Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sugar Free Celebration Cake

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.

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.

The finished cake!

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


Anonymous said...

Know exactly how your sister felt. I missed my daughter's open house when she was in college in New Orleans because the bridge was closed to fog!!!!

liz said...

She's as awesome as you are Sharon! Love ya both!

Sherry said...

The funny runs in the family!! LMAO Is Janice coming to Chicago too? I'm soooo workin' at your booth. :o)

Becky said...

What a great story. I still feel like that everytime I put a cake in the car for delivery..

Ann (Miss Sweetstory) said...

How did you guys get so much talent in one family??? Share with the rest of us would you!

It's particularly terrific that you are such good friends. My sister is eight years older than me and we've never really been close. She is visiting me in the UK next week (1st time in 6 years). I hope we use the time to grow closer...You've set a great example. Now, if she could just bake...

Snooky doodle said...

wow that surely was stressful. The cake looks awesome though so delicious :)

Kelly said...

Sharon, Your blogs are so funny and enjoyable to read. Keep them coming! Thank you to both of your sister for their recent recipes. I too have a diabetic sister that I can't wait to try out this recipe on. Also, I made the King Cake for my brother-in-law who went to college in Tulane. He loved it! But from the looks of the night, he seemed to love the Hurricanes we made a little bit more! :-)

Anonymous said...

I think your blog is great and fabulous and amazing and wonderful despite your hate of cute little possums! Janice's contribution was great because it reminds me of how much we stress over our creations and usually they end up just fine (or other don't notice the imperfections.)
Vicki :)

Anonymous said...

Congratulation on your blog and also your videos. I hope you continue writing about sugar free recipes.

Kristi said...

Oh my...that sounds like quite the situation! I stress about transporting things too. Great job!

Brittney said...

Hi Sharon! I live in Idaho and I just started getting really into cake decorating at the beginning of the year. I started about 3 years ago just doing my sons birthday cakes. I decided I needed a little something to do in my spare time. So, I started watching videos! I have my first wedding cake in April and I'm so excited!! I have a limited budget right now so I have yet to get all your videos but I'm DIEING to get them all!! I LOVE your blog and I have learned sooo much!! I especially love your buttercream frosting. You are an inspiration to all of us! My blog is www.cakeandbackco.blogspot.com! Feel free to check it out and give me tips tips and MORE tips!! Thanks Sharon! ... And Janice's cake looked amazing!!!

Jayni said...

I love taking a break and reading what's new with SugarEd. Your stories are great, hersey's kisses and possums...We've all blamed the sacker guy a time or two. Your sister's story shows how we are all so different in what stresses us out. Legal Stuff YUK!!!! Transporing a cake..... well that one I will agree with her. I can't wait see what new video is coming. I am really enjoying to ones I have now.

Heather said...

That's a great post! All of you girls have a gift for gab!! And..how come I didn't know about that hat, I'da just stolen it!

Julie said...

Love your blog - you always make me laugh! I have learned a ton from your videos too :)

Janice: Being stuck on the bridge is soooooooo frustrating any time, but with a cake in the car, I'd be in panic mode too!

fiddlesticks said...

What a great story. But you never said if you had to let the ole aunt stop to pee!!! LOL!!!
Sharon as I check in here daily Im always amazed at the laughs I get. What a fun place to visit an get lots of great info to !
Keep up the good work!

cbessick0814 said...

Your moto should be "Girls just wanna have fun" because you all three look so cute and fun together. And Sharon, you know how much I LOVE your blogs so keep them coming.


Martina said...

I love your blog, it's great!

And what a great story!

Heidi said...

Love your blog! It always gives me a good laugh. That cake looks delicious. I will have to try and make it sometime.

Julie Reid said...

Hey Sharon!! Loved the post. You gals are a hoot!! I am the oldest of 3 sisters of which are younger than I am. But was we have become adults things are great. So I really understand what you are talking about!!

Janice, I can feel your pain, Girl!!! I made my first tiered cake for my nephews birthday and had to travel 2 hours to get to their house. We froze to death in the truck trying to keep the fondant from sweating! But we made it, the cake made it and very ate it!!

Thanks for the post! I needed a good laugh!

ljchris said...

Sharon, I'm a big fan of yours, and I read your blog daily. Well, it's in my Reader, and when there's something there, I read it.
Thanks for the sugar-free recipe from your sister. I made your chocolate sugar-free cake you posted a while back. I think I emailed you a picture. And you were right, it was a little dry but my Mom loved it.
Keep up the good work. I have 3 of your videos and am looking forward to the new topsy-turvy video!!

Barb said...

This is the oldest sister, Barb. Yes, I was there that Christmas Day. I also got caught up in the fog, but arrived before Janice did. As soon as they arrived, my aunt makes a bee-line for the bathroom, and Janice screams for a martini (a double), while the rest of us are sitting in a powerless house, not able to finish cooking Christmas dinner. It was a three ring circus. But the cake made out just perfect. It looked beautiful and tasted great! Janice does magic with Splenda!

Adele said...

