Barbie Cake / Doll Cake

Family Connection

Ever since I was a child, I have been lucky to have a fairly large family who met very often. My dad the eldest in his generation, has atleast a dozen cousins who are all very close to each other and loved to bunk up at our house every possible time. For six years I was the only child before my brother was born and everyone doted on me. I remember, even later, countless instances when all of us would go for picnics, movies, dinners and all. And then there were weddings, which were a big deal considering the number of members from our immediate family was never less than 150. Of course, I recollect times when only adults would be going for a hike or to watch a movie , and I used to cry so much when I had to stay back home, but overall, I remember having a great time with all of them.

Now, all of them are married, a lot of them have kids of varying ages. Me being the eldest, the onus is on me to keep all the cousins together and provide a platform for everyone to meet, which my parents have been providing for years.

Families have a way of making you feel warm inside, make you feel connected. There are always some common threads, common behavioral patterns which you can trace to at least one uncle or aunt or even a grand-uncle/aunt. It is funny, because sometimes those two people haven’t even spent considerable time with each other, but they exhibit exactly the same eating habits, the same way of folding legs when seated or a peculiar facial expression. And all of us can be traced back to one couple, three generations earlier. Each one of us is a part of them, and they are in parts of us. This knowledge makes me feel rooted. Stable.

When I was in Paris last November-December, a lot of my friends in Cordon Bleu had to go meet their extended families for Christmas and they dreaded it. I was surprised, but it is understandable. All of them live multi-cultural, multi-national lives. Spending different years of life in different parts of the world, perhaps they never got to bond with their families. On the other hand, most of us are born in Mumbai and will die in Mumbai. Sure we travel faraway on holidays, for education etc., but in the end, we come back to our roots. Most of us. And we prefer it that way.

When I got married, my husband and I were thinking of going to the US for further studies with a possibility of settling there. I was in love, just married and ready to do anything, so hadn’t thought too much about migrating to another country.But plans changed and we decided to stay in India. When I look back I realise how insanely home-sick I would have been. I need people around me, a lot of them and often. I need the familiarity your family offers and not once every Christmas, but at least once every two months. Luckily, the entire extended family on my husband’s side is equally awesome, and I am glad that my kids will grow up with the same fun and euphoria with their cousins and doting uncles, aunts and grandparents.

Touchwood.

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And I had my eyes on this Barbie Doll cake for a long time now. I researched all the various methods – with mold, without mold, with fondant, buttercream, and whipping cream, Barbie with legs, without legs and a dozen other related things. Prima-facie it looked like a lot of work, but when I got down to it, it took not more than 4 hours from start to finish.

It was my nine-year old cousin sister’s birthday and all of us had our regular bi-monthly get-together. What better day than this to make this Strawberry pink Barbie cake!

Barbie cake

My cousin loved it and all of them stayed glued near the cake, waiting for a go-ahead to cut it and devour.

I made this one without a mold and used whipping cream for the gown. This underlying cake is really easy to make and this recipe is a keeper.

Barbie Doll Cake

What you will need :

  • 1 cup softened room temperature butter
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup hot milk
  • 2 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Strawberry essence
  • 2 drops red food color
  • a pinch of salt is using unsalted butter

For icing :

  • 500 ml whipping cream (I use Tropolite)
  • 4 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry essence
  • 2-3 drops of red food color

What to do :

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  2. Cream butter with an electric beater or a whisk till pale and light. Add sugar and beat till creamy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, till fully incorporated.
  4. Add the milk, strawberry essence and red food color and beat well.
  5. Combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and baking soda in another bowl, sift it once and keep it ready.
  6. Then with a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, half a cup at a time, till there are no more streaks of flour.
  7. Now you can either use three 18-20 cm diameter round cake pans and then cut the excess of two cakes to make it a dome, or use three pans of decreasing diameter. I had floral aluminum pans 20, 18 and 15 cm each and I used them.
  8. Line the bottom of the pans with a parchment paper and butter the sides.
  9. Carefully fill the pans with the batter till 1/2 or 1/3 full, smoothen the top with a spatula and put it to bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes, till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Once baked, let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Icing

  1. To make the icing, whip the cold cream till soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat till it forms hard peaks. Add the strawberry essence and red food color and whisk till fully incorporated.

