you apply the thin layer all over, you place the cake in the fridge until it gets cold and hardens. This allows for when you apply the finished layer of frosting to be flawless--without any crumbs scattered throughout it. Genius, I say!
 After applying the final layer of cream cheese frosting, I garnished it with some of that gorgeous toasted coconut.
 Then, I gave it some walnut garnishes. One thing I learned in culinary school in regards to garnishes is to only use what is relevant. I wouldn't put mint leaves around the top, because there is no mint INSIDE the cake. I put toasted coconut and walnuts on the outside of the cake because it's in the inside of the cake. I mean, I guess I could place an actual whole carrot on top and call it a day, but that's a little too "rustic" for me. Bahah!
Truthfully, I was extremely tempted to leave it like this.
It's simplicity is truly beautiful in it's own way...a.k.a- I was so exhausted and just wanted to curl up in a ball and sleep forever. But that would have been the easy way out...
So I decided to do some buttercream flowers!! :) THIS PART, the final, finishing touches is my absolute favourite part of baking. I love to decorate.
Fun fact: I did this all without a rotating cake stand. Talk about a PAIN in the neck. The awkward positions you have to put your body in just to decorate a simple cake is ridiculous. Don't worry folks, it's next on the list of things to buy!
 The yellow rose was inspired by my Mother-in-law, whose favourite colour is yellow. :) <3
OH! And this was my very first time using my leaf tips to make leaves and I'm so happy with how they turned out. I never thought piping leaves could be so easy!
I am totally honest in saying this...this cake turned out way better than I thought it would.
 Apparently I have become a VERY messy baker. Then again, I think it was just the unfortunate circumstance of having to redo everything and blah blah blah. {I'm learning, people!}
 Jarryd told me that I look like I'm holding our newborn child. Ha ha ha!
 DON'T drop it, self!!
I learned a WHOLE lot through this one cake baking weekend. I learned that I am SO glad I didn't give up. My first carrot cake was an absolute disaster--and that's OK. Just because one cake doesn't turn out it doesn't mean that I am a failure, loser, or incompetent. It means I am only human. When things don't work, just cry; cry it out. Destress, let the stress escape your body in the form of ugly wet tears, crawl into bed, PRAY to Jesus for strength and gratefulness, and get some sleep. REST. The Bible talks so much about rest, and it makes sense because I'm usually at my worst when I'm exhausted and sleep deprived.
Getting back up after falling down, and then moving on to create something beautiful that tasted as good as it looked--maybe even better--one thing I am very proud of myself for.

Also, seeing the look on my in-laws faces when they laid eyes on this cake was sooo worth it! I never told them any of this, like how my first carrot cake never turned out and how stressful the whole ordeal was, so if they're reading this...SURPRISE! :) Love you guys!

So in conclusion, despite the messy weekend I had, I STILL love baking and I'm still going to keep on keepin' on! In fact, I have a cake order this weekend that I am incredibly excited for!! I can't wait to get going on it. :)

Thanks everyone for reading this. I haven't blogged in awhile and therefore I feel like my writing skills aren't quite as up to par as they once were. I hope you enjoyed reading about my accomplishments ALONG with my failures. Balance is key, right? Xoxo! <3

May 4, 2016

The Hardest Weeks.

For those of you who don't know, at my new church I joined a "Freedom Group". It's a little group made up of around eight adult women.

Relationship with Jesus = Freedom, and our group is essentially on the pursuit of Freedom.

Amazingly enough we are already 10 weeks in. Lives are changing, we're all making the choices on a DAILY basis to love and forgive; and from this, relationships have been restored!
I personally, have found beauty in authenticity. I used to think I was a pretty open person, but I guess I was just open about the more "shallow" less boat-rocking things. My decision to be vulnerable and authentic with those around me has been a great one; I wouldn't change it for the world.

It's been an emotional, exhausting, and incredible 10 weeks so far.

In just a little over two weeks we have an all-campus wide Freedom retreat coming up. Our leaders have told us that it's such a powerful weekend, which makes me excited and yet slightly nervous. I always get a little nervous when it comes to the unknown...

And now, to the heavy stuff. In our last session, we studied demons.
1) Demons are real.
2) Demons want to destroy you.
3) Demons respond to a higher authority.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood,
but against the rulers,
against the authorities,
against the powers of this dark world
and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
{Ephesians 6:10-12}

The more we KNOW about how the devil wants nothing more than to devour us and help us make choices that will ruin our lives, the more aware we are of the spiritual battle that is going on all around us. And the more we know about the battle, the harder it all becomes.

Our leaders told us yesterday that the weeks from now up until the retreat are probably going to be the hardest. They say this because God is doing such incredible things through us and because we are so deep in the Word, the devil hates that and schemes even harder because of it.
Our group meets every Tuesday and all of us can attest that Tuesdays have not been our finest days and we can absolutely see the devil trying to convince us to stay home and miss a session of growing in our relationship with Christ.

As for the statement about the next weeks being the toughest, I thought in reply of "hmm...we'll see."

That was yesterday.
And as for today? Today has been pretty crappy {excuse my French}. No, not pretty crappy. I take that back. It's been SO crappy.

I went from having one of the most awesome weekends spent up in New Jersey with friends, a great evening at Freedom group, to today: a day of heartbreak, stress, tears, worry, and utter hopelessness.

As soon as I got home I went straight to my bed and laid in that dark room for an hour; it was a long hour of heart racing, tears falling, and Jesus calling. {That's something I've learned in Freedom Group, when you simply don't know what to pray, just say Jesus' name over and over again. Non-believers may say it casually or even mockingly, but believers say it with power. We say it victoriously.}

And then, for some odd reason I picked myself up out of bed, retreated from that dark room and baked 84 mini and 12 standard-sized banana chocolate chip oat muffins. Where did that energy come from?
And here I am now, sitting at the kitchen island blogging and asking myself, "do I really want to hit the Publish button"?

Yes, yes I do. I kind of have to, right? Especially after that entire spiel about being authentic.

Anyway, I apologize if this post seemed a little heavy on the doom-and-gloom side of the scale. I just I just wanted to be honest and real. <3