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This year, we stayed put for Easter. We often travel for holidays, but ill-timed spring breaks and weirdly-placed reclaimed vacation days (we had monday through wednesday off, then school thursday, then friday off) put a wrench in the works. So it was just our immediate family and we really had a blast. Given the low pressure nature of this particular easter, I decided to try to make my grandmother’s famous lamb cake. Here’s the photo that comes with the lamb cake mold I got from Martha Stewart (I think my grandmother’s probably went to my aunt).

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Here’s what mine looked like

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Can you tell that the head is entirely made of frosting?

So, the idea for the name for this blog is a callback to another incarnation of mine, The Ill-Prepared Chef. Back in college, a friend was doing a project for a video editing class, and I gamely agreed to be his on-camera “talent.” (Reading that back, it sounds like this story could take a very different turn than it actually does.) The only problem: it was a cooking show. So I yukked it up, made some sour cream cake that I totally butchered and really didn’t have any of the right ingredients for, and did a bonus fashion segment with a colander as a jaunty chapeau. It went so well, I also butchered an italian translation and did it in my italian class. My teacher, whom I’ll always remember as Nick Venerdi (actually, the class was on wednesdays), was bribed into passing me by delicious frosting.

I’ve come so far from then and yet, this Easter, I was again the ill-prepared chef. Other culinary adventures included burned brussel sprouts, mushy roasted potatoes, and $100 worth of New Zealand lamb chops that were 50 percent perfect. I also made a version of Gallette des Rois, or King Cake, which my friend Valerie (not Chicken Sitter Valerie, French Valerie) taught me to make. The only problem was that French Valerie is really fun and entertaining and exact about her baking (measuring by weight, using special french pastry you can get only at Whole Foods, funny stories about discovering she was pregnant when her husband said “you have a mood”). Which would have been fine except I was supposed to be writing it all down on an index card. Here’s my index card:

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Does that say “goes well with a priest?”

The good news is, there are several recipes on this here internet that are pretty much the same, and I could add in the technique that Valerie showed me as I went along.

Here’s my Gallette des Rois

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Oh that reminds me of the frosting headed lamb. My grandmother always used a box pound cake mix, and we didn’t have one of those, much less the pound of butter to make one from scratch. So I had a regular yellow cake mix and we used that. It worked pretty well, except I think you need the dense crumb of a pound cake to pull the neck and head out of the mold without incident. I thought we could salvage it at first, because the head came out in two pieces and I figured we could glue them together with frosting. Not that I have any experience in that department or anything. . .

But lo and behold, I left the cake cooling for a few minutes, and when I came back the head was gone! I admit, to the untrained eye, the two severed lamb head pieces probably looked like tasty extras one could eat without anyone being the wiser. Not so! But, luckily the frosting was able to pinch hit for the head.

An so, another holiday down, and there’s just one half birthday party on the horizon (I may have forgotten to throw the twins a b-day party in November). I think my inner Ill-Prepared Chef is ready?

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