Sunday, September 14, 2014

Italian Cream Cake

Italian Cream Cake

A Southern Staple

Italian Cream Cake
A big birthday deserves a big cake.
When my friend Diane sent out “Save-the-Dates” for her upcoming big birthday celebration, I offered to make her cake. She chose Italian Cream Cake, which is my personal favorite, and has been my birthday dessert of choice most of my life.
Before I moved to Idaho, I had no idea that Italian Cream Cake was more Southern than Italian, but it was always a staple growing up in Texas for birthdays, baptisms or really anything worth celebrating. It does supposedly have some Italian roots, but it’s pretty unclear where the cake really came from. It’s very dense, with coconut, pecans and bananas, keeping it moist, fairly similar to the far inferior Carrot Cake (who wants vegetables in their cake?!). Cream Cheese Icing puts “the icing on the cake” and makes this moist and heavy dessert even more decadent.
My version of the cake is based on the recipe in my grandmother's first cookbook, The Good Taste Collection. I have modernized some of the ingredients and found that incorporating overripe bananas (very black) improve the cake greatly.
Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
I’ve developed a few baking tricks over the years. With this recipe, I always beat my egg whites first and put them in a separate bowl so I don’t have to wash my mixing bowl twice or use a second mixing bowl. Laziness is the key to invention. Instead of buying buttermilk, which I will never use, I add one teaspoon of white vinegar to one cup of milk and let sit for five minutes. The vinegar will curdle the milk into buttermilk.
When I made the cake last week for Diane’s birthday, it needed to serve about 25 people so I made two batches. I opted to make a tiered cake—those are always more spectacular. I baked the first recipe in three 9-inch pans to create the bottom layer. After cooling, I iced between the layers, stacked them on a platter and crumb iced.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
To create structure in this very moist cake, I cut drinking straws and placed them throughout the top of the cake to hold up the second layer. I baked the second layer in three 6-inch pans and made a few cupcakes with the leftover batter. After cooling, I placed the second layers on a 6-inch cardboard round (I purchased a Wilton cake cardboard, but you can make your own out of a shoebox or whatever), iced between the layers and crumb iced.
I also placed straws in the top tier for added stability. After crumb icing, it’s important to chill the cake. This hardens the icing and allows a second layer of icing to be applied with no crumbs showing through. For this specific cake, I made four batches of icing; for a one-tier cake, I normally make two batches of icing (never skimp on the icing). After the cakes were iced twice, I left them in the fridge until a couple of hours before the party.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.
With another batch of icing, I piped a layer on the top of the bottom layer to attach the top layer. I then piped beads between the tiers and around the bottom to hide any flaws. To pipe, you can use a traditional tip and bag, but for these purposes, a Ziploc with the corner cut out works great.
Fortunately, my 100-year old lilac was in full bloom. I picked a few fragrant blossoms and placed them on the cake. Truly, the most difficult part of the baking process was getting the cake to Ketchum, over the highway bumps, on my friend’s lap.
One batch of Italian Cream Cake will serve about 18 people. I don’t recommend making these into cupcakes because they fall and leave huge craters, but that can be a plus if you want to fill them with icing.

ITALIAN CREAM CAKE

2 sticks butter, softened
2 cups sugar
5 egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sweetened baker’s coconut
1 cup chopped pecans
2 overripe bananas
5 egg whites stiffly beaten
Cream butter, then add sugar; beat until mixture is smooth. Add egg yolks and beat well. Combine flour and soda, sift, and add alternately with buttermilk. Stir in vanilla. Add coconut, nuts, and bananas. Fold in, by hand, stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour batter into three 9-inch or four 8-inch parchment paper lined cake pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cake tests done. After cooling, ice with Cream Cheese Icing.

CREAM CHEESE ICING

1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
½ stick butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth; add sugar and vanilla; mix well. Spread on cake.
Southern Italian Cream Cake recipe from Sun Valley Magazine.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Summer Garden Prep: From Sun Valley Magazine

Summer Garden Prep

Hard Work Now = Summer Fun Later

Sun Valley Magazine

May 27, 2014 - 09:57 AM
Summer Garden Prep
Summer has definitely started in the Wood River Valley. My trees are blooming, my perennials are budding and dandelions are blowing wildly through the neighborhood. Sunny weekends are a great time to get your yard and gardens in shape for months of enjoyment. Here are a few chores to get your garden ready and make your yard beautiful.

1. FERTILIZE YOUR PERENNIALS

The smell of MiracleGro makes me think fondly of my childhood, but I would never dare use anything blue on any plants at my house. For a really long time I didn’t fertilize my flowers at all, because our vegetable gardens are spaced around our house. A couple of years ago I discovered Bloom Kaboom (available at Webb Nursery and Sun Valley Garden Center) and changed my tune. It’s basically a natural compost tea that you dilute and water your plants with.
A two-week wild rose bloom turned into a three-month bloom; a two-bloom peony turned into a 10-bloom peony. I normally do a round of fertilizing in May and then again in June to ensure maximum blooms. It is safe to fertilize your annuals again in July, August, and even a warm September to keep things happy until fall.

