Today we have a guest blog entry by my other big sister Janice. You have met my other sister, Barbara, already. Janice is 7 years older than me, and Barb just 1-2 older than her. Since there was such a gap in our ages, they were not really my playmates when I was a kid. In fact, I think I was their play-thing, but that is a whole therapy session in and of itself. Once we reached adulthood, that gap in years has faded away and we three have become very close. Don't get me wrong; they still take care of me and look out for me and spoil me. Some things just should not change in life.
Janice is the adventurer of us three. She rides Harley's with her boyfriend, and has para sailed with my dear hubby as Barb and I fried on the beach watching. She has traveled the country and has a bucket list of things to do that scares the bejeesus out of me and Barb. This was her bright idea:
Janice is a crackerjack legal secretary, and my secretary as well. ( I call her CJ.) One day when I can start paying her, she is going to leave that huge corporate law firm down in the city that she works for. She takes care of all my invoicing and PO's for wholesale orders, and keeps me in line with business law issues. She also comes on cake trips with me and Barb to help me vendor. And let me tell you; that girl could sell ice to an Eskimo. That girl has a gift for sales! She is beautiful, skinny, funny, and just damn near perfect. Another overachieving sister, sheesh. Hard to keep up with those two! But I love them both so.
So without further adieu, I present to you Janice......
Since I am a diabetic and several other members of my family adhere to a sugar-free diet, I am always responsible for providing a sugar-free dessert at all of our family gatherings. Thanks to the invention of Splenda, I’ve come up with some pretty good ones over the years.
A few months back, my sister Sharon, the professional cake baker/decorator, sent me an email with a recipe for a knock-your-socks off sugar-free cake, and asked me to make it for the holidays. It looked just beautiful in the picture – much more elegant than anything I had made in the past. Since I am not one to shy away from a challenge, I said I would give it a try.
As Christmas got closer, I started to stress out over it. I wanted it to be perfect. That’s just the German in me. I decided that I needed to take the whole day off on Christmas Eve to work on this cake so that I could take my time and not be rushed. Good thing I did that because as it turns out, it took me all day to make it and I finished it at 9:00 p.m. that night. Of course, I did take a break to run a few miles that morning, and to go to church that evening.
Because cake layers baked with Splenda don’t rise very much like cakes with regular sugar, I decided that I wanted to double the recipe to make the cake taller. But I only had two cake pans, so I had to bake the layers in two batches. That took a little extra time, and as it turned out, when I started to construct the cake, I only used three layers, instead of four. Four would have been too tall.
Mascarpone cheese was a challenge to find, but my daughter-in-law, the health nut vegetarian, found it for me at the Whole Foods Market. I let the cream cheese sit out at room temperature to soften it, but I actually think it was a little too soft. Next time, I think I would not leave it out as long because when I went to spread the filling, it was a little drippy over the sides. I think it would go on better if it were a little bit firmer. When you add the vermouth, that softens it too. But the best part was that since it was sugar-free, I got to sample it as I was making it! And since I had the vermouth out anyway, I decided to make myself a little martini. What the heck, it’s Christmas Eve, right?
I splurged on organic strawberries, also bought at the Whole Food Market. Expensive, but I figured if you’re going to create something special, you should buy only the best ingredients.
Chopped hazelnuts are not easy to find either. I went to three different stores before I found them at a Winn Dixie. I thought they needed to be a little bit finer, so I put them in a food processor just to chop them up a bit more.
I could not find a paper doily with a design that was open enough to use as a stencil for the powdered cocoa. So my sister, Sharon, found some snowflake coloring pages online and emailed them to me. I printed one of those and cut it out with a razor knife, and used that as the stencil.
The whole strawberries on the top of the cake are dipped in sugar-free chocolate melting wafers that my sister ordered for me from one of her suppliers.
