The Cake that Grandpa Baked

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Last weekend we celebrated Easter with my family. It was a very traditional celebration with a traditional meal - ham, potatoes, dinner rolls...

But - guess who made the dessert!

My Grandpa!

My Grandpa baked a really yummy lemon cake while my Grandma sat in her recliner and watched sports on TV.

They've always turned gender stereotypes on their head. My Grandpa cleans and shops. My Grandma loves to watch football and baseball and used to fly airplanes!

My Grandma  embroidered the tea towel in the photo. 

They both just do what needs to be done and what they like to do. They are awesome grandparents!


Grandpa and Grandma with my mom.

Grandpa and Grandma with my mom.

Pi(e) Treats!

Growing up my mom made the best pies ever... from scratch, perfectly baked and so yummy. Did I take the time to learn from her? No, not at all. I occasionally made "cookies" from the scraps and that was about the extent of my participation other than of course eating them. Last fall, my daughter was required to bring three pies for a fund raiser. My thoughts were that it would be a lot of work but I surely could figure it out. Well... it was a frustrating day to say the least. My pumpkin pie just wouldn't get done... I'm not sure how many hours I ended up baking it. In making my apple pie I didn't realize you should cut the top crust larger than the bottom so the edges looked funny. By the time I got to my cherry pie I did better but it still wasn't near "Mom" quality. So I called my husband and asked him to please pick up at least one pie at a bakery as I knew I for sure couldn't take the pumpkin. He did so I sent the bakery pie along with apple and cherry pies wishing my name wasn't on the bottom of the pie pans! Then I promptly called Emily and said that when I started blogging with her I would never ever make or talk about pies!

The next day I went to the fundraiser event and was greeted with praise on how great my pies looked and told that I must be quite the baker! So I looked at the other pies (which I quickly determined were mostly grocery store bought and baked) and realized maybe I'd been a little too hard on myself that my pies might not be my mom's but they were okay and I could try again. :)

So... in honor of Pi(e) day I thought I'd do just that. This time I decided to make tiny apple pies in cupcake tins. I cut small (about 4 inch) circles of pie crust and placed them in the bottom of the cupcake tins. One pie crust worth of dough made 5. I then peeled and sliced 3 apples and dumped some sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg on top and made sure all the apples were coated. I had a little dough left so I cut little strips for the top, placed a tiny bit of cold butter on top along with a little sugar and baked them until golden brown (about 20 minutes or so). They were super easy, turned out great and were very yummy! My son said it was the best pie he'd ever eaten. So yes, I'll make pie again. :)

 

Treats Made with Oreos

Oreos are celebrating their 100th birthday today so I thought I'd write an Oreo themed post.

As much as I love homemade cookies - I'll admit - Oreos are near the top of my list of favorite cookies. I could easily snarf a bag all by myself. And mint oreos? mmmmmmmm..... pure heaven.

I planned on compiling, testing and sharing a whole bunch of oreo recipes and ideas but this is as far as I got...

Oreos dipped in almond bark accented with a sugar paste diamond to match my napkins.

I do have to say - I love these napkins! I was cruising the aisles at Target the other day looking for a bit of inspiration and I found all their Mara-Mi party napkins and plates. Lots of great colors and patterns!

A Treat from Back in the Day!

The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook is coming out this week and I can't wait to get it! Cheryl Day allowed me to interview her for my blog about 3 years ago (way back in the day!). I asked all kinds of really ridiculous, snoopy questions and she answered them all. I thought her answers were really interesting, truthful and inspiring. Cheryl tops the list of famous bakers I'd most like to meet. I think she'd be a lot of fun to hang out with.

So - in honor of her/their first cookbook, thought I'd repost the interview. Congratulations Cheryl and Griffith!

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be able to do this interview. Cheryl Day, owner of Back in the Day Bakery, is a very accomplished baker. Her cupcakes have been voted the best in the country. She's been in several magazines, the New York Times, and even appeared on the Paula Deen Show. (here's a link to that show) Located in Savannah, Georgia, her bakery is a tourist destination. It has that vintage/retro/shabby chic look and feel that I absolutely adore. I've wanted to visit Savannah for a long time and if I ever do get to go there, her bakery will be the first place I go! It's so sooo kind of her to take the time to answer my questions about starting a bakery business and to allow me to share them with you.

