shop, and I'm getting excited about the big reveal. I'm planning it for the beginning of March, with possibly some Valentine's Day items up before then. It can be difficult, juggling a full time job with a side business (and now a second job—at an ice cream shop!), but I'm hoping this is the year I can figure out a balance. I had a couple big milestones in 2014 (my first sale! finally getting serious and ordering business cards!), and I'm ready for 2015 to be the year that I create (and meet) tangible goals for myself and my business. One of them is to share more here and document this time in life.
The Year of Cakes is one of my goals in 2015: to bake at least one cake a month, complete with icing and decorations. By the end of it, I want to feel comfortable enough to create my own cake recipes.
Mike and I have been drowning in carrots since our winter CSA started up last month. I love carrots; and I could eat these sweet, crunchy things everyday, with or without hummus. But there's just something about adding something so good for you to cake that's appealing to me. Let's call it having your veggies and eating your cake, too. (We don't have to call it that, don't worry.)
Top with Cinnamon. After a long search, I settled on her recipe for carrot cake, as posted on Design*Sponge. I won't paste the recipe here (I didn't stray from it this time), but I will say that I found I needed more frosting than her recipe makes (and Mike still complained that he wanted more between the layers). I also made the little carrots using regular old food dye and pastry bags.
Part of this challenge for me is also in the decorating, so I went with the outer layer of toasted coconut along with the traditional carrots on top. I was surprised to find that the decorating/icing makes as much of a mess as the actual baking of the cake, but it was worth it. I spaced out the two enough that it didn't feel like I was washing dishes all day (even though I was).
I would definitely make this cake again (and I will! I have so many raisins!). I might pull back on the orange zest next time, and definitely double (or triple) the icing recipe to make sure I have enough. I'd also probably change the ratio of cream cheese to powdered sugar in the icing; I prefer my icings less sweet and a little more savory for a carrot cake.
The cake is all gone now (my coworkers finished it off), but at least we have these Instagram shots to remember her by...
Follow along on Instagram using the hashtag #yearofcakes!
This year started with no less anticipation or genuine excitement for a clean slate, however manufactured, mental, or arbitrary. So here we are, starting again. Not sure how we ended up with a new year after the last one had seemingly just begun, but isn't that the mark of getting older? Mike and I were watching Friends the other night (on Netflix! We're in the future!), and Chandler said something about being 29 and not being ashamed of enjoying going to bed earlier than he did at 21. (Though he mentioned nothing of still having roommates at almost-30?) The last time I watched this show, I was in high school, unable to imagine ever being 29, let alone ever being on the cusp of 29, living with my boyfriend of four years, my college days getting ever smaller in the rearview. So many people made jokes about it being the year of the hoverboard, but it is a little strange to be here. We are living the future that had always felt too far to dream about. What does it look like? What will it look like? Hopefully not just a speck to the girl five years from now, in a winter far ahead and just around the corner.
Today, I'm working from home. We were lucky to find an affordable apartment with a small second room where we've set up a little office/sewing/business space for both of us (Mike's big on eBay these days). It's where Mike does his homework or grading, where I sit most of the days I work from home, where I sew or write or play with one of the many hobbies I've picked up over the years. There are two windows in the room: one that overlooks our neighbor's porch and grape vines, and the other looks out onto our street. It's often loud because of school traffic or yapping dogs, but sometimes the way the sun hits the mint and blue houses across the street makes me pause my work and stare. We're planning to stay in this apartment at least another year, and sometimes I find myself nostalgic for it even as we're still here. Though I sometimes complain about how cramped it feels or how you can't actually rearrange any of the rooms because of their size, this is our home and I will miss it one day when we are gone.
I remember the first time it occurred to me that cinnamon rolls could be made from scratch. My sister, newly married, had just come to our family's Christmas dinner from my brother-in-law's family's Christmas morning. "His mom makes cinnamon rolls from scratch every year," she said. Even though I'm from the south, we weren't immune to canned biscuits on Christmas morning. Homemade cinnamon rolls sounded like a special tradition.
I didn't wait for a Christmas morning with in-laws to start making cinnamon rolls. I made my first batch of homemade cinnamon rolls for a big brunch at a friend's house. Since then, any time more than four people are gathering for a weekend meal, I pull out The Weekend Baker and make a batch. When I started making these, I followed the recipe to a T, but since then I've loosened up a little and made it my own. I've also acquired a stand mixer since those early days, and these have gone from special occasion status to sweet tooth/craving status. Without having to knead it by hand, these are dangerously simple to make (though I am a little nostalgic for late nights kneading in the kitchen).
The main change I've made for these is to brown the butter that gets topped with cinnamon and sugar and rolled up. I love the caramel flavor it adds to the cinnamon rolls (not to mention the way it makes my kitchen smell).
Getting yeasted dough to rise in the height of summer is no problem (sometimes it rises too quickly), but in the dead of winter—which, let's face it, is when you need a cinnamon roll the most—it can be a little trickier. Sometimes I preheat the oven to 100 degrees F while I'm making the dough, and turn it off a few minutes before the dough needs to sit and rise. Then I place the covered (metal or heat-safe glass) bowl into the toasty oven. Make sure you turn the oven off a few minutes before you place your dough in there so it can cool off to about 80 degrees F.
I like to smear the glaze on while the rolls are still a little warm, that way it melts just a bit and drips into the crevices and edges.
Recipe after the jump. One thing: At first glance, this seems like a lot of work, and it is! There are plenty of steps and ingredients, and you can't wake up one morning and decide to have fresh cinnamon rolls an hour later. But if there's one thing I've learned from baking is to enjoy the process and appreciate each bite knowing every ingredient and bit of effort that went into the making of it. Treats like these aren't meant for everyday anyway, so I'm kind of grateful that it takes more than just a few minutes to throw together.
These are great to make ahead of time before a big gathering. At the end of the recipe there are instructions on what you can do ahead; you can let the dough rise slowly in the fridge overnight before baking and serving, or you can cook them, cool them, and freeze for later, though I've never tried this. Nor do I know anyone who, in their right mind, would bake cinnamon rolls and not devour them right then and there.