Here's what went into the filling:
1 tub (something like 250grams) mascarpone cheese
1/2 tub (about 100grams) light cream cheese
About 5 tablespoons Red Martini (sweet red vermouth)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup Splenda
About 2 cups small strawberries, cleaned and halved
First cake layer with sugar free strawberry jam on top.
Add some mascarpone filling.
Add fresh strawberry slices and repeat with each layer.
I used the sugar-free Cool Whip for the frosting.
Chopped nuts were pressed onto outside and design stenciled on top with cocoa.
When the cake was finally done, I was exhausted, but I was happy with the end result. I put the whole thing in the refrigerator to firm up overnight. But as I flopped down on the sofa and sipped on my dirty martini, I immediately started stressing over how I was going to transport this masterpiece the next day from my house in Kenner to my sister’s house in Mandeville – about a 50 minute trip.
The next morning, I had to pick up my 95-year old aunt who lives nearby in an assisted living home. She’s in a wheelchair and it takes a while to get her situated in the car. I wanted my confectionery creation to be off the ice for as little time as possible, so I loaded up my car with all my gifts, but left the cake in my refrigerator, went and picked up my aunt, and then went back home to get the cake. I put a towel on the backseat to level it (center seat, of course – that’s the safest seat, right?), strapped it in with the seat belt, gave it a little kiss and jumped into the car and headed out. I figured I would speed just a little bit and the most my cake would be off the ice was 45 minutes.
So here I am, zipping along, with my old aunt in the front seat, and my award-worthy culinary delicacy in the back seat. Can’t wait to get to Sharon’s house so everybody can see it. (The cake, I mean, not my aunt. They see her all the time.)
Well, how could I have foreseen that when I turned onto Causeway Boulevard, it would be a freaking parking lot! Fog on the bridge! What?! Fog on Lake Pontchartrain. It’s a warm day, 1:00 o’clock in the afternoon, how can there be fog on the bridge? I could not believe it. Traffic was limited to one-lane, speed limits were greatly reduced, and that 50 minute trip turned into a three-hour trip. It took me three hours to get to my sister’s house in Mandeville! I was so upset because I had spent all day making this cake and I just knew it was in the backseat melting! And I also knew that my 95-year old aunt was going to have to use the bathroom very soon, and boy, was I going to be in trouble!
When I finally got to my sister’s house, I had to have my nephew, Daniel, open the lid and look at the cake. I couldn’t bear to do it. He said it looked fine, but I said, “Put the damn thing in the refrigerator and get me a martini!” He said, “Okay, but it won’t do much good because the power is out.” The power was out! It’s a conspiracy, I thought. There are terrorists working behind the scenes here to assure that my delectable piece of culinary craftsmanship would turn into a melted mess of vermouth-laced drippy cheese, strawberry juice and Cool-Whip. This cake baking stuff is not my thing! Sharon, I don’t know how you do it. This is too stressful! I am a legal assistant. Someone give me a brief to type! That I can do.
Well, the power came back on shortly, the cake was still firm and beautiful, and tasted delicious when we served it. It’s a good recipe and I highly recommend it.
Sharon here again. Whew, I am stressed out just reading that! Now I want a martini too. That was a crazy Christmas Day. Our 3PM lunch did not get served until 6:30 due to the power outage and late guests. In perfectly fine weather too!
Well, I think Janice did a fabulous job on her cake, and it did taste wonderful too. Thank you for the entry sis, and helping me out on my blog.
Speaking of blogs, if you guys like mine, just leave me a note in the comment section below, and you will be entered into a drawing to win this fabulous prize! :
Isn't it great?! There are only 2 hats like this in existence, and I own the other one. So if you want a little piece of SugarEd to call your very own, let me know how great and fabulous and amazing and wonderful my blog is! Oh yeah, you can also leave a comment about Janice's great post too, yadda yadda yadda.
I will announce the winner by random drawing sometime next week, when the spirit moves me. Gotta keep you guys on your toes, don't I?
Happy Sugar Free Caking!
Sharon the baby sister Zambito