Here's what Cheryl wrote for the "about me" section of her blog Buttercream and Roses:

It all began with an easy bake oven. I am a newly-wed and own a bakery with my husband in Savannah, GA. I have the best job in the world, and I'm on a path to discovering the people who share my passion for life, learning, baking, and growing as a person. I love everything about baking and the fascination with what you can do with a few simple ingredients. It is impossible to measure the happiness I bring to others on a daily basis and the joy it brings me in return. Baking from scratch is a lost art and I am determined to carry on the tradition of baking from the heart. 

Emily - So, it all began with an Easy Bake oven (the best toy ever!) Do you remember anything special that you made with your Easy Bake?

Cheryl
- The "Baby cake" that I make was inspired by my early days of baking with my easy bake oven.

Emily - I read that your grandma and your mom taught you how to bake. Do you have any special memories of baking with them that you’d like to share?

Cheryl - Ah Memories...I lost my mom at an early age, so baking is all about memories for me. Just the other day I was making buttermilk biscuits and I found myself day dreaming about my mother's hands showing me how to dock the tops with a fork.I always find comfort in knowing that I can reach in the pantry and gather just a few humble ingredients, bake something delicious and be transformed to my childhood.


Emily - What did you do before you opened your bakery? Did you go to college? If so, what did you study? Did you always dream of having a bakery? What lead to the decision to open Back in the Day Bakery?

Cheryl - I owned a mini department store with my sister. We sold everything from trendy womens & childrens clothing, furniture, apothecary all decorated in a very vintage shabby chic kind of way. I did go to college, but I dropped out when my mom passed away. I am a self taught baker. I did not go to a fancy pastry school. Whenever I have a challenge in the kitchen, I'll say I suppose I would have learned that in pastry school. I was always the one to bring dessert to the party, but none of my friends actually paid me to do it. So I never really thought of it as a career choice, I have always enjoyed feeding people. It is still amazing that I get paid to do it now.

Emily - I’m interested in knowing what was going on in your life about six months to a year before you opened the bakery and then what life was like that first year after the bakery opened.

 

Cheryl - I was in retail and NOT loving it. I loved the customer service aspect and meeting new people, but I was at a point in my life that I was determined to become the person I always wanted to be. That was running some sort of food related business. My husband and my sister encouraged me to take the leap of faith and my husband took it with me. We started researching like crazy, testing recipes, looking for packaging and thinking of what we wanted our place to feel like. Of course keep in mind, I was still a "Home" baker and what I would soon discover was that there was a BIG difference. My friend & mentor Jane owned the best bakery in Atlanta and she consulted with us (Money well spent) and came to help us make the transition from home bakers to running a professional bakery. The biggest change was realizing that we had to consider production time and that we couldn't spend all day working on one product when I had bakery cases to fill. We quickly learned short cuts without compromising quality. Time after all is money so this all has to be factored into pricing.
I remember being soooo scared. We had worked so hard building out the space mostly ourselves, spent ALL our money paying professional contractors (electricians, plumbers, sheet rockers) and now it was time to open the doors for business.
It was just my husband and I. Zero employees. We would alternate our baking schedules and then wait on customers too. Alot had changed since we first had the "thought" of opening our own bakery because the financing fell thru and we spent all of our savings, credit cards to get the doors open. So FAILURE was not an option for us. I remember feeling overwhelmed, but still very hopeful.The first year was alot of hard work and at the end of that year we hired our first front of house employee.

Emily - What was it that made you decide, “I’m going to open my own bakery” ? How much time did you spend planning your bakery before you opened it?

Cheryl - At the time there were NO high end quality artisan bakeries in Savannah. I knew that I wanted to do some sort of food related business.
Baking was our specialty and we had a lot of fond memories about bakeries. We thought it would be less capital because we knew that we could run it ourselves without having to hire wait staff etc. until we built up our customer base. So we just went for it!It was about 2 years from the vision until we opened our doors.

Emily - Did you have to write up a business plan and look for financing?  Was the decision to start your own business scary? Did you ever have any doubts about what you were doing?

Cheryl - Yes we did write a business plan and looked for financing, but got turned down by every bank & the city entreprenurial program. We went to the SBA & looking back I think the reason why we did not get any money from those sources is because NO ONE believed that our idea had merit. They simply didn't believe in us. We had no real experience so I suppose I can't really blame them. The funny thing is, I was recently asked to teach classes on "branding" by the the city entreprenrial center. Was I scared? Absolutely I doubted my ability to do it for a long time. I questioned if we were good enough. Then people kept coming. We got voted best bakery, best cupcakes in the country and on and on...We kept getting more and more recognition and accolades. So I finally stopped doubting myself and focused on making us better.

Emily - After the bakery opened… What was the most difficult part of running your new business? What was the most exciting/satisfying part of having your own bakery? 

Cheryl - The most difficult thing was the long hours & the pressure that we could not even take a day off if we are sick. Working in a kitchen is not glamorous. It is a lot of pressure to put out a consistent product every day. Questioning whether or not we could keep up with demand especially since we bake everything from scratch. It is a lot of dish washing & toilet scrubbing too. The most exciting thing was people buying what we made and loving it! It was so exciting to meet our loyal customers and talking about food with others that were as passionate about it as we were. Also knowing that we had a great product was very rewarding. People seemed to really appreciate what we were doing.

Emily - Now… What is the most difficult part of running your business and what is the best part? What is a typical day like for you? 

Cheryl - The most difficult thing is finding good employees. It is like finding a needle in a haystack. Baking is not a career goal for many people. It comes so naturally for my husband and I, and we have worked so hard to build our reputation of quality. It is hard to find others with that same sort of dedication.

My work day right now is from 4:30 to 4:30 and it is non stop. During the holidays, we work 16 hour days. I have worked 19 hour days I think that is because I still wear a lot of hats. There's really no typical day.
If someone oversleeps or calls in sick, I am the front girl juggling the rest of my baking & decorating projects for the day.
I still love to bake just as much as the first day we opened, but I would love to clone myself.
Emily - You make everything from scratch. How do you manage your time and get everything done without going crazy?

Cheryl - Who said I wasn't crazy! LOL Seriously, After 5 years I am still working out the kinks. BUT we are always committed to making everything from scratch. This year I am determined to train my clone and be less of a control freak.

Emily - How did you decide on a location? Back in the Day Bakery has gotten lots of great publicity and has become a tourist destination. This has to be exciting. Has this changed the way you run your business? How do you meet the demands brought about by all your success and publicity?


Cheryl -  We chose our location which is a "transitional" neighborhood & a lot of people thought we were crazy. The reasoning was twofold because we wanted to be a neighborhood bakery and for financial reasons. Based on this, we knew we had to be REALLY Really good and we thought as long as we were centrally located people would come. Then of course we started to get some great press NY Times, Food Network etc. and then we became a destination for tourists.
Emily - Just for fun… What is your favorite dessert to make?

Cheryl - I love baking cakes and cupcakes.
Emily - Is there a certain special tool or supply you could not live without?

Cheryl - A 50 cent bowl scraper is the best tool ever for adding dry ingredients as you mix and a multitude of other uses.

Emily - Finally, what advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own bakery or baking business?

Cheryl - If you are passionate, have a great work ethic, can multi task, and dedicated to your dream, then go for it! Don't think you can depend on others because you can't. At the end of the day remember it is YOUR dream. Yes you can! Finally, remember don't think you can be everything to everybody.

Birthday Treats!

Amy's birthday is tomorrow and my Mom's birthday is Thursday so I've been busy making birthday treats!

Happy Birthday to two of my favorite people!

I made my mom's chocolate sauce recipe for the cake. Soooo gooood... I found myself making a few too many batches of it to pour over my icecream last summer.

Here's her recipe:

Chocolate Sauce

2 cups sugar

2 squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 T. butter

Combine sugar, chocolate and milk. Boil until a little holds its shape when tried in cold water. Then add vanilla and butter and beat until creamy.

Emily

Vintage Treats!

Some of you may be wondering where this Amy in EAT is and why hasn't she posted anything yet? Well, I've been working on the perfect post to introduce myself with... something to win you all over, dazzle you with my ideas and my wit. Yeah, been working on that for some time now. And after a knock-down drag out fight with my new scanner trying to make the perfect Valentine cupcake toppers I realized that post is probably never going to happen and I'd better just introduce myself as me.

