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Baking a friend's wedding cake--please help!

Thank you for all of the advice! I will definitely map out how to slice the cakes, that is wonderful advice. They didn't want to save the top layer for their wedding anniversary so all of the layers will be cut up and served--and the cake will be competing with another big dessert, so I might stay on the conservative side with the cake--or maybe I can make a backup 13x9 cake or something. I was also thinking of perhaps making a blood orange curd as part of the filling. I'm going to try the cake (with two filling options) out on the family for Christmas Eve and do a little taste test.

@ jeniyo--the almond cake and dacquoise recipes I am using are from Dorie Greenspan's "Baking with Julia"--there's a wonderful step-by-step guide and detailed recipe by Martha Stewart for an almond cake with almond dacquoise, apricot filling, and almond rum buttercream and marzipan fruits for decoration, and I am using some components of it but not all (the idea of making many little marzipan fruits sounds as appealing to me right now as sticking my finger in a light socket!). It's a very good guide--the only criticism I have of it is that she tells you to cut the dowels 1/4-inch above the top of the cake, and when I tried that for a wedding cake I made this past summer it resulted in near-disaster, as the tiers started listing back and forth, so I would stick to cutting the dowels to be flush with the top of the cake.

Dec 22, 2009
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Baking a friend's wedding cake--please help!


I have somehow wound up becoming that friend who makes wedding cakes (which I have mixed feelings about!), and am supposed to make a wedding cake for one of my best friends in two weeks. I am driving myself crazy with thinking through the following questions and would really love some help from more experienced and wiser bakers than me! Any opinions/suggestions/fun stories would be welcome.

1. The number of guests will be 110. The cake will not be the only dessert--delicious baklava will also be served. If I make a three-tier cake with 6x3, 10x3, and 14x3 tiers (split and filled), will this be enough for 110? It is hard to tell what size to make the cake as different bakers seem to use different metrics--Wilton says this would result in 128 servings, while Martha Stewart (from her 1980s-era "Weddings" book) says it would result in only about 60.

2. The bride&groom have requested an almond cake, which I am super psyched about. I had the following ideas for fillings for an almond butter cake with an amaretto buttercream:

1. A layer of almond pastry cream topped with fresh raspberries for the filling
2. A layer of lemon pastry cream or lemon curd spread on top of a layer of almond dacquoise
3. Split the cake twice, and do two fillings: one raspberry jam, one almond pastry cream
4. Something else?

Dec 21, 2009
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Does mascarpone stabilize whipped cream sufficiently?


I am making a wedding cake for a friend at her request (and am now wondering what on earth I was thinking to say yes). It's a boozy mixed berry--sponge--mascarpone/whipped cream layered concoction (like a berry tiramisu). When I've made practice cakes before, they've been eaten pretty quickly so I have never really tested out how long the frosting, which is 16 oz mascarpone to 1 pint heavy cream plus about 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar, will actually last. Do I need to worry about the cream deflating and melting all over the place (if the cake is out for, say, three hours) or will the heft of the mascarpone keep everything aloft properly?

Also, if there are any tips on cake transportation--it's a three hour drive--those would be appreciated too. I was planning on not assembling the tiers until I got to the site. I figure if everything breaks on the drive I can still stick it all in a big bowl and call it trifle :)

Aug 06, 2009
ginqueen in Home Cooking

what to do w/fresh figs besides gobbling?

second all of the posts about stuffing with chevre or blue cheese, wrapping with prosciutto, and grilling or just eating raw. unbelievable flavor.

quartered figs are amazing in a brown butter tart. you can take this recipe for a brown butter custard tart and just insert figs instead of the poached pears:

also, they are amazing in this free-form tart: make a batch of almond shortbread (just add some almond extract and ground almond to a regular shortbread recipe) and roll out on a cookie sheet. bake it for about 15 minutes, then add dollops of creme fraiche, tons of quartered ripe figs, and drizzles of honey, then slide back into the oven and bake until everything is set, then drizzle with some more honey.

i'm soooooo envious!!! :)

Jun 25, 2008
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Changing school lunch food

you might find the following resources informative:

this is the website of ann cooper, a badass chef hired by the chez panisse foundation to go in and start cooking fresh, healthy food in middle schools: she's pretty inspiring and is really trying to start some activism surrounding this issue.