Awww Sharon, some things never change! You're still getting picked on- good thing Janice and Barbara never resorted to frying pans! LOL!
I totally understand the "German need to be totally anal" Janice. You did your heritage proud! :)

Anonymous said...

I can see why you all are sisters! You're all hilarious!


Anonymous said...

I can see why you all are sisters! You're all hilarious!


Nikole said...

Love your blog and your cakes and videos are awesome! Keep them coming.

grgapch said...

Sharon, I enjoy "listening" to your sisters just as much as I enjoy "listening" to you! You guys are lucky to have eachother and be so close.


Anonymous said...

Well I see the sense of humor is a family thing! You guys have such a wonderful story telling ability that should not be limited to a blog but maybe a book! I love reading your stories because they keep me giggling!!
And boy, after seeing that picture with the strawberries, I wanted a piece! It looked soooo yummy!
And I have to tell you Barbara, secretarial work can be very stressful, I know because I used to be one myself. I left to have my second daughter and then decided to be a SAHM because it was just too costly to put two kids into daycare and all the traveling I would have to do. So I did as your sister, and got into what I do best which is baking. And let me tell you, nothing can be more stressful than trying to do a four tiered wedding cake and trying to make everything perfect and then having to drive two hours for its delivery. What's more stressful? Having your AC in your van stop working the day your delivering and it being unseasonably warm for April (90 degrees) and having whipped cream frosting under your fondant!....oh and having your mother and two kids with you also during the delivery!!! Needless to say, when I opened the back up instead of having three round tiered cakes, I had three donut shaped cakes and lots of cracks in my fondant! I was in tears but the bride and family loved it anyway and even went as far as giving me a tip! So needless to say, I have a big investment in hair coloring!!!
Again, thanks for both of you and your blog! Love reading it and hope to see more from you soon!

Anonymous said...

I love getting up in the morning and reading your blogs. They really make my day, keep them comming.

Anonymous said...

I to just love reading your blogs. I am the oldest of 3 girls so I am like Barb and there is nothing like sisters. I use to work for a furniture company and the Sales Rep. for the LA area was a Father and son in law team and one lived in Kenner and the other in Mandelville so when I hear about those places it brings back good memories. The cake made my mouth water!!!!!!!!!! Keep up the great blogs

Anonymous said...

LOL The cake creation story was cute. I feel a little sick everytime I have a cake in my car and even moreso when I give someone a cake and they drive away with it in their car! I really need to start looking into more diabetic-friendly recipes as I have family members that cannot eat my creations at this point. I also can relate to the comment towards the end about cake decorating being too stressful and writing a legal brief is much easier. (or something along that line) I'm a court reporter and I can tell you typing a very technical, difficult transcript (medical malpractice, forensic specialist, etc.) is a lot easier than trying a new recipe and presenting it to the public. AGGGHHHHH....

I love it, though. :)

Lisa (Icedtea4me2 in CC)

DARLENE said...

The cake looks wonderful, and I do so enjoy the blogs

Suzan (Suzie Q's Cakery) said...

OMG!  Sharon, you and your sisters crack me up.  I love reading your blog.  I love every dvd that I have of yours.  I have watched them over and over.  I'm about to watch the two I recently purchased from you.  I cherish the moment I met you at last year's Mid-Atlantic Cake Show in Maryland.  I hope you plan to be there this year.  My older sister (I'm the middle of three girls) from South Beloit, IL is coming to Maryland to go to the cake show with me on May 2 and 3.  I want her to meet you, because I just go on and on about you when she and I talk about cakes.  You are truly an inspiration to me.  I lost my job yesterday so I have a massive amount of time now to dedicate to my cakes.  I'd love to be wearing that hat while I decorate them.  It could only make my cakes even better, don't ya think!!!  Thanks for inspiring me and making me laugh!

Suzan (Suzie Q's Cakery) said...

Hey Sharon: Any chance that you'll ever come to Baltimore to teach a class?

Dara said...

Your blog always provides me with some entertainment. I loved the possum story. Your DVDs are amazing and have made my buttercream and fondant work so much better. Thank you!

Kim Dodgen said...

I am the gueen of stressful. I live in Marrero and work in Metairie so I know all about the fog and traffic on Causeway Blvd. Tell your sister that the cake looks absolutely beautiful and I am surely going to try the recipe out for myself.


Kentucky Megan said...

Love you!!
Now I love your sisters too!!!
Made my lingerie box yesterday thanks to Boxes & Bows DVD.

Later chick!

SugarEd Productions said...

Thanks for all the comments guys! We are having a lot of fun with this blog!

Stay tuned for the hat draw next week. Can you even stand the excitment? I know I can't!

And I will teach wherever it can be arranged. See the classes page on SugarEd site for more info!

WendyB said...

Heather you arent the only one who didnt know about the hat...i think the ebic should get one too.
Ohand if you teach in Baltimore I AM GOING to that one...you know what didnt happen last time we went there. darn shark.

LittleTreats said...

Love the blog!!! It's very nice to read about your baking adventures while I sit at work trying to save money for a baking career. haha. Cant't wait for more updates :)

asimpson said...

I love your blog Sharon, and your poor sister! I'll bet she never makes that cake again if she has to leave the house with it .... lol.

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