2. MULCH-TIME

Small Western Bark (available at all local garden centers) is something I always splurge on. As my flowerbeds have expanded over the last six years in my house, it gets more expensive every year, but besides aesthetics, mulch keeps the ground moist and the weeds down. Mulch will slowly break down and add more nutrients to the soil. I always wait until all of my plants are up before I lay mulch down so I don’t smother them.
Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!

3. SET UP THE SPRINKLERS

When we set up our sprinklers for spring, we check for any leaks (there are always new leaks) and replace any pipes or heads. Maintaining your sprinkler system reduces water waste and keeps the water pressure up for all those hard to reach corners of the yard. We set up our sprinklers for 30 minutes at 10:00 p.m. every other day. Watering at night and for long periods of time conserves water and reduces the frequency of watering. We have been participants of Trout Friendly Lawns since it’s inception. They can provide you with more information on water conservation and help you set up conservative watering.

4. PULL OUT & CLEAN THE PATIO FURNITURE

Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!Years of summer sun and winter cold can really wear on your patio furniture. I store my furniture in a shed over the winter. When I take it out in the spring, I clean it all off with a hose, then I wax all of my metal furniture. It sounds ridiculous, but the wax keeps the furniture clean and protects the color. I just use Turtle Wax or any other car wax—it reminds me of washing the car as a kid. I normally hit up my cruiser bike while I’m at it (then I look good cruising to work or the store).

5. SPLIT, MOVE AND/OR ACQUIRE NEW PERENNIALS

Perennials are amazing. They are an investment, but over time they will expand and can be split or moved. It’s great to trade your extra plants or establish new beds with additional plants. Iris and daisies are some of the most prolific perennials—they are great to fill-in some empty spaces. Check with a local nursery for the correct time and method to split your perennials. Last year I put in a new shady perennial bed with Hosta, Lily of the Valley and Bleeding Heart, which is looking great after a little Bloom Kaboom. This year, I’m going small and have just bought some Astilbe to fill-in a few spots and add color to my front flowerbed. It’s difficult to pass up a new peony, though.

5. PLAN AND PURCHASE NEW ANNUALS

The best part of spring gardening is planning, purchasing and planting all of my annual containers. I make a list of all the containers I need to fill, explore Pinterest for new ideas and start the shopping! An important thing to consider when planning is any parties you might be having throughout the summer and fall. A few years ago my house was on the Hailey Garden Tour, so I wanted my flowers to be at their best in July and planned accordingly. Last year I got married in September so I planned some fall colored accent plants and replaced my summer flowers with fall mums, pansies and kale. It saved some money planning in advance and looked great. The world is your oyster when you’re planning your annuals—go crazy!
Summer garden prep tips from Morgan Buckert!

6. COMPLETE YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN 

This is a whole different can of worms. Our vegetable gardens are almost an acre, require a whole year of planning and provide us with food for most of the year. The most important thing about planting vegetable gardens in the Wood River Valley is that our last frost date is May 28. We plant June 1, but in the last few years we have had frosts until late June in Hailey. Watch the weather and your plants will thrive.
You can buy the heirloom vegetable plants straight from our garden at all three Wood River Valley Webb Nursery locations! Look for vegetables labled Crazy Guy Tomatoes or check out our Facebook page.
Now it’s time to sit, have a cocktail, and enjoy all the hard work!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer on Silver Creek

SALAD DAYS - Silver Creek from BLOODKNOTS on Vimeo.

This is a great little video fishing on Silver Creek--it gets it just right.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Silver Creek Photos

Last week we went out with Christine Olsen, our photographer for the big day.  It was a beautiful day on Silver Creek and she did a great job Photoshopping out my HUGE mosquito welts.  Worth it.  Here are some of our photos.



A dumb pic, but when we travel we always take an explorer shot in honor of our mutual favorite explorer, John C. Fremont.  No, we're not nerds.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yellowstone Angler Wader Shoot-Out


The last few weeks have been IN-SANE!  I am the new fly-fishing buyer for Sturtos Hailey, which Jeff Davis bought from Sturtevants.  We are so excited for Jeff and expanding our fly-fishing and especially fly-tying materials. 

I'm shopping around getting ready for IFTD and found Yellowstone Angler's Wader Shootout.  Yellowstone Angler, definitely one of the best fly shops I've ever been to, provides some of the only honest gear reviews since Fish and Fly went out of print.  These guys are extensive, and I'm glad to say that my wader was the top-ranked wader, Simm's G3 Guide Wader.  Check out the full report here.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Casting for Recovery is Less than Two Weeks Away



You all know about Casting for Recovery, but it really is an amazing organization.  I never expected it to make such a big difference for the attendees, or for me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cake as Art

This is a great video I poached from Etsy.