January 31, 2013

Earl Grey Cake with Earl Grey Meringue Frosting and Honey Filling

I've had a few requests for the recipe I used for my birthday cake, so I thought I'd publish it here!

I combined recipes from two different blogs (although I'm excited to try the cake/frosting they pair theirs with) to make a totally Earl Grey cake. 

I expanded the cake recipe by 50% (1.5 times everything) because I made three layers, and I doubled the frosting recipe. Other than that, the only thing I added was a drizzle of honey on top of the meringue frosting in between the three cake layers. 

This cake was pretty easy, and baking it made my kitchen smell like a delicious spice shop! 

Beware, the frosting is addictive and you will lick the bowl clean...

Adapted from The Gingered Whisk


1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups flour
4 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup milk
4 TBSP loose earl grey tea (or 3 tea bags)
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Prepare 2- 9" cake tins by buttering the tins, placing a round of parchment paper in the bottom, butter that, and then flour the sides, shaking off the excess flour. Set aside.
With a mortal and pestle or food processor, grind the tea (take the tea out of the bags if you are using them) into you get smaller pieces. You don't want it to be a powder, but you don't want to be chewing your cake, either.
In a small saucepan, scald your milk until just barely simmering. Turn the heat off and add the tea. Allow to steep while you prepare the cake.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well between each addition.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add half of the dry mixture to the butter and mix until just combined.
Add the milk and tea mixture and mix until just combined.
Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Do not overstir!
Divide the batter equally amongst the 2 prepared cake pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway and testing with a toothpick.
Cool 10 minutes in the pan and then turn out on a wire rack.

Adapted from Hummingbird High

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup + 1/4 cup strongly brewed Earl Grey tea, divided 
1/8 teaspoon salt

Beat 2 egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment until the egg whites are foamy and thick. They should have the ability to mound, but not peak -- if they've started to peak, you've overbeaten the egg whites.

In a saucepan, combine 1 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, 1/3 cup strongly brewed Earl Grey tea, and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Boil for 3 - 4 minutes, or until all the sugar is dissolved.

Begin beating egg whites (from the first step) again and slowly pour in the boiling sugar syrup (from the second step) in a slow stream. Continue to beat on high for 4 minutes or until stiff peaks form.

Add 1/4 black tea by the tablespoon, beating after each addition. Continue to beat until frosting reaches desired consistency -- it took me about another 3 minutes or so. The whole process should take around 7 minutes. Use frosting immediately.

January 28, 2013

My Golden Birthday!

Today is my Golden Birthday. 

A Golden Birthday is when one turns the same age as one's birth date. In my case, I'm turning 28 on the 28th--today! 

On Saturday my roommates and I hosted a splendid Golden Birthday party, complete with plenty of golden decorations--including an amazing pop up photo booth which yielded hundreds of epic photos--golden place settings, golden cocktails, golden cake, and last but not least, amazing golden outfits! 

Early Grey cake with Earl Grey meringue frosting and honey filling--yum!

My lovely roommates and me. 


Gold paper chandelier! 

Andrea and me! 
Ethan and me!

My lovely roommates! 

Cake time! 

But my birthday festivities aren't over! Tonight I'm going to Book Club to talk about the book I picked for this month, and tomorrow my friend Andrea and I have tickets to the ballet--including backstage passes! 

And then today my coworkers surprised me with not one but two beautiful bouquets of flowers!

My desk smells like a meadow! 
It's been a truly splendid weekend, and I'm so looking forward to the next two days. 

And thank you to everyone who's gone out of their way to make this birthday extra special for me. 
I feel so blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. 

January 11, 2013

Home Improvements: A Vintage Hallway

I love the new year and getting a new calendar, but I'm always so sad to get rid of the old one, especially when the pictures are pretty.

My 2012 wall mini calendar featured a series of vintage french ads, each one more wonderful than the next. 

So instead of trashing it, I carefully cut all the pictures out, bought some 8x8 frames 50% off at Michael's, and got to work spending an entire evening (and the better part of the wee hours of that night) cutting out mat board and framing them. 

The calendar included thirteen pictures, just the right number to line the still-black walls of our entrance and long hallways. 

Yay new art! 