there was also a documentary film called "two angry moms" about, well, two angry moms who tried to change their school lunch program. they now also have a website that's a good source for activism:

the rudd center for food policy and obesity at yale has a school initiatives program where they're doing a lot of work on how to change school policies to ensure better food: lots of interesting blogs on the site, too.

the best way to change it would be to engage other families and try to talk to the school about it, recognizing how difficult it is for them to provide healthy food when there are so many financial considerations. the other thing to keep in mind is that it's not just's also the really wacky and outdated USDA requirements for school lunch programs, which schools/food service providers have to abide by to keep the funding. these regulations were put in place after world war II, when the country was worried about our children being malnourished. ha! from malnourished to getting type II diabetes in half a century, go figure. so they require a lot of calories and some strange restrictions on fat content, but few on it is very difficult to come up with meals that are affordable AND meet the USDA requirements, and often the easiest way to do both is to serve chicken nuggets and pizza.

May 22, 2008
ginqueen in Not About Food

Thayer Street in Providence

SPIKE'S! spike's all the way. and definitely meeting street cafe all the way, too (though their sandwiches are legend, do not discount their entrees, either--they do a pretty good and comforting veggie lasagna. and you can't leave without a giant cookies and a hot cocoa).

Andreas' food is always a little disappointing for me (except for the burgers & fries, which are the same as at Paragon, because it's 'that guy'), but it's not terrible if you really are somehow forced to stay on Thayer and you have to go somewhere sit-down.

what I find really tragic is the demise of Ocean's (in the space that has now been taken over by that godawful Thai place/coffee joint). during college, it was the best place to go for inexpensive but wonderful food--I still miss the lentil soup and lemon chicken sandwich.

but yeah, otherwise get the hell out of Thayer street. all the good stuff is elsewhere.

Pick-your-own Pumpkins - near N.E. Coast

Try this website for a listing of pick your own farms in RI and MA, which you can narrow by location to look for something along the coast:
(the link above is supposed to be just for pick your own pumpkin farms--if the link doesn't work, just try going to and navigating through the links to pick your own farms).

I like Quonset View Farm in Portsmouth, RI, or Sweet Berry Farm in Middletown, RI. The latter is quite close to Third Beach in Newport, which is a beautiful vista for proposing. Both farms are close to the ocean and lots of beautiful scenery and good restaurants for celebrating.

Good luck! Sounds like a great idea for a proposal!

scrumptious under $10 -- in/around Providence

mexico on atwells!
apsara off broad street
i also second sicilia's (you get an insane portion of yummy cheese and grease for a very small amount of money--and actually if you order a calzone and control the fillings, you can get cheap meals there that aren't egregiously unhealthy) and lili marlene's--the shrimp po'boy at lili marlene's is incredible, and the fries are wicked awesome too.
olga's is nice and all but if you're looking for inexpensive and a bang for your buck you won't really get it there. i like olga's a lot but i do feel that i'm being cheated a lot of the time at lunch--and i'm not cheap when it comes to food, i just feel like if i'm paying $10 for a sandwich it should be better than it often is there.
most of the sandwiches at ivy tavern on hope street can be had for under $10, but if you end up drinking then your bill increases exponentially.
i also like the lunch ladies at the farmer's markets.
sakura on wickenden does sushi lunches for less than $10 also.

Oct 04, 2007
ginqueen in Southern New England

Seeking Food & Wine Recipe--Silver Cake

Oh no, really? The cake needs to be ready by Sat. If they aren't up here (I'm in CT/RI/MA, traveling back and forth), do you know of another type of silvery decoration that might work? Or gold leaf or something?

Oct 04, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Seeking Food & Wine Recipe--Silver Cake

that's it! thank you so much!!!!

Oct 03, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Seeking Food & Wine Recipe--Silver Cake


I have been tasked with creating the cake for my mother's 60th birthday (the big one!). A couple of years ago, Food and Wine sent out their 25th anniversary issue with this gorgeous cake on the cover, and I believe it was a white cake with some kind of meringue or 7-minute icing. She actually mentioned then that she would want that cake for her 60th bday, so I've been trying desperately to find the recipe, but I can't seem to find it on F&W's website. Does anyone have a copy of the magazine or know where to find the recipe?

Alternatively, if you have any other ideas for a beautiful and tasty cake with a lofty white frosting that will look appropriately impressive, please share!


Oct 03, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Local 121, Providence

i wonder if it's instead the variation in staff. i mean, we're all providence food lovers here (except i just moved to new haven, which is TRAGIC, but i still go back every weekend) so i'm assuming that most of us when we cook at home love our local ingredients from our farmer's markets and seven stars and olga's etc. etc....and they're always good. you have to know what you're looking for in a tomato or a loaf of bread, and you have to know what to do with it ,and it just seems like some of the people who work the kitchen or make the recipes don't know what they're doing. the bad meal i had a local 121 and the bad meal i had a citron were both the result of bad cooking...everything was undersalted or overcooked or overdressed or just looked like it had been sitting out under the salamander or being leftovers in the fridge a long time. there are so many other places in providence that use local meats, veggies and bread to great effect because they're just really good at cooking and don't assume that they can just run a successful restaurant on trumpeting how they use local products instead of actually using those local products properly.
they seem uneven from all of these's just i think maybe their staff is uneven, not their suppliers.

Savory bake sale items?

roll out some pie pastry and press it into muffin tins to make little tartlet shells. bake them at 375 or so until they're set and then fill them with things like sauteed mushrooms and parmesan, broiled tomatoes and mozzarella, caramelized onions and butternut squash and sage and cheese, etc., then stick back in the oven to finish setting them. they'll hold at room temperature and you won't have to worry about eggy things getting tough or sitting out too long (and you can sneak veggies in!)

Sep 20, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

New Haven--Birthday lunch on a Saturday?

Hi New Haven folks,

I am new to the area, so not quite familiar with everything yet and I apologize if I am posting about a topic that's already been done--but I have been tasked with finding a restaurant for my own birthday lunch this Saturday, and many of the places that everyone on Chowhound seems to be excited about appear to be closed for lunch on Saturdays (L'Orcio and Union League Cafe in particular). Suggestions for a nice lunch? Outside of New Haven would be fine, too.


Local 121, Providence

went last weekend and found the food to be kinda bad, unfortunately. i REALLY wanted to like it, really really wanted to like it, but it was just bad. and worse because i knew the ingredients were great--they're ingredients i cook with all the time--so all i could think of was how they had wasted all of this awesome local food. we had the cheddar cheese and ale starter, and it tasted like a band-aid. really. this might have been the most heartbreaking part of the meal for me personally since the cheese/beer combo is very dear to me, and i couldn't understand why it had to suck. we split the special salad, an heirloom tomato deal, and the tomatoes were juicy and perfectly ripe and delicious.....and unsalted (also served with an overdressed clump of arugula and a few random splotches of goat cheese, which i didn't like so much as i like my mozzarella with my heirlooms). the bf had the corned beef sandwich which i found frankly disgusting, and i had the burger which, apart from coming back cooked well done when medium rare was requested, just didn't taste like anything.
the service was also super duper slow and not very effective, but earnest and sweet so it was hard to be pissy about that.
the one thing going for it, besides the decor, is the cocktails (this seems to be the theme for a lot of hyped-up restaurants in providence whose food is disappointing, e.g. citron). that cocktail list is DIVINE. i would go for a drink after work or after dinner, enjoy the lovely renovated building, and maybe ask for a bread basket or something since i think it's olga's so they can't screw it up. but don't eat anything. i really hope the kitchen gets it together and improves, because this is such a great concept and i really want it to succeed. but if they continue to execute their dishes poorly when it would just take a few simple things to improve the cooking (like, perhaps, knowing how to cook, which maybe the person who prepared our meals did not know how to do...), i don't know how successful they'll be.

Best Burger in Providence?

try looking at this post:

New Haven--Comfy bar?

i have just relocated to new haven from providence, and while i am enjoying new haven's unique food charms (hooray for pizza and hamburgers!), i am getting a little homesick for providence. the thing i'm really missing is a comfortable bar where i can settle in, drink good beer, and watch a red sox game. i've been to rudy's, which i loved, but it seems like it really becomes quite a scene as the night progresses (which is all well and good, but sometimes you just want to be a barfly). i'm looking for somewhere where the hip yale students are sort of kept to a minimum, but still a good bar. if anyone else is a providence transplant, i am looking for something like ivy tavern or trinity brewhouse.
any suggestions?