Assembly

  1. Once cakes have fully cooled, cut the dome if any with a serrated knife, so that you have three layers of flat cakes.
  2. Take a cardboard cake board, spread some icing in the centre and place the biggest cake on it, so that it does not leave the board while icing. Take a few strips of parchment paper and place it securely between the cake and the cake board, so that any icing which gets dropped does not soil the cake board.
  3. Give a crumb coat to the cake, which is basically a thin layer of icing to seal the crumbs in, so that they do not interfere with the rest of the icing on the layers.
  4. Repeat the same procedure with the other two layers.
  5. Keep the cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes for the crumb coat to settle.
  6. Meanwhile check the height of the three layers of cakes and accordingly you can put the entire legs of the barbie in the centre of the cake, or remove the legs. I had only 10 cms of cake layers, hence I removed the legs and made a hole in the top-most cake layer with an apple corer (or a simple knife) and place the top half of the barbie in the cake, covered till waist. (Remember to remove the clothes of the barbie and to tie up the hair with a saran wrap on top).
  7. Then give a generous layering of icing to the entire cake and smoothen the icing for it to resemble an upturned bowl. Add/reduce icing wherever necessary.
  8. With a piping bag and a nozzle of choice, pipe the decoration of the barbie gown on the cake. Be careful to cover it entirely.
  9. Then place the barbie on top of the cake in the already prepared slot and with the smallest star nozzle, pipe a dress on the body of the barbie.
  10. Remove the parchment paper in the bottom, give finishing touches to the barbie and you doll cake is ready!
Barbie cake crumb coat

Covering the layers in a crumb coat

Inserting the barbie

Making an indent in the centre for the barbie

Barbie cake assembly

Covering the cake with cream and decoration

In a few simple steps, your Barbie Doll cake is ready! 🙂

Note :

  1. You can double the cake recipe and make taller cakes, to fit in the entire Barbie with the legs.
  2. The color and flavoring of the cake and cream can be changed to whatever you like.

Doll Cake

One bowl Pecan Coffee Cupcakes

Today’s post is going to be a fiction story. I read a lot of fiction. And many a times you can even catch me daydreaming a story, playing a role or intently watching a character unfold in my mind.

When I was a kid, it used to be my favourite pass-time during travel. Think of a few characters, entwine their lives, throw in a few complications and elaborate their reactions, either from one point of view or several. What I did not realise then was that I was essentially practicing story writing. I did not put those things on paper back then, but it provided a continuous stimulus to my brain. Now, I not only think of that alternate fictional universe, but also put it on paper. Sometimes. For posterity.

This time the prompt was provided by an online women’s magazine Women’s Web from Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar. Here goes the story –

CARETAKER

“It went on for 10 years. Every time he came home drunk I would hurry my children to bed, to avoid them seeing their father in a sloshed state. Dishevelled hair, unkempt clothes, sluggish words and the worst was the violence. No, he never hit me, because he knew I would hit him back, but the lamps, plates, glasses took the fury. And every morning he woke up to be a good husband, helping with breakfast, asking the kids about their day and dropping them off to school. As if the drama of the previous night never happened. But I knew he remembered what he had done last night, from that look in his eyes, which he thought he had concealed well.

I don’t remember how it started. How my life came to be a series of calm-before-the-storm days, tumulus evenings, insomniac nights and shocked mornings. I was a law professor when I got married, imparting so-called wisdom to my students. The right to stand up for yourself, never tolerate injustice and live as a free citizen. But eventually I had to stop working full-time, I simply couldn’t keep up with the facade of normalcy. Sure, I still did assignments, but never had the courage to go back and stand in front of zesty 20 years olds and give them hypocritical speeches.

It was almost as if I got sucked into a hole. Slowly. The first kid happened when he was still a social drinker, albeit the socializing happened quite frequently. First two years went by totally engrossed in the kid, while managing a full day job. Then the second kid happened, by an accident. Pressures increased, finances got strained, and his drinking became an everyday affair. At first I thought he had lost interest in me or wanted to avoid the conflicts of parenting, then I thought maybe he had an affair, but then I gradually realised he was drinking too much and too often. Simple as that.