January 10, 2013

The Hot Sardines at Joe's Pub

Last night my friend Kim and I (our friend Andrea was supposed to come, too, but sadly got stuck at work) went to go see the Hot Sardines at Joe's Pub, at The Public.

Some of us recently saw them play at Winterland Romp in December--a fun winter-themed concert featuring a burlesque show, an extremely inappropriate Easter bunny, and a tranny "Hannukah elf" (don't ask)--and despite the eccentricity of the event, the music was amazing. 

So we immediately booked tickets to see them again as soon as possible, which was last night. 

"The Sardine sound – wartime Paris via New Orleans, or the other way around – is steeped in hot jazz, salty stride piano, and the kind of music Louis Armstrong, Django Reinhardt and Fats Waller used to make: Straight-up, foot-stomping jazz. (Literally – the band includes a tap dancer whose feet count as two members of the rhythm section). They manage to invoke the sounds of a near-century ago and stay resolutely in step with the current age. And while their roots run deep into jazz, that most American of genres, they’re intertwined with French influences via their frontwoman, who was born and raised in Paris (and writes songs in both languages)." -About

Miz Elizabeth is the lead singer in an all-male (and might I add, extremely attractive) band of musicians, featuring an extremely delightful tap dancer as one of the percussionists! 

Here he is enthusiastically dancing! 
We were sitting right under him and had a great view of his well-tailored pants....

There's also a sousaphone player (a sousaphone is a huge tuba),

and a fiddler (who is super hot and looks like Ryan Gosling) who plays a weird fiddle/trumpet hybrid that, when plucked, sounds like steel drums!

And the end of the show, while the bass player was doing his solo, he started lying down on the ground--while still playing!--and the rest of the band followed his lead.

They finished the rest of the song lying on the ground!

It was such a great show. The music is so alive and just makes you feel so happy. 

I even bought the CD and I haven't bought a CD probably since college...

Check out their upcoming shows to see where they're playing next, and definitely try to go!

January 7, 2013

Ladies Who Brunch

This weekend my friend Meghan was in town accompanying her husband on a work trip, and because she didn't have to work, she got to hang out and do fun things!

Meghan, Amanda and I all taught together in Madrid in 2010 and somehow all ended up back in the states. Amanda was even my roommate in NY last year! Meghan stayed in Spain a little longer than us, but then she and her husband moved to Boston so we get to see her again!

Saturday we were blessed with an absolutely spectacular day. One of those bright, crisp, sunny days that make you think winter isn't all that bad. 

The three of us started off the day with a delicious brunch on the Upper East Side, and then headed to the Guggenheim to see the Picasso: Black& White exhibit. 

The Guggenheim shows are often a bit pricey, so I’m picky about what I go for, but this was absolutely worth the $22. Seeing his amazing progression of work--from before WWI to after WWII--spiral up the walls of the ramp was a delight.

(I also surreptitiously took all these photographs since photography is prohibited. Oops!)

Arabesque Dancers; this was my favorite piece.

This is Picasso's rendition of Velasquez's Las Meninas.

The Kiss.

Bust of a Woman. This was Amanda's favorite. It had such an amazing sculptural depth!

This charcoal drawing of a woman writing a letter at a desk with a flower is so whimsical! 

This was my other favorite, a starkly literal contrast to his later abstract work.

Man with ice cream cone! 

I don't know who this handsome fellow was, but hello!

Woman playing with cat. Look at how full of life the cat is! 

Kitchen. Supposedly Picasso's most abstract piece. 
After being on our feet for hours we relaxed with a cup of coffee at a cute café before heading home to get ready for the evening!

We were all headed to the birthday of a friend of mine, but we decided to start the evening at Amanda’s place with a little wine and cheese!

We went up to the roof of Amanda’s 50-story building, which has an incredible panoramic view of the New York skyline and took a bunch of photos.

Meghan and me on the roof! 
You can see the still green and red Empire State Building in the background! 

Here you can see the Manhattan Bridge on the left and the Williamsburg Bridge on the right.

Meghan and me a little flashed out :)

Amanda and Meghan with their giant glasses of Spanish red wine 


Amanda and me with the Freedom Tower (still under construction) towering in the background.

Almost falling down! 
But then it got cold so we went back downstairs :)

It was so lovely to get to see Meghan in New York and we were lucky that the three of us were all free for a day of brunchy, artsy, photo-y lady fun!