Using a grill for other things...

i love using my grill like that! i make fruit crisps or cobblers and gratins on it all the time. my most successful venture was a casserole of layers of purple potatoes, sundried tomatoes, lots of goat cheese, sweet onions, summer squash, and basil. you just treat it like it's going in the oven, it works out fine, and then you also have a nice smoky taste (and you can have baked things without having heat stroke in your kitchen).

Aug 03, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Providence Restaurant Week: Where would you go?

I went to Waterman Grille two weeks ago for my Dad's birthday, and also found it sort of mixed. The small plates--we shared lobster fritters, calamari, and crab cakes--were excellent (the calamari surprisingly so---it was deep-fried and then covered in spicy tomato sauce, which made the batter a little soggy and not deep-fried crispy, but the squid itself was so tender and the whole thing was so tasty that it worked for us). Cocktails were also really good (and generously portioned), and creative in a good way--no fussy stuff that you wouldn't actually want to drink. The entrees were just OK though, nothing special, and not worth the price.
I'm going to stick up for Gracie's--I went last summer for my bf's birthday, and we were in bliss for days, we just had a perfect experience from beginning to end. Maybe it's faltering a little bit, since so many people seem to have not enjoyed it lately. But I'd give it a shot during restaurant week.

Best coffee in Providence?

I guess I personally never think of Tazza, even though their coffee is wicked good, because every time I've gone to eat there the service has been so godawful (which seems like a common theme among pretty much everyone who goes there). Not that it's been rude, but just horribly, molasses-drippingly slow when it REALLY didn't need to be (which I guess is rude in and of itself, really). It's too bad, because it's such a nice atmosphere and I've liked the food and drink there pretty well, but I rarely think of it as a place to go.

CSA Mizuna

That stuff is pretty strong on its own. If you have other greens to mix with, it's not so bad as a component of a salad---and then make a sort of sweet, Asian-inspired salad dressing--something with lime and ginger that will offset the bitterness. If you are a meat or fish eater, it would be a good basis for a salad that you add warm sliced grilled chicken or beef or whole shrimp to.

Searing it is good, too--warm up some sesame oil, add some garlic and the mizuna, and try adding a little soy sauce and mirin.

Jul 17, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Portugese food in ...where?...RI? Elsewhere?

I agree. Just drive around Fall River or New Bedford and go into virtually any restaurant, bakery, or food store.

The Fox Point neighborhood in Providence is largely Portuguese (or was---lately parts have been taken over by Brown students)--try the Silver Star Bakery on Ives Street for extremely tasty sweet bread and Madeira liquor store, also on Ives, for a selection of Portuguese wines. I think there's also a meat market on Gano Street (which is one block down from Ives).

O'Dinis in East Providence is a favorite of my Portuguese boss. She also likes Madeira, which is down the street, but not as much.

Best coffee in Providence?

I forgot about this post---I have been back to The Edge a lot since the spring and take back my qualms about their baked goods (when they first opened, I swear they were really not so good). I have devoured pretty much everything pastry-related that I've ordered there---an impossibly light, fluffy blueberry scone, brownies, cupcakes, muffins....all have been delicious and fresh. And the coffee continues to be great, as well as the bright, relaxed atmosphere. Really a nice place to sit and read with a giant cup.

Recipes using Almond Extract

I put almond extract in pretty much everything I bake because I'm obsessed with it. I don't know how well the imitation stuff translates, but that's what I'd do. Don't add as much almond extract as you would add vanilla though--a little goes a long way. Usually you want to add 1/4 of a tsp or so to a cake recipe.
The almond/marzipan flavor goes particularly well with summer fruits, particularly peaches, apricots, raspberries or cherries---if you are planning on making any pies with summer fruits, or pound cake or fruit cakes, definitely put the almond extract in there. It is really, really delicious in pound cake especially. Add a little with a bit of vanilla and superfine sugar to whipped cream and that's also delicious.