I tried different methods to help him let go of it. Casual coaxing, emotional conversations, silence treatments, warnings, threats and then finally packing my bags and going to my parents’ house with the kids. But he always convinced me to come back. I would look into the mirror and wonder – how did I reach this stage? Since when did I become so tolerant? Was it for the kids? It must be. That was the only rational reason. But it was not. The kids were scared of him. They didn’t know which father was real. The one at night or the one in the morning. They hated weekends, and dreaded holidays. Slowly, they became reserved, quiet and hardly spoke.

Eventually it all became routine. I was unfazed by it, or perhaps so disturbed that I never remembered what normal felt like. Then one day, I met an old friend, who was the head of the law department at the college where I studied. He wanted me to come onboard, be a senior lecturer, write in the legal journal and be a part of the college again. I said I was not sure. He persisted. Then thinking I had nothing to lose, and extra money would always help, I resumed back being a professor. The husband was unperturbed. I was careful to not let his routine get affected, and he did not mind. I got a new surge of hope, enthusiasm, and the kids seemed to like it. After initial period of doubt, I was back in the game. My students loved me, I got published in the International Law journal, I had a direction to my otherwise rudderless life.

Or so I thought.

Till one day, three years later, when he had a stroke. Paralysed on the left side, unable to eat, drink, pee or defecate without help. The drinking stopped, yes, the withdrawal symptoms lasted for a month, but then we were just left with half of him and none of me. 

The kids eventually went away to college, and I was left here. Nursing a thankless man, who I felt nothing for.

Every once in a while I would look at the journals which featured my articles, and my brain and hands would ache to be in rhythm again, to think and simultaneously write. And then I would hear a wail from the other room, pack off the papers and address the wailer. It went on.

Last month, he died. I am 50, and free, first time in the last 25 years. Or so I think.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : This is fictional. Has no resemblance to any person, living or dead.

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Okay, so this weekend bake were these dainty primed Pecan Coffee Cupcakes.

I adapted this recipe from Cupcake Lover’s Guide an advertorial pamphlet I picked up while strolling in the Mumbai Fort area. It’s a nondescript little magazine, but all the 20 odd recipes looked very promising and they are turning out great. And this one is a one bowl recipe. Just add everything together and bake!

Pecan coffee cupcake

One bowl Pecan Coffee Cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 175 gms self rising flour
  • 175 gms softened butter (salted)
  • 175 gms castor sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the buttercream

  • 115 gms butter (salted) at room temperature
  • 200 gm icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
  • 12 pecans, halved for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Put the flour + butter + sugar + eggs in a large bowl till well combined.
  3. Stir in coffee and pecans.
  4. Divide the mixture in 12 muffin liners.
  5. Bake at 180c for 15 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. For the buttercream, cream butter till soft. Sift in icing sugar and beat till pale and light.
  7. Add coffee and mix well together. With a piping bag, swirl a small layer on top of each cooled cupcake and place a halved pecan on top.

Platter of pecan coffee cupcakes

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the cupcake batter as well as buttercream. Salt helps bring in the flavor. I always use Amul butter for all my bakes.
  • These cupcakes come together in literally half hour. And pecans can be blindly substituted with walnuts.
  • If using regular all purpose flour, reduce 175 gm flour by 2 teaspoons and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

Pecan cupcake opened

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

Yesterday my baby (or foetus, if you prefer to call it that way) kicked  a feel-able kick for the first time. A real knock-off one which the father could sense too. And once again I realised what they show in movies is total crap! The baby does not know what “All is Well, All is Well” is and kicking the first time can not really be defined.

I had been feeling the flutters since the last two weeks, as if I am slowly releasing an air-filled bottle deep under water and the bubbles are gushing out. Thats how the initial baby movements felt. And then I would frantically place my husband’s hand on my tummy so that he could feel it and I would momentarily stop breathing. Lest my breathing rhythm would camouflage the baby’s kick. But naah, I could just feel it inside, and nothing through the layers of the womb and skin. So the Eureka moment of “He kicked/ She kicked – for the first time” was spread out over a two weeks!

