Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Saint Paul Winter Carnival Ice Sculptures - Part 1

Cathedral of Saint Paul - all lit up for Crashed Ice!

Thursday night I walked over to Rice Park in Saint Paul to check out the ice-sculpting competition. I happened to be right by the Cathedral of Saint Paul and got this beautiful picture of it all it up. The Red Bull Crashed Ice competition is taking place in Saint Paul again this year and they've timed it so it takes place during Winter Carnival. I'm too wimpy to stand out in the cold to watch but I've seen some of it on TV. Totally crazy!
The ice sculpture version of the cathedral
 I meandered around the park, checking out a few of the smaller sculpture displays (not part of the competition, just for fun)

The beginnings of an awesome archway. I'll show you the finished piece in the next post!
The teams had started their sculptures that morning and still had a long way to go! You have to admire these folks. Those blocks are HEAVY...and did I mention it was really dang cold? Like "I can't feel my nose or forehead anymore" type of cold.

FYI, power tools are allowed.  Working so hard on something that is just going to melt seems a lot like slaving for hours over a cake that is just so going to get eaten. Slightly crazy.
...and did I mention it's cold? And dark?

Sunday, January 20, 2013


Oh, cold and blah. We have been taking time to rejuvenate and recharge our batteries around here. Okay, we are just being lazy. Isn't that what winter in Minnesota is for? It is supposed to be a high of minus two tomorrow. Time to hibernate!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Saltine Toffee

I've heard about this saltine toffee for years but never got around to trying it out. To be honest, I wasn't sure about it. There are a ton of recipes out there on the interwebs (especially Pinterest) that take an old favorite and substitute all these really weird processed ingredients.

 Dredge your chicken in Doritos! Make your cake with Mountain Dew! Just use Velveeta!
  Why not just use the real thing?

BUT, I'll admit that this toffee is delicious! The recipe has some definite advantages over traditional English Toffee. The main one is that you don't have to fuss with a candy thermometer. Also, you don't have to stand over a hot stove for a long time because it finishes in the oven. The other nice thing is that, although it has a nice crunch, this toffee is softer than your traditional English toffee.

So, sometimes it pays off to take a little shortcut....

....but you won't find me adding Velveeta to anything anytime soon.

Here's the recipe I used with very easy instructions:

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Night Circus Cake

One of my sisters requested a "Night Circus"-inspired cake for her birthday this year. Since her birthday falls between Christmas and New Year's, she typically gets the short end of the stick when it comes to birthday celebrations. She is also gluten-intolerant so I typically make your basic flourless chocolate cake. Delicious? Yes, but hardly visually stunning.

For those of you who have not read the book, Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is whimsical and charming. I highly recommend it. Here is the description from Amazon:

"The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance."

I did the black and white stripes to reference the circus tents. The stripes are black royal icing that is filled in with black sanding sugar. In retrospect, that was mistake. I should have gone with fondant; the royal icing was hard to pipe and the sprinkles had a tendency to stick to everything except the cake. The ruffled piping is supposed to be reminiscent of all of the fancy dresses that Celia wears in her magic act.

The flowers are pulled sugar. The golden sugar piece represents the bonfire at the circus (which plays an important role in the story). The whole thing is sprinkled liberally with edible gold stars for extra glamour and glitz.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Happy New Year!

This photo is courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society Website.
Happy New Year, everyone!

 I'm taking a little time to organize my thoughts and priorities for the coming year. The holiday season was a lot of fun and I was lucky enought to spend quite a bit of time celebrating with friends and family. BUT...I'm pretty pleased to be able to just have some quiet time to putz around the house.

Of course, I have a long list of future projects in mind (more crafting/art this year and less baking, that's the plan) and quite a few projects that I didn't quite get to last year. More to come soon but for now...a nap, reading a good book, a little bit of cleaning and organizing, and definitely watching tonight's "Downton Abbey" premiere with a warm cat in my lap :)