Or make Mai Tais:

Warm milk with honey and almond extract is also lovely and soothing.

Jul 17, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Pureed blackberries in baking?

In August my family's backyard gets overrun with blackberries, and it's always my task to figure out what the heck to do with them. In addition to making pies and tarts (which your wife might still not like b/c of the texture), I do the following texture-free things:
1. Make an old-fashioned blackberry cake--these usually use blackberry jam, but you could possibly cook down the berries with some sugar until they're a jamlike consistency and use that.
2. Substitute mashed blackberries in a blueberry muffin recipe that includes using mashed or pureed blueberries as part of the batter, like this one:
3. Make a blackberry coulis to serve over ice cream or with cakes, etc.
4. Fold pureed berries and sugar into some whipped cream or whipped mascarpone cheese and sandwich in between sugar cookies for blackberry sandwich cookies
5. Make a blackberry syrup to use in cocktails (I like it mixed with bourbon & mint, it's also good with gin and a little lime
)6. Make sorbet or ice cream as people have already posted
7. Make blackberry jelly--Alice Waters has an excellent recipe in "Chez Panisse Fruits"
8. If you still have way too many blackberries left over and you don't want to make jam, sorbet, or ice cream, you can make blackberry-infused vodka---just plonk the berries in a very clean jar, pour vodka over to the top of the jar, and let sit in a cool, dark place for a month or so.

Jul 16, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Eating like a Chowhound on $3 a day – overview

rworange, I think you might be my hero. This is awesome. I agree with others who have suggested that you share your ideas and strategies with people who really don't know what else to do on food stamps or a limited budget.
I agree with the posts below, that that politician was clearly trying to present a very one-sided piece of it, and I totally agree that it is certainly possible, with some cleverness and persistence, to eat very well very cheaply. But I would disagree with the idea that A) funding for food stamp programs should not be increased and B) that if you can't figure out how to feed your family cheaply without resorting to fast food, then you're somehow lazy. Consider:
1. Many poor people are working at least two jobs at once, sometimes three
2. In urban neighborhoods, a lot of the time those convenience stores that mark up the prices and sell crap are the only places poor people can get to easily if they don't have cars--at the end of a long day, if given the choice between navigating public transportation to a supermarket + carrying back loads of groceries versus walking a few blocks to get a quart of milk or a bag of chips, it's pretty tempting to just go to the neighborhood market.
3. Culture is rarely taken into account. Particularly for many immigrant communities, but also for many urban poor, the foods that many families grew up eating were designed for lifestyles in which food was less plentiful and therefore had to be more caloric and where physical labor was more a part of everyday life. In addition, a lot of people from poor or rural areas of other countries can sometimes see buying Wonderbread or McDonald's or whatever as a mark of being a "real American" and so think that eating it is a sign of having assimilated and moved on up.
4. MOST PEOPLE AREN'T CHOWHOUNDS. We've had years and years now of processed and convenience foods eroding most people's memories of how to feed themselves. And as someone said in this thread, this is not a problem that is strictly for poor people. The food industry has gone out and tried to make us completely beholden to processed foods, and the result is that many people in the boomer generation didn't really learn how to cook, and thus less people in their children's generation can cook, because who was going to teach them? I think those of us who love to cook and do it skillfully and easily often forget that it IS a skill, and it takes a long time of experimenting and learning how to do it right, which is something that can be really daunting when you're drained of energy from family and work responsibilities. Not to mention that many of the "educational" programs that are in place now are incredibly condescending and basically send parents the message that they're incompetent and bad parents. If I went to a program to try to tell me how to feed my kids better and I was told (probably by someone from a totally different neighborhood than me) that I was a bad parent, I'd probably not want to go back, but that's just me.

But the major problem seems to be, on top of everything else, that the food industry has ruined the country's taste buds. Grandparents, parents and children have grown up eating sugary, fatty, empty calorie crap, and so a lot of good, healthy, wonderful food just tastes bad to a lot of people (again, this cuts across class and culture). I'm saying this from the perspective of someone who's been doing work in trying to get kids to eat better at school--it's a nightmare. Particularly children who've grown up eating junk get really pissed when you take away their french fries and chicken nuggets and give them roast chicken and vegetables, and they will dig in their heels and refuse to eat it. If you're a stressed-out parent with little time or resources and you just want to make sure your kid is eating something, you end up giving in (even foodie parents do this in the face of little ones who will only eat foods that are white, beige, or fluorescent orange).