Similar thing had happened when we found out I was pregnant. Being led on by the movies, I was expecting a lightning moment where I realise I had conceived, and would tell the husband, he would lift me in his arms, we would sing a song or two and already start dreaming about baby’s names. But noh! It was a long, excruciating process where you confirm that you are really pregnant.

I had a stack of home pregnancy tests, anticipating I would miss my periods and intended to take the test the very day I missed them. Curiosity was killing me, but still we decided to wait for a day. I couldn’t sleep all night, as if it were result day the next morning. And at 4 am, I finally woke up and took the test, unable to resist it any longer. In the sleepy groggy state I waited for a second for the strip to change color. It did not. I was disappointed and came back to sleep. The husband had woken up by now, consoled me saying that we will check it again a few days later and then he went to use the bathroom. I slept.

When we woke up at 7 am, husband said to me that the strip lying on the counter had changed color. I went and checked, and it had! Very slightly, but there was a change. Duh. We had to take the test again, and till then nothing could be confirmed. And then the next day there was another home pregnancy test, and then later on the blood test at the gynaecologist, and then finally it was confirmed that I am pregnant.

All the song singing and whirling and twirling stayed in my head.

Someone may say I am watching too many shitty movies and soaps, but they are a source of education. The first time I saw the home pregnancy test was in FRIENDS and Rachel has to be thanked for it. So there you go.

Another dilemma I am now facing is when I see mothers talking to their babies in the womb. I find it REALLY awkward to look down at the tummy and talk. Sure, I have conversations with the baby, but in my head. I can’t, for the love of life, unmute myself and quote Einstein to that little tadpole like thing deep inside layers of amniotic fluid. The father talks to the little one, but it is as if he is talking to me and I am responding to what he is saying. But me saying something to my stomach in an empty room? Well, thats not happening.

I just hope that doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I have to preserve my sanity. I am sure the baby will eventually know my voice, albeit without a woman who talks to her body parts.

Lovingly,

Rutvika

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My other love has been Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Bible. I have made several breads from the book before like this one or this one or even this beautiful one. All three use entirely different methods and with some adjustment of flour, the bread dough shapes up beautifully. There is really nothing like home-baked fresh bread.

And when it comes filled with cheesy onion and sesame seed filling and shaped like this one here, it’s a total winner.

Braided bread

It may look intimidating in the first glance, but it is super easy to shape the bread like this –

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110 grams salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg

For the filling –

  • 4 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoon grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • rich egg glaze of one egg yolk + little milk

What to do :

  1. In a large bowl using an electric beater with paddle attachment, combine yeast + sugar + salt + 1 and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Add milk and water and beat until creamy for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the egg + softened butter with another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until butter is incorporated.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough which releases the sides of the bowl is formed.
  5. Then turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead till a soft yet springy dough is formed, dusting with flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand.
  6. Place dough in a greased deep container and turn once to coat. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile prepare filling. In a medium skillet, melt butter + oil. Add onions and cook till translucent and limp but not browned, or the filling will turn bitter. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and sesame seeds. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  8. Then gently deflate the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Grease or parchment line a baking sheet.
  9. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into 18×12 inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 4 inch wide strips (4×18 inch.
  10. Carefully spread filling in the centre of each strip, leaving one inch margin on all sides. Fold over the edges and pinch them together, encasing the filling. Lift the ropes and place them on the greased baking sheet one inch apart.
  11. Beginning in the middle braid each rope loosely to each end. Pinch the ends and tuck them under securely. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it double, for 30 minutes.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 170C. Gently brush the braid with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes till browned on top and sound hollow when tapped. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  14. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter in dough preparation, use 2 teaspoon salt.
  • Depending on the type of flour and humidity conditions, little more or less flour is required to make a soft and springy dough. The book calls for 4 and 1/2 cups, but I had to use 5 cups of flour.
  • If using active dry yeast, use 1 whole tablespoon of yeast.

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid

Orange and olive oil whole wheat breakfast bread

We, the (internet) people

Officially we are going to be the last generation which has known the per-internet age as well as the internet one. We are the link between these two vastly different worlds, and since we have known the other side, it is obvious to yearn for the simplicity of that time, while not wanting to let go off the convenience internet offers.

I was born in 1986, and we got the first personal computer in our house when I was 16 and my brother was 10. With a dial-up internet connection. Yes, the one that used to make whoozing sounds before connecting and all mails had to be downloaded (which were mostly forwarded messages) before the internet connection was lost. And browsing speed was not guaranteed. Additionally, being connected to the internet blocked the telephone land-line and grandmothers resented their only link to the world being broken. That was the time when Orkut had just appeared and was becoming a rage and mobile phone call charges still cost a lot per minute. So we used to give each other ‘missed call’ for fun and agonized if someone picked up the call by mistake. SMSes had to be carefully worded in 160 characters, to send it at a minimum cost.

But that’s all the connectivity we had. Now, just 10-12 years later, we cannot imagine a day without being connected to 100s of ‘friends’ over Facebook, getting an email on the smartphones the instant it is sent, following random people on twitter, posting on social networking groups and anticipating atleast a gazillion likes, looking intently on your cellphones at the dozen whats-app groups and… oh the list is endless.

But it is also an era where Google maps does not let you get lost. Sure, you see a lot more stuff and places because of Trip Advisor, but walking up to locals and asking them the speciality of that place and wandering to reach there, is lost on us. Having a friend over and enjoying a few hours of uninterrupted talking without any calls and messages from the outside world is a luxury of the past. Or suddenly bumping into someone you knew years back and catching up on life is not possible as the Facebook feed already keeps you up-to-date with everything that’s going on. And even hunting for those rare books in old libraries for that one piece of information is no longer required, for Mr. Google is doing all of that for us in an instant.

But who am I to complain? I am a blogger, and having my own website/ blog would not have been possible without the simple and abundant internet today. I want people to follow me, to read what I wrote, to bake what I baked and in general I need to be out there on the scene. It is essential that I post on social groups, engage in discussion over twitter, post pictures on Pinterest, Food-gawker, learn Google analytics to maximize traffic to my blog, and do all that is required for self promotion.

And very frankly, I love it when the blog statistics are booming. I love it when someone writes in to say that I enjoyed this post or what you wrote struck a chord in my heart. I also enjoying finding a long-lost friend via facebook and being in touch with all friends and family over whatsapp.

But what scares me is the amount of validation we are seeking from the internet. If my tweet or post is liked, what I am saying makes sense. If my photo is liked, oh, I am definitely looking pretty. If some suggestions appear when I type my name in Google search, oh,  I am making a mark on the world. It is almost as if who I am is defined constantly by the feedback I get and what I think who I am is not significant anymore.

All these debates arise in my head when I am thinking of what values I want to instill in my kids. I definitely don’t want them addicted to internet from a young age, I want them to form their unbiased opinions about themselves and what they like or dislike, but at the same time they should have access to the hoard of information which internet readily provides.

Oh I need not worry, I will pick up on cues from the internet on how to keep your kids internet free 😉

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Last week I baked a very wholesome loaf cake without any butter. It is more of a breakfast bread, not very sweet , but with a beautiful orange flavor and tastes best when eaten with a cup of chai or coffee, or Nutella.

Orange Olive oil loaf

Whole Wheat Orange and Olive Oil Breakfast bread

Recipe adapted from OhtasteandSee

What you will need :

  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •  a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Extra virgin Olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (from the 3 oranges)
  • butter for greasing the pan

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9×4 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. Zest the 3 oranges and collect the zest in a big bowl. Add caster sugar to the zest and whisk it with a fork or a whisk. The orange oil will get released from the zest and flavor the sugar.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together, that is the whole wheat flour + all purpose flour+ baking powder + salt.
  4. Add olive oil to the sugar and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs to the olive oil sugar mixture, one at a time and whisk till thick and foamy.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and orange juice to the batter, alternately in 3-4 additions. Fold only till there are no more streaks of flour.
  7. Pour batter in the loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven for 50 mins to 1 hour, till a skewer comes out clean.

orange olive oil whole wheat cake