Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sweetness and Light

A warm and soothing photo for you today. Stay warm out there.

(photo by julie takes photos)


This week's links. Enjoy.

The Art of Friendship
Thoughtful essay by Jessica Vivian Chiu in the Paris Review on what makes a good friend — and takes heart from the unusual decades-long friendship between the writers Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, and the sculptor Wharton Esherick, friends for over twenty years, mostly living in different cities.

The Immovable Mr. Darcy
From Intelligent Life: "The grumpy, snooty hero of 'Pride and Prejudice', is about to reach his double century—and he has never loomed larger. What's his secret? We asked seven authors for their verdict, starting with the columnist and novelist Allison Pearson."

Tree Houses: Fairy Tale Castles in the Air
Feeling stressed about the holidays? Take a mental break with this slide show of tree house photos from the new book by Philip Jodidio.

All I Want For Christmas is You
Really cute rendition of the classic holiday song, done backstage before the Late Night show and featuring Jimmy Fallon, Mariah Carey, and The Roots playing toy instruments.

Top Ten Time Travel Books
From Albert Einstein to Douglas Adams, author Michael Brooks picks out the best scientific and fictional accounts of an enduringly compelling dream.

Windows on the World
Lovely Vanity Fair slide show featuring photos of the best department-store holiday window displays in London, Paris, Tokyo, and New York.

Workplace Distractions: Why We Can't Get Anything Done
From the WSJ: "Office workers are interrupted—or self-interrupt—roughly every three minutes, academic studies have found, with numerous distractions coming in both digital and human forms." Thought provoking article about how we're all finding it increasingly harder to get things done.

Handmade Holiday Food Gifts
Marisa McClellan, the writer behind the blog Food in Jars, shares 8 of her favourite recipes for food gifts, including Mulled Apple Cider Concentrate, Candied Clementines, Ginger Curry Candied Almonds, Persimmon Chutney and Pickled Cranberries.

(photo of jenny's dining room by nicole franzen via this is glamorous)

Good Cheer: Uncle Beefy

For today's Good Cheer post, the utterly charming Bradford Crowder (aka Uncle Beefy) of The Bedlam of Beefy blog shares a delectable and versatile holiday cake recipe — enjoy!

Hi all! I'm thrilled to be here on automatism thanks to Lori's generous invitation to be a part of her "Good Cheer" series! Anyone who knows me wouldn't be at all surprised when I exclaim that nothing says 'cheer' like holiday baking! (Okay, full disclosure, baking would come second to champagne in the 'cheer' department but I don't make my own bubbles so there you go.)

I know I'm not the only one who gets their bake on during the holiday season. My mixer is in a constant state of operation and I could probably just leave the oven on and turn the heat off altogether. There's a proliferation of cakes and cookies and, while the inevitable waistline expansion can prove mildly regrettable, the perpetual smell of sugar and spice makes it worthwhile in the moment.

One of the things that I always bake during the holiday season is my mom's Sherry Cake. I grew up with this cake being a staple for all moments and people deemed special. While her version was a bit easier (substitute sherry for the water on a box of yellow cake mix and add 1.5 teaspoons of nutmeg), I created my own from-scratch recipe that tastes just as good if I do say so myself. This recipe can be made as a layer cake, cupcakes, or the family-favorite bundt. However you make it, I hope it brings you a little slice of the same holiday joy that it brings me.

Uncle Beefy's Sherry Cake (with Browned Butter Buttercream)

The frosting is pretty tasty, no doubt, but this is a cake that rests just fine on its own laurels.

2 cups sugar
4 whole eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup melted butter
3/4 cup cream sherry
1/4 cup half & half
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg

Browned Butter Buttercream

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
4 sticks unsalted butter
3 teaspoons vanilla (or the scrapings of 1 or 2 vanilla beans would be even better)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Beat the sugar and eggs together until fluffy and a pale yellow color (3 to 5 minutes). Add the wet ingredients (oil, melted butter, sherry, half & half, vanilla) and mix until incorporated. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. (Don't overmix!)

For cupcakes: Using a standard size, spring-action ice cream scoop, place the batter into a regular-size muffin tin lined with cupcake papers. Bake for 17 to 18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

For a bundt cake: Thoroughly grease and flour a bundt pan; bake about 45 to 55 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

For the frosting: In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, melt one stick of unsalted butter and cook until a deep golden brown. (Careful not to burn.) Set aside to cool completely. In a medium-size bowl, sift together sugar and flour. Add the whole milk and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour the mixture into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, whisking often, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens. Place mixture in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, so that the plastic wrap is completely touching the mixture (to prevent it from forming a skin); allow to cool. When mixture has cooled transfer to a mixer fitted with a whisk (or paddle) attachment and beat on a medium-high setting. Add browned butter in small spoonfuls. Add nutmeg. Cut remaining 3 sticks of butter into small pats and slowly add to the frosting. Whip until light and fluffy.

Garnish cupcakes with additional nutmeg, if desired.

— Uncle Beefy

(photography by bradford crowder)


I'm smitten with the Charcoal Big Softie Scarf from Candystore Collective — instant cosiness.
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