So while I agree that people need to re-prioritize, turn of the TV, and invest in some thoughtful time learning how to shop, cook, and eat, I think it's not as simple as just saying people need to take personal responsibility. There are a lot of factors working against many people, and they need to be taken into account.

I think having people like rworange, using their energy and creativity to come up with foolproof strategies, and then sharing them with others is definitely a step in the right direction though. This is really, really great.

Jul 14, 2007
ginqueen in General Topics

Just got my CSA veggies--now what to do with them?

that raw beet salad sounds great! i'd love the recipe.
not to go all beet crazy, but I also remembered another clever way to use up excess beets (if you get to the point where you're just sick of them popping out of the CSA box). Make beet salad dressing (no, really): Roast or boil the beets, cut into chunks, and puree with some chopped shallots, a little bit of mayonnaise, and some vinegar or lemon juice and olive oil. It makes this beautiful, bright magenta salad dressing that looks really cool (and is a good way to get reticent children and grown-ups to eat beets without knowing it). I think I got the recipe from the Whole Foods Cookbook but I'm not sure.
I also forgot to say (sorry I am just a vegetable freak so I'm loving this post) that swiss chard, which is my favorite green to just saute with some garlic and crushed red pepper (and maybe a little lemon zest at the end--but no juice, which discolors it)--swiss chard also makes a really good gratin or custard. Saute it first, and then put in a buttered casserole dish and cover with savory custard filling and cheese, then's heaven. I know that's really vague, if you want the specific recipe for that please let me know.
Also, bok choi is oddly yummy when grilled.

Jul 13, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Just got my CSA veggies--now what to do with them?

Beets & beet greens-- you can make a WONDERFUL beet salad: cut off the greens and reserve, then roast the beets (350, 1 hr. or less depending on how large the beets are, toss with a tiny bit of olive oil, water, salt and pepper, and cover your pan with foil). If it's too hot where you are, grilling would be good too. Take them out of the oven and rub off the skins with paper towels, then slice up. Toss in a bowl with the beet greens, crumbled feta or goat cheese, toasted walnuts or hazelnuts, and a simple vinaigrette---it will be really difficult to stop eating it.
Summer squash is delicious in a gratin: Layer caramelized onions, sauteed garlic, broiled tomatoes, sliced squash, and fresh parmesan and emmenthal cheese, finishing with cheese, then pour a bit of cream over the whole thing and stick in a 375 oven until it's bubbling and the cheese is melted. Top with basil chiffonade. Of course you could probably add lots of other wonderful vegetables to this, too (fennel might be nice, or you could throw in some of your red potatoes perhaps), this is just what I've made it with.

Jul 12, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Any goat meat recipes? And what does goat taste like?

I agree that it tastes like a cross between lamb and goat's cheese--it has got that same tang that the cheese does. The only goat I've had has been sort of stringy, like shaved steak or something, in tacos and enchiladas at the local Mexican place, but pretty tasty.
I don't know if this recipe actually works, but I was just leafing through the Molto Mario cookbook and came across this recipe (which was luckily online):

It at least looks like the accompanying flavors of lemon, almond, and mint with the grilled goat would be very very good.

Jul 12, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking

Alternatives to pan frying bacon

i like using the oven method too--375 for 15 minutes or so. i don't tend to use a rack underneath but i might try that. i DO, however, line the pan with foil--then if i'm going to use the bacon fat for something else, i still have the option of pouring it into a container, but if i'm really not and i have no coffee cans or whatnot handy, i can just wrap the whole thing up and toss it in the trash, like the ladies in the reynolds wrap commercials. maybe not so environmentally friendly, but saves you a lot of soap and hot water and drain-clogging and hand-wringing.
in any case, oven all the way. it comes out perfect every time with no pieces getting burned as often happened to me when i would do it on the stove. microwave is good in a pinch as well.

Jun 05, 2007
ginqueen in Home Cooking