I'm Amy and I love everything vintage... especially from the 40's, 50's and 60's. I live in a 1952 Sears kit house... I've expanded the kitchen but tried to keep with 50's look but with a lot more space. This inspired me to get more into baking along with Emily who has taught me much about cookie decorating and invited me to share this blog with her. I love collecting vintage things and among those things is a collection of vintage cookbooks. This is one of my favorite... I'm just sure that my daughter and I look just like that when we are baking. I started looking through it for inspiration and found it! Of course! What's more vintage that thumbprint cookies? I think everyone's grandma probably made these at one time or another. So I made some... double print for Valentine's Day and have included the recipe for you. I've included my grandmother's strawberry jam recipe too... one I make every year.

 

Fancy European Treats!

I am by no means a world traveler. I'd like to be. But I'm not. I have a very practical and boring life.

But, I have a cousin who married a Spaniard and lives in Madrid.

She's been there for about 5 years and I've always said that I'd like to go visit her.

Well... now she's moving to the Middle East.

So, with a free place to stay in Europe + a limited time to take advantage of this opportunity....

 I said TO HECK WITH PRACTICALLITY!!

I went. I shouldn't have. I should be saving my money.

But I did. And I have no regrets.

I spent 5 days in Spain and 2 days in Paris!!!

Thought I'd show you photos of some of the beautiful desserts and pastries I saw (and ate) while I was there. The top photo is from a bakery in Madrid at SOL (which I guess is kind of like the Times Square of Madrid). The bottom from a little market in Paris.

The trip was December 28 - Jan. 5 so roscón de reyes (king cake) was the big thing in all the bakeries in Spain. You can see some king cakes along the bottom of the top photo. Here's the deal with the king cake (according to Wikipedia):

The roscón de reyes in Spain or rosca de reyes in Spanish America is traditionally eaten on January 6, during the celebration of the Día de Reyes (literally "Kings' Day"). In most of Spain, Mexico and sometimes Hispanic communities in the United States, this is the day when children get presents from the Three Wise Men (not Santa Claus).

My cousin's husband bought us a king cake and we ate it for breakfast on the 5th just before we left for the airport. It was delicious! The funny thing was, king cakes have a little toy/trinket in them and the person that finds the toy gets certain privelages or has certain obligations (I think it kind of depends on the family) - anyway - my cousin cut the cake right where the toy was - no one had the surprise of finding it.

The other thing I found sort of interesting about Spanish baking is that, while there are lots of bakeries everywhere filled with gorgeous breads and pastries and cakes, when my cousin wants to do some American baking (chocolate chip cookies for example), she has a hard time finding some of the ingredients like chocolate chips and brown sugar. If she does manage to find them they're very expensive. So when she comes back to the states she stocks up on some of those things. Then, when she's back in Spain, she treats her in-laws to a batch of chocolate chip cookies and they're very impressed with her baking skills!

I'm usually kind of a quiet person, but my friends and family have learned that if I start talking about this trip - I'll ramble on and on forever. So - rather than write a write a post that just keeps scrolling down and down and down forever - I'll stop. It was an awesome, amazing, spectacular, fun, interesting trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Excuse the Mess

Please excuse the mess! We're remodeling!

If you're looking for Sugar and Meringue, you've come to the right place. I'm partnering with my best friend to bring you some fresh new ideas and more frequent updates.

Baby Reindeer Cookies

No posts for about a month and now 2 posts in one day!

I know.

But it's the Holidays. Gotta blog when I can.

Now that I've told you all about Amy and how we're collaborating on a new blog - thought I'd share our most recent baking project.

Amy came over last weekend to decorate Christmas cookies. She is sort-of new to cookie decorating. So, I spent some time showing her and her daughter some of the cookie decorating methods I've learned over the years. We taped it so you can watch and decorate with us if you'd like. This is my first stab at posting video so please forgive any quality issues!

Christmas Deer Cookies from Emily Reiman on Vimeo.

To make these cookies, I found a cute deer on Google Images, printed it on card stock, traced it with a brown food marker and used that as a guide for my piping. This is a technique I learned from Sugar Belle.

For new cookie bakers - I always recommend reading Sweetopia's tutorials. She does an amazing job explaining both basic and advanced cookie decorating techniques.

 

 Hopefully I'll get a few more of our cookie decorating videos posted later this week!

