We’ve reached a critical time in the year. Christmas is one week away and Christmas dinner needs to be planned.
For us Latinos, we’re in an even bigger pickle because we do Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) dinner. So that means we have 6 days left to plan a feast.
This time of year is always particularly frustrating for me, because my family doesn’t like anything. No really, they don’t. An hour ago, I was walking around Sprouts talking to my sister about how I wanted to give up on Christmas dinner. She pumped me up a bit about it.
We’ll see how that goes. I always have grand plans for Christmas dinner, but it never happens because the things I like are 1. too expensive to make for a crowd or 2. generally disliked by my family. Last year, I got close. I made awesome short ribs braised in red wine (they were a hit) served with mashed potatoes, as well as coq au vin. Guys, I got fancy. This year… it’s not looking that way…
So today, in the spirit of dreaming, I’m going to plan my ideal Christmas Dinner. I’ll probably never make it but let’s just pretend.
That’s it. Pretty much my perfect Christmas dinner. Mine won’t be that perfect, but it’ll still be great.
I’m being totally dramatic about Christmas Dinner. I’ll be honest, I really don’t care what we eat. I’m more excited to spend time with my family than anything else. We could eat KFC or Chinese Takeout, and I’d be happy. That said, day dreaming about fancy dinners is what foodies do.
What’s on your Christmas menu? Share your menus so I can get more inspiration!
Ok but really I think cakes are awesome. I also think they’re super labor intensive so I get why people buy them instead of make them, but I really think more people should take up cake making.
This past weekend, I made three layer cakes.
So from my experience of making three cakes in a row, I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to making the perfect layers cakes, along with some of my favorite cake recipes.
1. Use the right cake pans.
I used to have these fancy cake pans from Sur La Table, and I’ll be honest… they sucked. My cakes were always uneven. First I thought my oven temperature was just weird, but then I moved and my cakes were still crooked. So I bought new cake pans. I bought the cheap Wilton ones at Michael’s (I say cheap because I never walk into that store without a 40% off coupon), and my cakes are perfectly even now. So my tip: go for aluminum cake pans!
2. Parchment paper IS your friend and always grease and flour your pans.
Wouldn’t it suck to do all that work and have them stick to the pan? Yes. It’s happened to me, and it sucks.
Ever since, I will never make a cake without parchment paper. Honestly, my least favorite part of making cakes is this step. I feel like I’m in kindergarten cutting out parchment paper circles. But it’s a must. Just do it.
3. Bake in advance and freeze.
My cakes were all for Saturday and Sunday. I started baking on Tuesday. A cake sitting out from Tuesday til Saturday would be dry and gross, but a cake wrapped in parchment paper, double wrapped in plastic wrap then frozen, is still great for the weekend. The trick is to make sure the cake is completely cooled before you freeze it. You can flash cool it on a cooling rack in the freezer, but before you wrap it up. Just make sure it has cooled completely before you wrap it up, if not you’ll get condensation that freezes into ice. Not cute.
4. A cake without a filling is no fun.
One of the cakes I made was lemon cake with a raspberries and cream filling. The others were chocolate and banana cakes with peanut butter filling. Feel free to make your fillings a day or two in advance, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
5. Leveling the cake is important
I finally broke down and bought a cake leveler. It’s a good idea to level the cakes before you freeze them. The leveler is basically a metal wire, it’s not super strong and probably won’t cut through a frozen cake. You can also just use a knife…
6. ALWAYS do a crumb coat
A fine layer of frosting before you actually frost is essential. It holds it all together and prevents you from getting a crumby cake. If your crumb coat is going on a frozen cake it’s even easier because the crumb coat gets firm faster. Once you’ve got a crumb coat, stick the cake in the freezer for a few minutes to let the coat harden before you frost. EXTRA: Put pieces of parchment paper under the cake so you don’t have to worry about a dirty plate/dish. You just pull out the pieces when you’re done frosting and you have a clean plate/cake circle!
7. Use a long knife to frost
I’m not fancy. My cakes aren’t perfect, but I think they do the job. I don’t have all those fancy spatulas you can buy to frost cakes. I use the 8″ slicer knife that came in my knife block. It’s not serrated and it’s long. Gets the job done. A small butter knife makes it hard to get smooth edges all around, so I recommend a long knife.
8. Use cake circles and boxes
To make your cakes go from homemade to slightly fancier, go to Michael’s or any cake supply store and buy cardboard cake circles and a box. I took one of the cakes to a restaurant and the waitress was surprised to find it was homemade. On that note, if you go to a birthday dinner at a restaurant, call ahead and make sure they don’t charge you to cut the cake. I had heard of corkage fees but never of cake cutting fees. Apparently it’s a thing in Hollywood. Just saying.
Remember, no matter what your cake looks like, it should taste great. So on that note, here are some of my favorite cake recipes: