Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day 105: Strawberry Petit Fours

Sometimes you need just a bite of cake!  These cute and delicious petit fours are easy to make, and with the blueberry on top gives it a burst of fruit that goes nicely with the sweet buttercream frosting.  To bake the cake you will need three square eight inch cake pans.  You can use round ones, but you may have excess edges that you can use to make cake pops or enjoy on your own.  The cake is from's recipe for Magnolia Bakery's Vanilla Birthday cake.    I like this recipe versus other vanilla cake recipes because it is super simple and I have most of the ingredients at home.  Even though the original recipe calls for self-rising flour and all purpose flour, I simplified that by adding the baking powder and salt to regular all purpose flour.  They are a wonderful treat for a bridal shower or baby shower this Spring!

To make the cake:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
blueberries (optional)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and lightly flour three square 8 inch cake pans (or one large cake pan), then line the bottoms with waxed paper.

2.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar gradually until fluffy.

3.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  

  1. 4.  Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.  Add to the wet mixture, alternating in four cycles with the milk and vanilla.  Beat well after each addition.  
  2. 5.  Divide the batter among the cake pans.
6.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

Strawberry buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
8-10 strawberries

1.  Rinse and dry the strawberries.  Cut off the stems.  Puree them in a food processor or blender.

2.  In an electric mixer, cream the butter.  Add the confectioner's sugar, mix well.

3.  Add the strawberry mix.  Due to excess water from the strawberries, you may need to add more confectioner's sugar to improve consistency.  It should be soft, but not runny.

Once the cakes are completely cool, you can adde the frosting.  To make the petit fours, cut the cake into 1" - 1.5" cubes.  You make need to trim the edges off to get a nice clean edge.  Add one blueberry to the top for decoration. 

Yields 70 petit fours.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Day 100: MY KonMarie checklist

We are officially in Spring, and with that comes Spring cleaning!

Last fall I picked up the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  Since then I've been wanting to start the method, but haven't had the courage to do it.  It all seems too daunting, going through all your personal affects while following a strict, but proven method.

The book that has the title that promises to change your life.

For those unfamiliar with it, the KonMarie method is a way to go through all your belongings by asking one single question of each item:  Does it spark joy?  The idea is to surround yourself only with things that "spark" joy, and to declutter superfluous items.  Sometimes we needlessly hang on to things, such as gifts, because we appreciate the gesture or it brings back good memories.  Marie Kondo, the author of the book and creator of the method, says we need to cherish the meanings and experiences behind these items, not keep them around, taking up valuable living space in our homes, because we feel obliged too.

There are many rules in the KonMarie method, such as you can only do your own items.  This means I can't donate all of my husband's old rarely worn t-shirts just because I want more space in my closet!  You have to stick to your own items.  Lay out all your items in one particular category in one place so you can see how much of one thing you have.  Say if you wanted to clean out your sock drawer, you have to put out all your socks right in front of you.  If you find a pair of socks later that were forgotten somewhere, you have to get rid of them regardless of whether or not it sparks joy.  Speaking of socks, apparently donning them up distresses them too much.  By them I mean the socks!  So they need to be folded in thirds.  Likewise t-shirts need to be folded a certain way.

Once the decision has been made to discard (she uses the word "discard" a lot, let's hope she means donate) the items, you can't go back.  For example, if you have a trash bag of things to donate sitting next to your front door, you are not allowed to rummage through it again.  Commit to the decision!  She found with her own clients that if they did find they had discarded something that they needed, they could often find a way around it.  And to them the cost of getting rid of everything else that went along with it was still worth it.

The book itself has a lot of good pointers, though it is not completely applicable to parents.  The idea of laying out all of my clothes and organizing them one by one frightens me because I have two toddlers endlessly running around.  I guess I could resign myself to doing it when they go to sleep, but I know even doing one category will take at least a few hours, so it's either organize or sleep!  (By the way, I choose sleep).

There are a few things I have already started.  She says that when you come home, empty your bag or purse.  Put all the items back where they belong, or have a centralized place where you keep your daily essentials (wallet, keys, cell phone).  When you go through your bag daily, you save yourself from all the receipts and wrappers that inevitably get crumbled up on the bottom.

My personalized KonMarie Method Checklist.
There are plenty of checklists and flowcharts available for the KonMarie method.  I looked at a bunch of them, and skimmed through the book and came up with my own personalized chart that I put together in ten minutes on PowerPoint.  I encourage you to do the same.  We all have different things that we have more or less of.  You can even make it fancy with different fonts, colors, and images.  I also have a section that goes through each room in the house, working sequentially from the master bedroom all the way through the house.  I know Marie Kondo doesn't like thinking like that, but I prefer to compartmentalize my cleaning.

Now with a game plan, I'm ready to spend the next few weeks/months/years spring cleaning.  Wish me luck!  Will it change my life?  We'll have to wait and see...