Baking with My Best Friend

I've mentioned my friend Amy in several of my previous posts but now I'd like to formally introduce you to her.

Amy and I met in preschool and have been best friends ever since. We survived our awkward Junior High years, got into lots of trouble in High School and acted as Maid-of-Honor in each other's weddings.

As best friends, we have very similar taste and interests. Amy has a great sense of style and design. We love to discuss ideas and work together on projects. We seem to get our best ideas when we work together.

That's why, going into the New Year, Amy and I will be collaborating on a new blog!

I'll be honest. With my family and full time job, it's hard to get blog posts done on a regular basis. And, after a few years of blogging it's hard to come up with new ideas. I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself. So it will be great to work with Amy. We'll be able to keep each other motivated and inspired.

So (as of now) here are the plans for Sugar and Meringue:

Mid-January - this blog will be re-designed and (sort-of) renamed. The banner will say E-A-T, the url will still be http://sugarandmeringue.squarespace.com. (so links will still work)

All of my content from Sugar and Meringue will still be here.  I may reorganize a little but you'll still be able to find everything.

Blogging has been so much fun for me. I'm really excited to share the experience with my best friend. I know you're going to love all of her great ideas. And (if nothing else) we are going to have a lot of fun working on this project together!

 

 

Holiday Baking Plans

November 17. Wow! I should already have all my holiday baking plans made by now! The baking begins this weekend and I haven't even thought much about what I'm going to bake or how I'm going to decorate my cookies! I need to get supplies ordered...

So... in an attempt to get my act together...

I made my annual Holiday Baking Planner. This is what I use to get organized and make plans.

Download the Holiday Baking Planner here.

Here are some other "planning/organizing/DIY" Holiday links that I've found useful:

The Ultimate Holiday Baking Pantry Checklist

Packaging and Shipping Cookies

 

 

Red Riding Hood Party

Hope everyone had a safe and happy Halloween!

I had a very fun weekend at my friend Amy's house. Her kids were having a few friends over for Halloween to watch the movie Red Riding Hood. So Amy and I decided to spend the weekend playing dessert table designers using Red Riding Hood as the theme. We had so much fun coming up with ideas based on the movie/theme. With limited time, limited resources (Amy lives in a small town that doesn't even have a Walmart!) and a limited budget we had to get really creative!

Amy found this invitation from Wings by Studio 30 on Etsy that helped to establish the over-all look.

So here's what we made:

Cookies (to mimic the invitation)

Full Moon Cupcakes

Blood Moon Cupcake Bites (a reference to the movie)

Twisted Twigs (almond bark pretzels sprinkled with black sugar)

Wolf Cub Chow (this was Amy's daughter's fantastic idea. They made it after I left)

Wolfsbane (Cherry Koolaid)

Center Pieces - We sent our boys outside to pick up twigs, spray painted them gray and glued on cardstock cut-outs of owls and bats and signs.

 

Amy's house couldn't have been a more perfect setting. She just happens to have gray walls and red chairs. It looked just perfect!

 

Coffee Kuchen

 

As a person of mostly German descent I feel like I should have know what Kuchen was/is but I had to look it up. Kuchen (pronounced (KOO-ken) is the German word for cake. I think it's usually kind of a coffee cake.

It's been a cool and rainy fall weekend so Kuchen seemed like exactly the right thing to bake.

Here's the recipe I used (from the cookbook shown above - published in 1956):

Coffee Kuchen

3 cups sifted, all-purpose flour

3 tsp baking powder

Few grains salt

2 cups brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup strong coffee

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/8 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar. Cut in shortening and butter with two knives or pastry blender. Reserve 1 cup of this mixture for topping. Combine coffee, evaporated milk and baking soda. Add to remaining flour mixture and mix well. Add beaten eggs. Spoon into large muffin pans, filling half full. Add cinnamon to topping mixture and sprinkle on top of batter. Bake in moderate oven, 375 degrees F., 25 min. Makes 1 dozen*.

*NOTE: when they say large muffin pans - they mean it. All that I have is standard size muffin pans (cupcake size) and this recipe made 24 in that size. Adjust cooking time accordingly if you're using the smaller muffin pan. My kuchen was actually a little burned after just 15 minutes of baking (although I think my oven runs a little warm).